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A New Wave Of Ethnic Russians Leaving Kazakhstan

Tatian Pikulina is one of thousands of ethnic Russians who have taken steps to leave Kazakhstan.
Tatian Pikulina is one of thousands of ethnic Russians who have taken steps to leave Kazakhstan.

It seems there is a new wave of ethnic Russians departing Kazakhstan.

RFE/RL's Kazakh Service, known locally as Azattyq, reports that during the first nine months of 2015, some 19,000 Russians left Kazakhstan to take advantage of the Russian government's program to resettle ethnic Russians still living in other former Soviet republics.

And currently, there are long lines outside the Russian Embassy in Astana and the waiting list for an appointment for resettlement is months long.

Ivan Malykhin is a Russian from Kazakhstan who has decided to go to the homeland of his ancestors. He told Azattyq that when he first applied for resettlement the waiting period was two months."And when I went to pick up my documents the waiting period was longer, by several months. Those applying in June [wait] until January," Malykhin said.

Irina Smirnova, 24, is also planning on leaving her home in Qaraghandy and moving to Chelyabinsk. She told Azattyq that she had just finished university and wants to start her professional career in Russia.

There are apparently enough Russians now wishing to leave Kazakhstan for Russia that a "squatter" business has emerged, with people making appointments months in advance and then selling their appointment slots to Russians anxious to leave.

Skilled Workers

Given the Kazakh government's apprehension about its Russian population following the events in eastern Ukraine, where Russian-backed separatists seized control of parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in 2014, the departure of large numbers of ethnic Russians could be seen as a plus for Kazakhstan. Ethnic Russians and other Slavs make up a majority of the population in areas along the Russian border in northern Kazakhstan.

But many of those leaving are skilled laborers, doctors, teachers, and other professionals and it is unclear how quickly Kazakhstan can find qualified people to fill these vacancies in the workforce.

The statistics committee in Kazakhstan's Economy Ministry told Azattyq that some 24,000 of Kazakhstan's ethnic Russians had resettled in Russia in 2014. Erbolat Musabekov from the statistics committee downplayed the significance of this latest departure of ethnic Russians from Kazakhstan. "These are not such big figure," Musabekov said, "in 2005, 2006, more people left -- 56,000, [even] 65,000."

The Russian Embassy in Astana told Azattyq that since 2007, some 375,000 people from Kazakhstan had been resettled in Russia. According to data from Russia's Federal Migration Service, nearly 30 percent of the repatriated Russians recently came from Kazakhstan.

Since 1991, the year Kazakhstan gained independence, the proportion of ethnic Russians in Kazakhstan's population has fallen from 40 percent to just over 21 percent, according to the latest figures from the Economy Ministry.

Returning to the issue of the Kazakh government's concerns about ethnic Russians in Kazakhstan, it is worth noting that the exodus of Russians from Kazakhstan will not lead to a drastic decrease in the country's population. On February 9, Kazakhstan's Ministry of Health Care and Social Development reported nearly 1 million ethnic Kazakhs had been repatriated to Kazakhstan during nearly 25 years of independence.

Azattyq also featured a video report in mid-January about people leaving Kazakhstan's northeastern city of Petropavl for Russia. That video can be viewed here.

Based on material from Svetlana Glushkova of RFE/RL's Kazakh Service

About This Blog

Qishloq Ovozi is a blog by RFE/RL Central Asia specialist Bruce Pannier that aims to look at the events that are shaping Central Asia and its respective countries, connect the dots to shed light on why those processes are occurring, and identify the agents of change.​

The name means "Village Voice" in Uzbek. But don't be fooled, Qishloq Ovozi is about all of Central Asia.


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