Friday, August 26, 2016

Russians Still Leaving Kazakhstan But Now for Personal Not Political Reasons, New Study Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 26 – Although the number of people leaving Kazakhstan for permanent residence elsewhere has declined by an order of magnitude over the last 15 years, more than half of those who are leaving are ethnic Russians going to the Russian Federation. But mainly, they are going for personal rather than political reasons, according to Olga Semakova.

            In a major new study contained in a special issue on various migration flows in Kazakhstan, the Kazakhstan sociologist reports on the reasons ethnic Russians continue to leave her country even though the total numbers of those departing are far below what they were (, pp. 7-42; summarized at

In the first decade after the disintegration of the USSR, some 2.5 million people, most of them ethnic Russians, left Kazakhstan. At the end of the 1990s, approximately 300,000 people were leaving each year; now, approximately 30,000 are doing so, a decline equal to an order of magnitude.”

“According to official statistics,” Semakova says, over the last five years, 104,407 ethnic Russians out of a total of 146,052 have left Kazakhstan, while 16,883 ethnic Russians have come to Kazakhstan, out of a total number of arrivals of 123,871. Ethnic Russians thus form 44.5 percent of the total amount of immigration and emigration from the country.

Semakova argues that some 60 percent of ethnic Russians in Kazakhstan do not want to leave while 36 percent say they would like to. That latter figure, however, says little about whether or when they will do so. Fewer than one in five (18 percent) of those who say they want to leave say that they will do so within the next two years.

The ethnic Russians most likely to leave are those with higher educations between the ages of 30 and 49, with those 18 to 29, the prime child-bearing cohort being only slightly less interested in leaving Kazakhstan and moving to the Russian Federation so that their children can grow up in a Russian milieu.

According to Semakova, there are three “blocks” of things pushing people and especially ethnic Russians to leave Kazakhstan. The most important of these are social-economic conditions about jobs and social welfare. Many Russians feel they can’t make a career in Kazakhstan, and most see social welfare conditions in Russia as better.

The next most important are family and personal considerations. Ethnic Russians sometimes want to move to be closer to family members, but the key factor here, Semakova says, involves educational and life chances for their children, chances that ethnic Russians in Kazakhstan assume are better in Russia than where they are now.

The third block, “motives of  political character” including interethnic relations” is much less significant and has an impact an order of magnitude less than the other two on decisions about emigration, the sociologist says.

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