Such different compatriots | Latest news The Moscow Post
24 September 2023

Such different compatriots

It was time to develop mechanisms for the protection of Russian-speaking citizens abroad.

"I have often heard criticism that I regret the collapse of the Soviet Union (...) the most important thing is that after the collapse of the Soviet Union, 25 million Russian people were abroad one night. And this is really one of the largest disasters of the twentieth century."

- Vladimir Putin in an interview with American director Oliver Stone in 2017.

State Duma Chairman Vyacheslav Volodin recently said that deputies propose to work out response measures, including in the form of a ban on entry into Russia for those who allow, to infringe on the rights of Russian-speaking residents in other countries.

What caused such a statement tried to understand the international columnist The Moscow Post.

In 2021, in Bishkek, a drunk visitor behaved aggressively with a Russian-speaking employee. Before that, a Russian boy complained of peer harassment. "Language patrols" appeared in Astana. A Russian-speaking citizen of Kazakhstan was hit, she was forced to publicly apologize for simply knowing the history of the city of Aktau, which until 1991 was named after Taras Shevchenko. In Russia, these manifestations of hostility on national grounds gave rise to questions, protests, and publications. And even statements at the level of Chairman of the State Duma of the Russian Federation Volodin and the leaders of some factions.

But what happened? The service employee chose to serve the buyer of services in one of the two official languages ​ ​ of Kyrgyzstan. Everything can happen, especially when in contact with a drunk person. But all forms of discrimination and violence are unacceptable. Even worse, such phenomena as "language patrols," "bodily apologies" under duress. All this creates a source of headache for the Russian Foreign Ministry and Russian diplomatic missions, relevant services and organizations, maybe politicians. But what to offer to those people and their children who in 1991 remained with the "broken Union"?

Russians in post-Soviet Central Asia

It must be assumed that many incidents of this type occur not only in Kyrgyzstan or Kazakhstan, but also in other parts of the CIS. All the more ridiculous were the proposals of individual Russian politicians in response to the incidents in Bishkek to apply sanctions and use other extreme measures.

It is sad that Russian people turned out to be one of the most divided peoples. It wasn't their fault. Most Russians in Kazakhstan (3.4 million, 18.5% of the population). The least in Tajikistan (35 thousand people, 0.5% of the population). In the capital of Kyrgyzstan, Russians are more than 190 thousand (23%), in the region of Bishkek - about 160 thousand people (21%). By the time of the collapse of the USSR, the Russian and Russian-speaking population of Uzbekistan was about 1.5 million people. By 2015, 650 thousand (1.8%) Russians remained there. According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, by 2018 the Russian population of Turkmenistan was about 100 thousand people, the Russian-speaking - about 200 thousand people.

The reasons for these changes are that the model of state structure of the countries of Central Asia has changed, the republics, unlike the Russian Federation, have become national.

Fellow citizens by law

A compatriot is not only a capacious, but also a blurred concept. Those who were born in the same state, live or have lived in it, as well as his/her descendants in a direct downward direction, regardless of nationality, language, religion, culture, traditions and customs, fit this definition. This is the most general definition of the concept of "compatriots." For Russian public opinion, these are primarily citizens of the Russian Federation who permanently live outside the territory of the Russian Federation and have made such a choice due to marital status, profession, and other circumstances.

Only that is important: all attempts to solve the problems of these people will ultimately lead to an analysis of the conditions for receiving everyone in Russia. The program of resettlement of compatriots is valid, does not limit this circle. As it acts, another issue, but belonging to Russian culture and language proficiency, are considered advantages. Every year, tens of thousands of Russians and Russian speakers leave the Central Asian region. The vast majority associate their lives with Russia.

According to the laws of 24.05.1999 No. 99-FZ (B. Yeltsin) and 23.07.2010  No. 179-FZ (D. Medvedev), compatriots were also recognized as persons (their descendants) living outside the Russian Federation "and, as a rule, belonging to peoples historically living in the territory of the Russian Federation," as well as "who made a free choice in favor of spiritual, cultural and legal connection with the Russian Federation." Even those whose relatives had previously lived in the territory of the Russian Federation fell under the definition of "fellow citizens."

Among them are: (1) people who were citizens of the USSR, living in states that were part of the USSR, (2) immigrants from the Russian state, the Russian republic, the RSFSR, the USSR and post-Soviet Russia.

Markets and manpower

Needless to say, the CIS states remain an important market for Russian products. In particular, Russian exports to three countries of Central Asia (Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan) amounted to about $6.9 billion in 2020. Even more important is the labor migration of residents of these countries to Russia. This factor cannot but be taken into account as an element of the Russian industrial potential, a tool to reduce the shortage of engineering personnel and workers. The decline in labour migration in the pandemic caused a shortage of workers in most regions of the country. In particular, the reduction in the influx of migrants affected the areas of construction and housing and communal services, seasonal types of work.

According to the statistics of the GUVM of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, as of April 1, 2020, about 4 million labor migrants were legally in Russia. This year, according to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, their number is approximately 6.3 million people, mainly labor migrants.

According to official figures, more than 600 thousand Kyrgyz people work in Russia. According to unofficial reports, the number of labor migrants from this country exceeds a million people.

Benefits for Neighbors

As Vladimir Putin noted, speaking during a meeting of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council (EAEU) in May 2021, Russia seeks to improve conditions for foreign citizens arriving in Russia, primarily from EurAsEC member states. The Work Without Borders Internet system and a mobile application will work, which will allow you to get a job in the Russian Federation online.

For Russia, this is beneficial. There is a lot of work, especially in the construction industry. For migrants, this is a way to earn money while in a familiar language environment. In June 2021, the volume of remittances made by individuals to the CIS countries amounted to $720 million. In January-May, the average monthly volume of transfers was about $500 million. We are talking about the fact that only the CIS countries receive at least 6-7 billion dollars a year from Russia, even in a pandemic.

The share of these funds in the GDP of Tajikistan in 2019 was 35-37%, in the income of the population - 77%. According to some reports, more than 1.5 million immigrants from this country work in Russia. The expenditure part of Kyrgyzstan's budget for 2020 amounted to about $ 2.1 billion. Remittances from Russia amounted to more than 80% of the budget, their share in GDP was at the level of 30%. On average, labor migrants transfer up to $2.5 billion annually to their homeland. In terms of this indicator, Kyrgyzstan ranks third among the CIS states, behind Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

Hopes for integration

Uzbekistan is a relatively large economy with a GDP of 57.7 billion dollars and a population of 34.6 million people. Economic growth in 2011-2019 averaged 6.6%. Foreign remittances from Russia to Uzbekistan in 2020 remained at the level of 2019 - a little more than $6 billion, exceeding Uzbekistan's revenues from gold exports. The bulk of transfers came from Russia: $5 billion in 2019 and $4.8 billion in 2020. The share of these funds in the GDP of Uzbekistan was about 8-10%.

Independence is often used to promote nationalism. The history of relations between the countries of Central Asia and Russia and the Russians is perverted, silenced. For example, the world's first industrial "fast" reactor BN-350 (fast sodium, 350 MW) was built in 1973 in the Soviet Union, in the city of Shevchenko, Kazakh SSR. At that time, it was the only atomic desalination plant in the world that supplied fresh water for the city. In 1999, the Government of Kazakhstan decided not to continue the operation of BN-350.

On the agenda is regional cooperation, a joint movement towards a large Eurasian economic space. The EEA would benefit from the accession of Uzbekistan, which would allow increasing the flow of investment in infrastructure, increasing exports, developing industrial cooperation, and simplifying conditions for labor migrants. At the end of 2020, Uzbekistan received observer status in the EAEU. The United States and the European Union discourage Tashkent from joining this organization.

Problem Boundaries

In other areas of relations between Russia and the countries of Central Asia, organized forces are also opposed. There are few tools to counter this. The Rossotrudnichestvo agency, like the Russian Foreign Ministry, is also responsible for Russian "soft power" and the well-being of compatriots. According to the press secretary of the agency Nadana Friedrichson, "Very alarming trends are observed in Kazakhstan, a number of other countries. Our agency is convinced: all attempts to silence the problem of Russophobia, all attempts to blur this problem with the wording "isolated case" or "domestic level" is the way to nowhere. There is a problem, it must be solved and solved systemically. "

Systemic requires time, financial support, personnel, selection of objects of efforts to protect the interests of Russia. And the problem itself is much wider and larger than the sporadic protection of the interests of Russians and Russian speakers in incidents outside Russia. Real protection is the conditions for the relocation of those wishing to their historical homeland.

On the other hand, labor migrants in Russia are the environment where everyday conflict prevention on interfaith and interethnic grounds can and should go. Central Asian workers represent a natural mega-audience for promoting Russian achievements and lifestyle, the history of their countries' relations with Russia. This mega-audience should be used to promote the Russian language, promote Russian culture, interests and ideals.

Of course, this can additionally "load" the plans of Rossotrudnichestvo, other organizations, and news agencies. Such as RT and Sputnik, which in covering the problems of the Central Asian region is opposed by various anti-Russian sites with evocative anti-Russian texts. But the fact that labor migrants will take with them in images and impressions of Russia will determine for years and decades their attitude to their northern neighbor. Millions of former fellow citizens of their children work or have already worked in Moscow, St. Petersburg, other cities and regions of the Russian Federation. Millions of other candidates are waiting for such an opportunity.

De jure, Russia has left the independent republics of the Central Asian region. Central Asia de facto "came" to Russia, it seems for a long time. And the State Duma has something to think about. In particular, on the effectiveness of Russian "soft power" within the post-Soviet information space.

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