A look at migrations in the post-Soviet space : the case of Eastern Europe, South Caucasus and Russian Federation
Title: A look at migrations in the post-Soviet space : the case of Eastern Europe, South Caucasus and Russian Federation
Author: WEINAR, Agnieszka
Citation: International migration, 2014, Vol. 52, No. 5, pp. 47-51
CPost-Soviet space is a fascinating area for migration scholars. It offers a wealth of research possibilities as regards magnitude and characteristics of migration flows, effects of migration and migration policy development. Over the last 25 years, this big geographical area covering about 15 per cent of the world has been a scene of abrupt changes in mobility and migration patterns of a small share of global population (just below 5%). After 70 years of strictly controlled internal and external mobility, which on the one hand kept vast parts of the population in place and on the other forced many groups to move, the collapse of the USSR liberated massive migration flows. Countries like Armenia or Georgia experienced over one third of population loss due to emigration (Chobanyan, 2012; Tukhashvili and Shelia, 2012). Ukraine and Russia had a huge exchange of population, with for example 10 million people coming to Russia and almost the same number leaving it for the newly created states. People who had moved (or were forcefully moved) internally, sometimes decades ago, became international migrants. These international migrants in many cases decided to move back (or emigrate, in case of the second generation) to their ancestral homelands that had gained independence. The massive population movements lasted throughout the 1990s and to some extend they continue today (Bara et al., 2013a; Bara et al., 2013b; Iontsev and Ivakhnyuk, 2012) in the form of late ethnic migrations: e.g. ethnic Russians still return to Russia under the resettlement program. Most importantly, the ethnic minorities, once rightful citizens of Soviet republics, found themselves again in disadvantaged positions, with their rights not necessarily granted. Discrimination and ethnic prejudice still drive part of the people-mobility in the post-Soviet space today. Migration flows in Eastern Europe and South Caucasus, notably Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, differ enormously nowadays but everywhere are predominantly of circular character (Di Bartolomeo et al., 2012). They concentrate along the main two axis: migrations towards the European Union (mainly Italy, Poland, Spain and Germany) and towards the Russian Federation, the biggest attraction poll in the region. Armenians go prevalently to Russia (over 70% of the flow). Until late 2008, 50 per cent of Georgian labour migrants would also choose Russia, while nowadays, due to travel restrictions to Russia, they prefer Turkey. Belarussians also choose Russia as the dominant destination (almost 80%), as they enjoy de facto freedom of movement within the Eurasian Union.1 In the case of Moldovan and Ukrainian migrant workers this share is lower: 58 per cent and 43 per cent respectively (Di Bartolomeo et al., 2012). Notwithstanding these figures, one has to be aware that circular labour migration to Russia originates mainly in Central Asia (notably Tajikistan and Kirgizstan): almost 55 per cent of work permits were issued to citizens of Central Asian countries in 2010. Also their share in immigration to Russia has grown considerably over the last 10 years, from 24 per cent in 2004 to 40 per cent in 2013.
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