A statue of a Soviet soldier vandalized in Estonia (ITAR-TASS)
June 26, 2006 -- The Russian government has pledged to help "compatriots" living abroad return home.
President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree authorizing a six-year government program on "assisting the voluntary immigration of compatriots living abroad" and set up a state commission to oversee the process.
The program offers cash and social benefits to those who come. But it gives only a vague definition of "compatriots."
A Kremlin spokesman said the plan embraced "holders of Russian passports, Russian speakers with dual citizenship, or people who are planning to apply for Russian passports."
It remains unclear whether the incentives would be extended to the millions of non-Russians from former Soviet states, who form the bulk of the mainly illegal immigrants working in Russia or planning to come.
Russia is facing a demographic crisis because of a high mortality and a low birth rate.
Putin has described it the problem as a threat to national security.
(Reuters, RIA Novosti, Interfax)
Click on the map to see how many Russians live in each of the former Soviet republics.
RUSSIANS OUTSIDE OF RUSSIA: A total of some 30 million ethnic Russians remain in the republics of the former Soviet Union, including large diasporas in Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus. This historical legacy has often been a source of tension between Russia and its neighbors. "Support for the rights of compatriots abroad is a crucial goal," Russian President Vladimir Putin said in his April 2005 state-of-the-nation address. "It cannot be subject to a diplomatic or political bargaining. Those who do not respect, observe, or ensure human rights have no right to demand that human rights be respected by others."
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