Will Russian immigration quotas affect its popularity in the former USSR?

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Sat Nov 29 14:03:08 UTC 2008

 Russia's Language Could Be Ticket in for Migrants Will Russian immigration
quotas affect its popularity?

   - Multi-country <http://www.gallup.com/tagbox/Multi-country.aspx>
   - Russia <http://www.gallup.com/tagbox/Russia.aspx>
   - Religion and Social
   - Former USSR <http://www.gallup.com/tagbox/Former%2bUSSR.aspx>
   - Central Asia <http://www.gallup.com/tagbox/Central%2bAsia.aspx>
   - Eastern Europe <http://www.gallup.com/tagbox/Eastern%2bEurope.aspx>

by Sergei Gradirovski and Neli Esipova

*This article is the second in a two-part series on attitudes toward the
Russian language in post-Soviet states. The* *first
* *reviewed regional opinions toward children learning Russian; the second
evaluates regional migration and the effect on emerging European and Central
Asian markets.*

WASHINGTON, D.C. *--* As the Russian government continues to promote its
culture and language throughout the post-Soviet realm, Gallup finds
favorable attitudes toward learning Russian, most notably in Tajikistan,
Uzbekistan, Armenia, and Kyrgyzstan.

[image: kpmyeeivpusn6gicpvt7pa]

Russia's domestic policies do not always mirror its cultural openness. In
January 2008, the Russian Federal Migration Service reduced the quota of
foreign laborers coming to Russia, from 6 million in 2007 to 2 million in
2008, most of whom come from Russia's neighboring states, including Moldova,
Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. The Central Asia-Caucus Institute at Johns
Hopkins University attributes the policy change to growing anti-migrant
sentiments in Russia, where popular culture often depicts migrant workers as
middle-aged men speaking broken Russian, with dirty clothes and awkward

Migrants' interest in Russian and their ability to learn the language could
help bridge the gap between Russians and foreigners seeking work among them.
In 2007, Gallup asked respondents in nearly all former Soviet Union
countries about their attitudes toward studying the Russian language.
Countries with the most positive attitudes also had large percentages of its
residents permanently or temporarily working in Russia. Respondents in
Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Armenia were the most likely to say learning
Russian is important; combined responses for "very important" and "somewhat
important" totaled 98%, 95%, and 94%, respectively. Economies in these
nations rely heavily on remittances and often have up to 10% of their
work-age residents living in Russia. Seventy-eight percent of residents in
Tajikistan chose "very important," more than double that of respondents in
Azerbaijan, Ukraine, and Moldova.

Of the populations surveyed, Ukrainians were the most likely to say learning
Russian is not important. A large portion of Ukrainians speak Russian (83%
of Ukrainian respondents preferred to take the Gallup survey in Russian).
However, Ukrainians have strengthened their alliances with Europe in recent
years, joining the World Trade Organization in May 2008 (ahead of Russia)
and seeking European Union membership. Economically, large populations of
Ukrainian labor migrants are working in Western Europe, most notably in
Italy, Spain, and Portugal. These factors all contribute to cultural
distancing from Russia, not to mention the widely publicized book by former
Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma titled *Ukraine Is Not Russia*.

Despite this cultural distancing, Gallup's data underscore the importance of
the Russian labor market on regional economies. High percentages of
residents in Tajikistan (95%) and Kyrgyzstan (77%) say they have family
members temporarily working in Russia.

[image: x22qglzxtkqta_nrzxcq4g]

In 2006, remittances from temporary workers into Tajikistan totaled $1.3
billion and accounted for over 36% of that nation's GDP. In Kyrgyzstan,
remittances represented more than 27% of GDP.

*Bottom Line*

In recent years, tougher immigration regulations, hostility toward migrants,
and economic decline have affected European migration patterns. Emerging
markets in Eastern Europe, most notably Russia, will draw migrant workers
because of their physical and cultural proximity. The Russian economy is
approaching 8% annual growth, making it a beacon for migrants with the
financial means and language abilities to work there. According to Gallup
data, large majorities of temporarily workers from post-Soviet states go to
Russia for temporary work. This means employment opportunities could
maintain interest in "Dostoyevsky's language" more readily than the cultural
celebrations discussed in the first article in this series.

*Survey Methods*

Results are based on face-to-face interviews conducted in 2006 and 2007 with
approximately 1,000 residents, aged 15 or older, in each country. For
results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95%
confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage
points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical
difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the
findings of public opinion polls.

Ian T. Brown contributed to this report.


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