Last Updated: Thursday, 30 October 2014, 14:31 GMT

Uzbekistan's Russians Find it Hard to go "Home"

Publisher Institute for War and Peace Reporting
Publication Date 22 April 2009
Cite as Institute for War and Peace Reporting, Uzbekistan's Russians Find it Hard to go "Home", 22 April 2009, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/49f7ff531e.html [accessed 31 October 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

22-Apr-09


Many of the Russians living in Uzbekistan would like to emigrate to the Russian Federation, but find it hard to do so because of the cold welcome they get there.

In April, the State Duma, the lower house of the Russian parliament, held a first reading of an amended government budget for 2009 envisaging a 30 per cent reduction in funding for migration, most of which will fall on the voluntary resettlement programme for ethnic Russians living in other former Soviet states, which is being cut from 235 to 53 million US dollars.

The resettlement programme, launched in 2006, is designed to encourage people with skills to move to Russia and help boost the economy. It forms part of a wider strategy of increasing the birth rate, lowering mortality figures, and thereby halt the trend of net population decline in the Russian Federation.

Immigrants under the programme get between 1,500 and 2,000 dollars to cover travel and resettlement costs, and receive additional benefits until they find work.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, 25 million Russians found themselves living in other countries, and many made efforts to move to Russia. The Association of Russian Language and Literature Teachers in Tashkent estimates that one in three of those living in Uzbekistan left, so that Russians now account for 5.5 per cent of the country's 27 million people.

Analysts in Uzbekistan say the reduction in funding for resettlement will act as a deterrent to anyone considering a move Russia.

"If the program is not fully funded, Russians will not be able to relocate under their own steam," said one local economist.

Olga, 25, works as a producer at a radio station in Tashkent, and is certain her skills would mean she could find work if she moved to Russia. But she says she could not survive on a salary alone, without government subsidies.

"It would be a long time before I could afford my own place," she said.

Others also predict that a reduction in resettlement benefits will be a deterrent to people considering a move. "Given the high prices [in Russia], the money isn't enough to provide a decent living, let alone housing," said Yulia, a young woman.

Nevertheless, some commentators say plenty of the Russians remaining in Uzbekistan do intend to leave, and would be able to find work in view of their qualifications. In the Soviet era, the majority of Russians in Uzbekistan were employed in industry, and many lost their jobs when these enterprises closed after the country became independent in 1991.

Aside from the resettlement package, though, there is another constraint - the perception that they will not be made welcome if they move to Russia.

Pensioner Maria Vasilievna says she has heard many sad stories about those who move to Russia.

"They did not gain acceptance for many long years, and it took a long time for them to adapt," she said.

(NBCentralAsia is an IWPR-funded project to create a multilingual news analysis and comment service for Central Asia, drawing on the expertise of a broad range of political observers across the region. The project ran from August 2006 to September 2007, covering all five regional states. With new funding, the service has resumed, covering Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.)


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