Site map
0The virtual community for English-speaking expats and Russians
  Main page   Make it home   Expat card   Our partners   About the site   FAQ
Please log in:
To register  Forgotten your password?   
  Survival Guide   Calendars
  Phone Directory   Dining Out
  Employment   Going Out
  Real Estate   Children
   September 30
News Links
Business Calendar
Phone Directory
 Latest Articles
 Archived Articles
Analysis & Opinion
30.03.09 The Long Road To Russia
By Dmitry Babich

The Russian government has announced its intention to cut the financing of the state-run program meant to help “compatriots” (mostly foreign citizens of Russian origin) resettle in Russia by 75 percent. The program, conceived in 2006 and launched in 2007, was aimed at bringing 300,000 new settlers to the 12 most depopulated regions of Russia, mostly in Siberia and the Far East, during the next three years. Two years later, its achievements are somewhat more modest – 10,000 people.

Originally, 17 billion rubles ($508 million) were supposed to be spent on the program in 2006 to 2009. But as the program failed to meet the government’s expectations, this amount continued shrinking. The present cut is the most dramatic to date. Instead of the eight billion rubles earmarked for this year, the Federal Migration Service (FMS) will receive no more than two billion. “However, the program will not be stopped under any circumstances,” Konstantin Poltoranin, a spokesman for the FMS, said. “If this year the number of settlers exceeds 20,000 people, the program’s financing will be increased.”

So why did this program, humorously dubbed “Russian Zionism” in the nation’s tabloid press, fail to get off the ground? The good intentions of the idea’s masterminds and the need to help Russians living in the former Soviet republics, where discrimination against ethnic Russians is widespread, are indisputable. Besides, the program is not based on the “blood and soil” principle of the migration programs in Germany or Israel, which specifically target ethnic Germans and Jews. “The term ‘compatriot’ in Russian does not necessarily mean someone whose ancestors were Russian,” said Valery Tishkov, a member of Russia’s Public Chamber. “It means anyone who is inextricably connected culturally and spiritually to Russia, and who feels as a part of the community of Russia’s citizens. A Kirgiz or a Kazakh, whose first language is Russian, can also be a part of this program.”

The FMS opened offices in Armenia, Turkmenistan, Kirgizstan, Tajikistan and Latvia. A list of special requirements for FMS officials working in these offices was introduced, which was supposed to protect the volunteering settlers from the infamous Russian bureaucracy. This list placed a limit on the time which an FMS official could take to review a special form filled by a new applicant. “The public relations side of the program was very well done, it all looked nice on the surface,” said Lidiya Grafova, the chairman of the executive committee of the Federation of Migrants’ Organizations of Russia. “The problems started when things started to get closer to Russia. Most of the 12 regions where the migrants were supposed to go were located in depopulated areas in the Asian part of Russia, far from the European part where most of the Russian returnees have their roots and relatives.”

Obviously, the interests of the state do not chime very well with the interests of the individual migrants, since the state is primarily interested in developing Siberia and Far East, while migrants, especially those who have families, prefer city life and a developed infrastructure. The modest amount of money which the state was prepared to pay to each migrant (usually no more than $1,000) is obviously not enough to compensate for the inconveniences of living in poor regions. Besides, the regional governments that applied for participation in the program with the Federal Migration Service often failed to provide their new residents with adequate housing. “These economic problems led to a relatively small amount of returning families,” said Vladimir Mukomel, the head of the migration and xenophobia research department at the Institute of Sociology in the Russian Academy of Sciences. “What is even more troublesome, the structure of the returning families was very different from the one expected and desired by the Federal Migration Service. Instead of young families with two or three children, we got families with a single parent or some other troubled family units. Divorced mothers with single children or grandparents with a single grandson or granddaughter were more of a rule than an exception.”

By some kind of strange coincidence, one day before the announcement of the cut in the resettlement program was made, the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) published its new data on the number of Russians seeking political asylum in other countries. The figure was 20,500, which means that Russian asylum seekers outnumber the returning compatriots by a ratio of more than two to one.
The source
Copyright © The Moscow Expat Site, 1999-2023Editor  Sales  Webmaster +7 (903) 722-38-02