Why Hasn’t East-West Migration Lived Up To Expectations - Assignment Example

In 1989, when it first became clear to observers in the West that the Soviet Block was in its final death throws, commentators in the Western press began to predict a flood of economic and political immigrants from the USSR into western Europe. In 1990, the head of the Soviet passport department, Rudolf Kuznetsov, suggested that ‘up to 8 million’ people could leave the Soviet Union once the necessary travel legislation had been passed (Daily Telegraph, 27/9/1990). On 20th May 1991, the Supreme Soviet passed this long awaited and much discussed legislation. The new legislation, which was not to come into full effect until 1993, states the following:-

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* Every Soviet citizen is now entitled to a 5 year passport and no longer requires an exit visa.

* All rules and regulations concerning the issuance of passports will be published.

* Some temporary restrictions will apply, mainly to the milatary and those with access to state secrets.

* Right of appeal if a passport application is declined.

(Smirnov, 1991)

Under Gorbachev’s reforms the economy was spiralling out of control, the political situation was rapidly becoming more and more unstable and ethnic tensions were increasing. Surely, said the press in light of these developments, people will leave this ‘sinking-ship’. Estimates escalted 8 million, 15 million even 20 million Russians would come to Europe. But like the Captain going down with his ship, the Russians have stubbornly refused to abandon ship and the proposed flood of migrants has been little more than a trickle.

This course paper will attempt to discuss some reasons for this lack of migration. It will focus on the migratory movements to and from the Russian Federation over a five year period between 1989-1994. Unless otherwise stated figures and calculations have been taken from the Demographic Yearbook of Russia 1995.

Figure 1 represents the yearly departures for 1989-1994. It shows quite clearly that, as far as the Russian Federation is concerned, there has been a definate decrease in the number of emigrants rather than the predicted increase .

In fact far from increasing since 1989, the number of migrants from the Russian Federation has declined over this time period and indeed the 1994 figures are almost half of those in either 1989 or 1990.

Previous migration patterns of developing countries have indicated that a small but nevertheless significant amount of people do migrate. Between 1950-1970 3% of the population of southern Europe emigrated to western and northern Europe and a further 3% went to North America (Stalker, 1994). With Russia’s population of 145 million this would have meant 8.7 million from the Russian Federation alone.

However, this level of migration took place over a period of sustained economic growth in western Europe. During this time countries such as Germany and France actively sought immigrant workers to help with the reconstruction of their countries. Since the oil crises of 1973/4, immigrant workers have not been so welcome and there has been a tightening of immigration controls into western Europe. With the expansion of the EU there has been a system of ‘common rules within the Community relating to matters of asylum ……….. and residence status for third country nationals’ (Salt, 1993). This gradual harmonizing of border controls has made it much more difficult for non EU nationals to gain entry into ‘Fortress Europe’.

Although this ‘physical’ barrier has undoubtedly had an affect on emigration; especially the illegal kind; other barriers against migration do exists. In a survey of ‘young people’ (who would have the highest propensity to migrate) the main deterrent against emigrating was the fear of financial difficulties. 40% pinpointed the high cost of travel out of Russia, while 30% worried that there would be no-one to offer them financial support in their new country and 18% feared that they would have no-where to live (Ledeniova, 1993)

Unlike Poland, Russia does not have a great tradition of international migration. (Although its history of internal migrations is well documented.) Between 1892-1917 3 million Russian emigres went to the USA (Chesnais, 1991). During the Soviet post war period, 1950-1990, just 1.2 million people emigrated; 95% of these were ethnically motivated migrations – 600,000 were Jews going to Isreal (a small number went to the USA), a further 400,000 were ethnic Germans and another 100,000 were ethnic Armenians (Anon, 1992).

This lack of a migration culture beyond the USSR has lead to two further barriers to migration out of Russia. The first concerns how Russians actually perceive emigration. During the height of the Soviet regime those who did leave (excluding ethnic migrants) were branded as traitors and not fit to live in Russia. For many Russians, especially the older generation, this stigma still has a strong hold over a their subconcious.

Russians are fiercely proud and protective of ‘mother’ Russia, those over 40 still remember the good old days of communism when there was full employment, everyone got paid, had a roof over their head and food on the table. As far as they are concerned, all that capitalism and a free market means is that they go for months at a without being paid which has had a converse effect in stimulating their desire to migrate. Community, cultural and family ties are very strong in Russia, and although the standard of living may be much higher in the west, losing these ties would, for many, be too high a price to pay. In a survey carried out by the UN’s International Organisation for Migration (IOM) 73% of Russians said “it was unlikely they would seek work abroad”. (Independent, 16/2/93).

The second barrier concerns the lack of any bridgehead communities; with the exception of those in existence in Israel and Germany. Figure 3, which shows the destination countries for migrants leaving Russia between 1989-1994, shows the importance of this.

Between 1989-1994 a total of 3,637,553 people left the Russian Federation. Of those who went to Europe Germany was by far the most popular destination. Mainly as the vast majority of migrants were ethnic Germans but also because Germany appears to be one of the few countries that has a formal agreement to accept Russian immigrant workers (17,000 per annum), (“Vesti”, Russian television,1992). Outside of Europe the main destination country was Israel. Again this was an ethnically motivated migration of Jews returning to their ancestral homeland. Just 2% (87,189) of emigrants went elsewhere.

The majority (85%) of emigrants went to one of the 14 other former Soviet republics. Which before the break-up of the USSR would not have been considered as international migration.

Figure 3 shows the yearly arrival figures for the Russian Federation 1989-1994. The total number of arrivals per annum has remained fairly constant over this five year period (with the exception of 1991 when there was a drop in numbers possibly due to the political uncertainty caused by the resignation of Mikhail Gorbachev and the ensuing events). 1994 showed an increase of 200,000 on 1993 figures. Whether this is the beginning of a trend or just a blip is immpossible to tell at this stage due to the difficulty in obtaining data for 1996 or even 1995.

Whilst there has been a constancy in the actual number of arrivals, there has been a re-distribution amongst the origin countries. In 1989 less than 1% (7868) of migrants came from Estonia. In 1992, shortly after the break-up of the USSR, that figure had risen to 2.6% (24440). Latvia also followed a similar pattern; just 1.4% of migrants arrived from this country in 1989, but in 1992 that had doubled to 2.9%.

The biggest increase which has lead to the jump in the 1994 figures is aa doubling of those coming from Kazakhstan from 12% (195,672) in 1993 to 30% (346,363) in 1994.

Conversly arrivals from the Ukraine and Belorus which were traditionally high have experienced a drop. In 1989, 35% (301,192) and 6.5% (55,951) of all immigrants to Russia came from the Ukraine and Belorus respectively. In 1992 that proportion had dropped to 21.5% (199,355) from the Ukraine and 3.9% (36,212) from Belarus.

To try to explain these changes it is important to look at the distribution of ethnic Russians outside of Russia prior to the dissolution of the USSR (map 1). The 1989 census reported that 17% (25 million) of Russians lived outside of Russia and made up 18% of the population in non Russian speaking republics. The majority of these were descendents of those sent to Russify (under the Tsar) or Sovietise (under the communists) the far flung lands of the empire/USSR. Or they are people who have internally migrated in search of higher paid jobs and a better lifestyle. Many are also of ‘mixed ethnic descent’ (Atkinson, 1993).

Between 1989-1994 just over 5.45 million people arrived to take up residence in the Russian Federation. The vast majority of these came from one of the 14 other former Soviet republics with 58% being (ethnic) Russian. A few of these Succesor States will be looked at in greater detail.

Rising tension between the predominately Russian oblasts in the north and the predominately Kazakh oblasts in the south, has increased peoples fear of inter-national conflict within Kazakhstan. This fear has increased both the speed and the volume of Russian emigration out of Kazakhstan (Chinn and Kaiser, 1996). In 1991 just 10.9% of migrants leaving Kazakhstan claimed “worsening of inter-national relations” as the cause of their departure (Statkom SNG, 1992). In a survey of potential migrants carried out in Almaty in 1993, “interethnic problems” was held to be the crucial factor in deciding to leave Kazakhstan (Malkova,1993).

Currently, Kazakhstan is facing a potentially explosive problem – that of dual citizenship. Russians are in favour of this (the system already exists in Belarus and the Ukraine), but the Kazakh political elite say that if they were forced to choose Russians would choose to adopt Kazakh citizenship (Issinaliyev, 1994). Russians, however, are saying that if they are forced to choose then they will choose Russian citizenship (Chinn & Kaiser, 1996). This unresolved issue could trigger civil conflict between the Russians and Kazakhs and then the 1994 increase in emigrants would definately not be a blip, but instead the early signs of a depressing trend.

Estonia was the first republic to have an Popular Front and the first to proclaim sovereignty; within the context of the USSR; on 16th November 1988 (Kolstoe). Unlike the majority of the republics the Baltic states had been independant between the two World Wars.

The nationalistic Congress of Estonia argued in 1989/90 that the Soviet annexation of Estonia was illegal. As such, they said, the legality of the state of Estonia stems from this interwar independence. In effect,

“Only the citizens of the interwar republic or their offspring could automatically be considered citizens of Estonia with the right to determine legal and constitutional changes. Those who had migrated after 1940 could not be citizens without naturalization” (Chinn & Kaiser, 1996).

Almost one third of Estonia’s population would be disenfranchised by this emphasis on the legal continuity of the interwar state (Kionka, 1991).

After much heated debate, a citizenship law was eventually passed which included a 3 year residency requirement and demanded the ability to use 1500 Estonian words in everyday conversation, before a person could qualify for naturalisation. This sounds reasonably progressive by not demanding complete fluency in Estonian, infact it is not. Being a Fino-Uguric language Estonian is one of the most difficult languages for a Russian to learn, thus making it quite difficult, although not impossible, for an ethnic Russian to meet this requirement.

Belarus has much in common with both Russia and the Ukrain. All three countries’ languages have the same slavic origins.

Although Belarussian is now a ‘protected’ language, Russian was by far the dominant language spoken in the republic at the time of break-up. Even in the capital city of Minsk 53% of the population regarded Russian as their mother tongue, even though only 20% of the inhabitants were ethnic Russians (Harris,1993).

There was a distinct lack of nationalistic feeling within Belarus at the time of independence. Even one year on in 1992 Parliamentary Chairman Shushkevich said:

“The history of Belarus is more or less like this: one part said all happiness comes from Poland, the other part said all happiness comes from Russia. There was nothing Belarussian here. What we need to do is not so much to develop but to resurrect our nation.” (Mihalisko,1993)

This lack of nationalistic feeling enabled Belarus to pass its citizenship laws giving unconditional dual citizenship to all citizens as at autumn 1991, swiftly and with little controversy.

Like Belarus, the Ukraine shares a common heritage and linguistic with Russia. Unlike Belarus, the Ukraine has a very strong national identity.

In 1989 11 million Russians lived in the Ukraine making up 21.9% of the republic’s population. This was the single most concentrated Russian population living outside of Russia itself (Chinn & Kaiser, 1996). In addition to this a further 4 million Ukrainians had abandoned their mother tongue in favour of Russian (Kolstoe, 1995).

With the exception of a brief time following the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 the Ukraine has never been an independent state and was slow to develop a “nationalistic political action programme”. It was not until late 1989 that the Ukrainian Popular Front was founded (Kolstoe, 1995).

Although the communists were still firmly in power in 1990 when the Declaration of Sovereignty of Ukraine was adopted this was radical. It was noteable as it spoke of the “people of the Ukraine” rather than the more ethnic “Ukrainian people”. It also highlited the need to respect the “nationality rights of all peoples ” (Argumenty i Fakty, no 29/1990). This sentiment was further strengthened in 1992 by the passing in Ukraine of the “Law on National Minorities” which “guarantees all citizens of the republic equal political, social, economic and cultural rights and promises support for the development of their national self-awareness and self-expression (Kolstoe,1993).

Thus far there has been little movement of Russians to the West (as at Dec. 1994) and I hope that I have illustrated some of the reasons why. Of necessity I have had to ignore the effect of aid and investment on migration, as these areas warrant special attention. I have also only given brief description of a very complex question, namely the movements of ex Soviet citizens withen the former republics of the USSR, but I hope this was enough to demonstrate that Russians are moving but in a more ‘internal’ manner. It remains to be seen if these relocating moves will stimulate the predicted migration to the West.