There are millions of Gastarbeiters from Central Asia and the Caucasus in Russia. But contra /pol/ wignats and Ukrainian svidomy, it really doesn’t seem like the Kremlin intends for them to stay.
At least that’s the general gist of this Bloomberg article by Henry Meyer and Ilya Khrennikov: Putin Sticks to ‘Russia First’ Even as Workforce Shrinks. Which is more or less factual. Except that what they see as very bad, most Russians would see as good.
Vladimir Putin is taking a page from Donald Trump’s tough-on-immigration playbook. That’s bad for people like Umed and the millions of migrants from other former Soviet republics who have flocked to Russia in search of work. The 29-year-old Tajikistan native, who declined to give his full name, had been working as a delivery driver in Russia when he was deported in 2015. “They don’t want Muslims to live in the country,” says Umed, who now resides in Kazakhstan.
Immigrants are Russia’s best hope to replenish a 75-million-strong workforce that’s shrinking by 800,000 people a year. Yet their numbers are barely growing as Putin’s government has tightened regulations, largely in an attempt to curb the influx from Central Asia. This is a major headache for Russian companies, many of which are struggling to fill jobs even though the economy is stagnant.
Akshually, the process of immigrating to Russia for work is very easy for Central Asians. Once their time limit for being in Russia comes up, they take a couple of days off, renew their documents at a facility on the Kazakh-Russian border, and they’re good to go for another couple of years. At least, that’s how one taxi driver from Osh, Kyrgyzstan explained it to me. The only way to get deported for good as in the case of this Umed is to break some law or overstay your work visa.
Getting permanent residency in Russia is far harder for these people. As the article later notes:
While nationals from Central Asia make up the bulk of migrant workers in Russia, strict controls block most from acquiring citizenship or even residency papers—and the rules have been tightening for the past five years.
This is important. If you are on time-limited labor contracts in a foreign country, where ~80% of your compatriots are men, you are not going to much in the way of setting down roots or family formation. So essentially, the current immigration arrangement between Russia and the Central Asia states involve Russia getting cheap (if low quality) labor for Yandex.Taxi and construction sites, while the Central Asian polities get to enjoy massive remittances and offload part of their politically volatile youth bulge abroad. While there are costs to this for Russia as well – in particular, these guest workers depress native wages in low-skilled sectors, and make it harder for provincial Russians to migrate to Moscow and the millionik cities – permanent and significant changes to the country’s demographics are not on the cards. At least so long as guest work doesn’t go into “family reunification” territory.
“Migration should be the top priority,” says Anatoly Vishnevsky, director of the Institute of Demography at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow. … The demographic situation could be “turned around if the authorities didn’t worry about a backlash,” Vishnevsky says.
Anatoly Vishnevsky is a professor at the Higher School of Economics. Now he’s a good demographer and I have a high opinion of his professional work (even if at times his ideological predilections have colored his judgments, e.g. his skepticism about the efficacy of the maternal capital program). But on politics he is toxic, at least so far as his blank slate views on immigration are concerned. But it will be people like him will be the people who acquire more influence in the event of a color revolution or soft internal coup that brings liberals/crypto-liberals to power.
In an interview with the Financial Times last year, Putin slammed German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to admit more than a million refugees in 2015, mostly from war-torn Syria, as a “cardinal mistake.” He also said he understood Trump’s campaign pledge to build a wall between Mexico and the U.S. The influx of migrants from Central Asia provokes “irritation among the local population” because of cultural differences, Putin said at a press conference in December.
During a meeting with human-rights activists in 2013, Putin bluntly stated his views on what kind of migrants he would like to see. Svetlana Gannushkina, a leading campaigner for immigrant rights, says Putin told her in a private exchange that Russia needs “people of Slavic appearance, of reproductive age, and with a good education.”
Vyacheslav Postavnin, a former deputy head of the Federal Migration Service, says the government should be doing more to ensure migrants from non-Slavic cultures integrate successfully. But nothing has been done despite a mass outbreak of nationalist riots targeting Muslim immigrants in Moscow six years ago. “Migrants still live in a parallel universe,” he says.
This is bad if the long-term goal is integration. But it is very good if there are no such plans.
Russia’s largest internet company, Yandex, whose food delivery service employs many migrants as couriers, is resorting to automation to cope with a shortage of prospective hires. It’s rolling out a suitcase-size robot that will be able to take orders to apartment building entrances.
Yandex also thinks it will be able to start introducing self-driving cars in Moscow in around 2022-23. This would constitute another major reduction in the demand for migrant labor.
In other immigration-related news, work to simplify Russian immigration law for high quality human capital is apparently in the final stages.
I first wrote about it in October 2018 when these proposals were first made public:
In addition to the proposed law, there is also a new “concept” for reforming Russian immigration policy by 2025, which mostly centers around simplifying naturalization for certain categories of foreign professionals. One concrete suggestion that’s known to be included is dropping the requirement to disavow existing citizenships upon getting a Russian citizenship. Hungary, Romania, and Poland are cited as examples to emulate.
As I also wrote back then, I consider this to be a very good idea:
Dropping the requirement to disavow old citizenships upon naturalization is a very good idea that I have long advocated. This is a very stupid law that inhibits the growth of human capital in Russia, and which needs to be abolished ASAP. Qualified foreigners without a criminal record. who have some level of proficiency with the Russian language, should be allowed to become citizens without giving up their old citizenships. But the occasional extremely Russophile and/or idealist aside, a Finnish, Austrian, or even American citizenship are too valuable to just toss away, even with the best will in the world.
I know several expats in Moscow who speak fluent Russian (more or less) and would love to get Russian citizenship, but are held back from doing so by these rules. One is the long-term partner of a Russian citizen. Another is a descendant of Tsarist generals. Another is the descendant of a famous Russian composer part of whose family became White emigres. Another is a scientist at a prestigious Russian university. This is just off the top of my head. Any of these are much better candidates than some of the people whom Russia takes in.
The only downside I can think of is that this might annoy the very few individuals who actually have given up Western citizenships for a Russian one.
Kommersant now reports that a corresponding law is in the final stages and may be introduced to the State Duma this month.
It is also reported that there will no be a need to register 5 years of uninterrupted residency in Russia and proof of income. The law is primarily aimed at countrymen abroad: “This will allow us to passportize our diaspora abroad. They want to get Russian citizenship, but they can’t, because then they’d have to abandon their own country’s citizenship. Millions of Russians live abroad and want to become citizens,” says the deputy Konstantin Zatulin.
Very notably, he used the word “russkie” [ethnic Russians], which at least until recently was a bit of a taboo in Russian officialese.
According to an earlier interview in Izvestia with another bureaucrat involved in these immigration reforms, the government maintains its goal of simplifying immigration procedures for residents of Moldova, Kazakhstan, the Ukraine, and Belorussia. “These are our neighbors, and the numbers of residents of these countries who want to get Russian citizenship are steadily growing,” said Valentina Kazakova.
Once again, this constitutes iron proof that PUTLER! reads my blog, as I have long advocated for doing just that with respect to the Ukraine and other countries in the Near Abroad.
So what we have, in effect, is that Russian immigration policy seems to be steadily drifting towards:
- Cognitive elitism with respect to cultural foreigners.
- Ethnic particularism with respect to ethnic Russians and other peoples who may be considered to be part of the cultural “Russian World.”
I have long predicted that based on Russian opinion polls “if/when competitive politics return to Russia, the result will be an Orban, a Zeman, a Netanyahu, a Salvini, not some Sorosite cuck that neoliberalism.txt hopes for.”
But reality seems to be outperforming projection with PUTLER! moving to implement implicitly ethnonationalist policies under his own watch.