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Olga Vykhovanets

Deputy director of Department of implementation of Program for assisting compatriots in foreign residence in their voluntary resettlement to the Russian Federation of Ministry of Regional Development of Russia

Alexander Zhuravsky

Director of Inter-ethnic relations Department of Ministry of Regional Development of Russia

Russia’s policy towards its compatriots abroad has been through several stages of development: from the initial laws on refugees and forced migrants to the adoption of an integrated Federal Program to provide assistance to repatriates in Russia.

Russia’s policy towards its compatriots abroad has been through several stages of development: from the initial laws on refugees and forced migrants to the adoption of an integrated Federal Program to provide assistance to repatriates in Russia.

Refugees and Forced Migrants

Following the disintegration of the USSR, as the system of government unraveled and given the significant regulatory lacunae, Russia for the first time in its history faced the challenge of mass immigration. While remaining at mid-1980s levels of around 800,000 people annually, the influx of people thronging into Russia across the borders of newly independent states differed radically from the immigration into Russia when it was part of the Soviet Union. This post-Soviet immigration wave was more a “homecoming” than immigration, as it involved the flight of ethnic Russians and Russian speakers from what was dubbed the “parade of sovereignties.” This return movement required the development of urgent measures in state policies on migration, and relevant legislation to support them.

In Russia’s case, a compatriot is any citizen of the former Soviet Union, even if he or she, or their forebears never lived in the RSFSR (now the Russian Federation).

The policy relating to former Soviet citizens was the first migration-related step taken in post-Soviet Russia’s policy-making. This policy is often referred to as “repatriation-related”, which, however, does not really convey either its meaning or essence. Repatriation, in common usage, denotes the return to the country of origin or citizenship of people who due to various circumstances find themselves in the territories of other countries. But neither the “birth right,” which means that anyone born within the state in question, or who has parents born there, is entitled to return, nor the principle of ethnic affinity that presumes similar rights for an immigrant on ethnicity grounds, is applicable here. In Russia’s case, a compatriot is any citizen of the former Soviet Union, even if he or she, or their forebears never lived in the RSFSR (now the Russian Federation) [1]. Furthermore, no ethnic considerations are or can be applicable here, as the USSR was an exceptionally multiethnic country, and Russia cannot borrow from the repatriation experience of mono-ethnic states such as Germany, Israel, Greece, or even Kazakhstan’s more recent experience. People wishing to move to the centre of the former Union are not repatriates. They are compatriots, that is, there was once a united homeland that they all shared. This movement, unfortunately, came in the form of forced migration.

Since it came into existence in June 1992, the Federal Migration Service’s main activity [2] has been dealing with issues specifically related to forced migrants from CIS countries. Its work with compatriots on issues of forced migration began with the laws On Refugees and On Forced Resettlers passed in 1993. The approach to supporting refugees and resettlers was set out in the Federal Migration Program, which was in force from 1996 to 2001, and in the Federal Target Program Descendants of Refugees and Forced Resettlers under within the Presidential Program Russia’s Kids [3]. No action, however, was taken or planned to provide for their resettlement, employment and other economic activity, or for the integration of those people who are not granted the status of refugees or forced resettler.

In the early 1990s, Russia signed international agreements with 10 ex-Soviet states on voluntary resettlement and the protection of resettlers’ rights. Some of these agreements were never ratified, others are long defunct. Resettler status provided for the transportation of luggage (free from any charges or duties) and naturalization granted off quota to those who had lodgings. The government took no measures to encourage an influx of compatriots under these agreements, let alone assuming any responsibilities for their settlement arrangements. All the way up to the latter half of the 1990s, compatriots arriving in Russia who were naturalized as citizens of the Russian Federation sank into the labor market with no tangible problems ensuing.

All the way up to the latter half of the 1990s, compatriots arriving in Russia who were naturalized as citizens of the Russian Federation sank into the labor market with no tangible problems ensuing.
Photo: wallpaperspictures.net
Jeanne Zayonchkovskaya:
Migration in Contemporary Russia (in russian)


In 1999, the Federal Law On the State Policies of the Russian Federation with Regard to Compatriots Abroad [4] was passed as the basic document regulating relations with compatriots beyond Russia’s borders. This law identified the term “compatriot” that served as a basic element in the further policies and measures regarding citizens of the former USSR.

The objectives of Russia’s state policy in this area are set out in article 5 of the Law. They include, inter alia, rendering state support and assistance to compatriots in exercising their human rights and civil liberties, including the right to return to the Russian Federation. This provision, however, was not supported by any regulatory documents envisaging state assistance of any sort for compatriots in resettling in Russia. Nor was there a mechanism developed to implement the Concept of Regulation of Migration Processes in the Russian Federation [5] (a policy strategy document) regarding the assistance to be provided to compatriots in obtaining the information required for migration to the Federation. All these appeared much later – with the coming into force of the State Program for assisting compatriots in foreign residence in their voluntary resettlement to the Russian Federation.

In the course of the second and third stages (see table 1), Russia’s migration policy gradually changed towards introduction of more rigid regulations for the admission of migrants and their access to the labor market. And since the newly-formed migration policy was unable to differentiate between the two different streams of migrants (labor migrants and forced) originating from the same CIS countries, the policy on temporary labor migration, that by 2002 had become a particularly pressing issue, inevitably affected the influx of people heading for Russia for permanent residence on humanitarian grounds. It proved impossible to simultaneously pursue two divergent policies – restricting labor migration and attracting compatriots. The upshot was the rigid Law on Citizenship that significantly limited the opportunities for compatriots to obtain Russian citizenship.

By the mid-2000s, Russia’s population problems had become so pronounced that radical measures were required just to stabilize the population level, let alone achieving population growth.

One of the main events that had a considerable impact on the migration situation, and affected the lives of thousands of resettlers, was the instruction [6] making residence permits mandatory for former Soviet citizens residing permanently within Russia who had no documentary confirmation of their CIS citizenship. This instruction was also aimed at citizens of CIS countries, and came into force on October 1, 2000. Immigrants from CIS countries, who did not have Russian citizenship, had to obtain a residence permit before registering at their place of residence. Previously, this regulation only covered immigrants arriving from outside the CIS. But now it essentially delegitimized compatriots who had resided within Russia for a long time. The new regulations’ immediate effect was a sharp decline in the registered levels of immigration: in October 2000, the number of arrivals was 84 percent less than in September, the figure for November was 61 percent, and for December 54.5 percent, that is, an overall drop of nearly half.

It is important to note that the status of “refugee” or “forced migrant” involves considerable social and economic state support [7]. The following pattern emerged for former Soviet citizens who, for various reasons, became naturalized as citizens of the newly independent states: refugee status, Russian citizenship, forced migrant status. However, even once the long-coveted status had been obtained, people wait for years before receiving the promised aid from the state. According to Federal Migration Service data, 15,000 families (more than 40,000 people) who are considered “forced resettlers (migrants)” remain on the waiting list for housing, while only just 3,000 families will have their housing conditions improved by 2015 [16].

It would seem that, as soon as the state fully fulfills its obligations vis-à-vis these forced migrants, this subject should disappear forever from migration policies. But just as prison and poverty will never be completely solved, the issue of refugees is bound to remain with us. The events in Georgia in 2008 indicate that the smoldering hot spots that risk flaring up at any moment in various parts of the CIS could set off wave after wave of forced migration.


“Ours abroad” is the only category of foreigners with regard to which the prevalent views in Russian society in general and among the authorities at various levels were in complete agreement: no one opposed their resettlement to Russia.

Up to the mid-2000s, the state’s policy towards people from CIS countries arriving in Russia to take up permanent residence was confined to measures concerning forced migrants, and they were the only category of compatriots for which a legislative framework was established, the authorities identified a clear-cut policy, and which had the clear support of human rights and other public organizations.

This situation began to change in 2005. That April Russia’s State Duma discussed an outline of a bill On Repatriation to the Russian Federation proposed by the Institute of CIS Countries. This law was proclaimed to be an act of Russia’s national self-assertion. The outline of the document offered the following definition: “Repatriates are Russian compatriots forced to stay beyond the bounds of Russia following the Civil War, Great Patriotic War / World War II / disintegration of the USSR, and also those compatriots whose forebears or they themselves were exiled from Russia and who for reasons of an economic, social or personal nature have expressed their desire to migrate to the Russian Federation as their country of their citizenship or origin, for the purpose of permanent residence.” The outline identified repatriation as a “process of the voluntary, organized return to Russia of Russian compatriots who found themselves beyond its boundaries following the Civil and Great Patriotic Wars and disintegration of the USSR, and also forced emigrants, with legal rehabilitation as Russian citizens”.

The goals of the law On Repatriation to the Russian Federation as set out in the outline of the document were:

  • creating prerequisites and guarantees for the voluntary return of Russian compatriots born within the territory of present-day Russia, and their forebears to their historical homeland;
  • preserving Russia’s ethnic nucleus;
  • preventing the assimilation of compatriots within countries in the post-Soviet space that follow the idea of creation of a mono-ethnic state.

The proposed was never properly formulated as a bill (draft law). One reason was the ethnic thrust of the document. Differentiating between compatriots of different ethnic identities and denying some of them the right to resettle to Russia was deemed unacceptable.

Photo: www.nakanune.ru
Compatriots return to Russia. 2008-2011
(in russian)

However, as early as May 2005, special instructions were announced within the framework of the Presidential Message to the Federal Assembly. One was “developing, by December 1, a set of measures to support Russian compatriots abroad and facilitate their voluntary resettlement to the Russian Federation”. Immediately thereafter, two documents were adopted that may be regarded as pivotal to the policy of repatriation:

1. The Program of Measures of Organizational, Legal, Administrative and Socio-economic Character for the Purpose of the Long-term Stimulation of Voluntary Resettlement of Compatriots From Abroad to Russia endorsed by the Russia Government on June 18, 2005 (Number МF-P12-2990) that was part of the set of measures to support Russian compatriots abroad and facilitate their voluntary resettlement to the Russian Federation.

The program envisaged: improving the Russian Federation’s migration policy; developing migration legislation for the long-term stimulation of migration; economic stimulation of the voluntary resettlement of compatriots abroad to Russia; ensuring information and publicity support; and rendering consultative and advisory services to resettlers.

2. The System of Measures to Support Russian Compatriots Abroad and Facilitate Their Voluntary Resettlement to the Russian Federation was endorsed by the Government of the Russian Federation on July 8, 2005 (Number MF-P2-3405).

The measures set out in this document pertain chiefly to compatriots abroad, but also include measures for voluntary resettlement under the Program of Measures that incorporated proposals by the Interior Ministry to initiate the development of a state Program providing for the creation of a system of the voluntary resettlement of compatriots that would include the preliminary selection of resettlers outside the Russian Federation, assistance crossing the Russian border, free transportation of luggage and other belongings, registering their legal status, their employment, housing and access to the social support infrastructure.

By the mid-2000s, Russia’s population problems had become so pronounced that radical measures were required just to stabilize the population level, let alone achieving population growth. The economic lobby also played a role here, demanding a greater labor force. In answering the question “Who should be invited?” preference was given to compatriots. This answer was justified from the point of view of national security and minimal risks resulting from migration. Compatriots are new citizens who know the Russian language and culture and recognize Russia as their homeland from the outset. They are easily integrated into the local social milieu, with no xenophobic sentiment fueled in society. This meant that all the prerequisites needed to change policy regarding compatriots were in place.

“Ours abroad” is the only category of foreigners with regard to which the prevalent views in Russian society in general and among the authorities at various levels were in complete agreement: no one opposed their resettlement to Russia. It seemed that these was only the resettlers who ran risks in migration, while the state benefited across the board with an improved age, sex and occupational population structure achieved at minimal expense, most of which, moreover, would be covered from local rather than federal budgets.

Small initial influx of resettlers proved something of a silver lining. This made it possible not only to work with people on practically an individual, case by case, basis, but also made it possible to identify the flaws and shortcomings in the existing legislation.

However, it was the policy of attracting and stimulating resettlers among former fellow citizens that earned the criticism of a number of leading experts and scientists. Dr. Valery Tishkov opposes the whold approach of “luring” Russians to Russia from other CIS countries [17].

One way or another, work with compatriots continued in 2006 at a fundamentally new level. That February, President Vladimir Putin established a special interagency working group that had to produce a plan “for providing assistance in voluntary resettlement to the Russian Federation for compatriots in residence abroad” By July 1 [18]. The academic and expert community was rather cool about this hasty action, expressing its quite reasonable doubts about the chances of carrying out such a large-scale project in a short period of time and wary lest the idea of assisting compatriots should be entirely discredited. However, the working group delivered on time, and the President signed the executive order “On Measures to Provide Assistance to Compatriots in Foreign Residence in their Voluntary Resettlement to the Russian Federation” in June [19].

Photo: tori-tolkacheva.deviantart.com
Anatoly Vishnevsky:
The New Role of Migration in Russia’s
Demographic Development

This presidential order sets no limits on resettlement: assistance must be provided for all those who are covered by the definition “compatriot.” The Program’s goal is identified as solving population problems, that is, “Compensation for natural population decline in the country overall and in its individual regions by attracting resettlers for permanent residence in the Russian Federation.” More specifically, “border territories strategically important for Russia and characterized by shrinkage of the population” were registered as the category of priority settlement (category A).

At the same time, the Program was clearly intended to stimulate labor immigration and to serve as an instrument to help solve the country’s economic problems. “The resettlement project is a system of measures to transform the socio-economic situation in the areas to be settled, building up, among other things, additional labor force demand.” Economic considerations are the reasons behind the emphasis made on two of the three categories of the territories designated for settlement. “The territories for settlement in category B include those where large investment projects are carried out requiring mass participation of resettlers due to the labor force shortage on the local market. […] The territories for settlement in category C include those with stable economic development where over the past three or more years the overall population size has been falling or population drain has been recorded.”

The division of territories for settlement into three categories indicates the extent of paternalism that the state displays in its differentiated approach to financial support for resettlers.

This can be viewed as an attempt, the first ever in Russia’s history of migration, to build a fully operational immigration channel. This assertion is based on the following key points of the Presidential Order:

  1. The Order points out directly the priorities that must be taken into consideration in selecting resettlers: “brought up in the traditions of Russian culture, possessing the command of the Russian language, and reluctant to lose connections with Russia”.
  2. Certain parts of the Order deal with each stage in the functioning of the channel: work with compatriots abroad (recruiting), the compatriot’s travel to Russia, and measures regarding the resettlers in resettlement areas (integration). The document also identifies the institutions responsible for implementing the Program.
  3. Organizational aspects of how the channel functions are described in detail: both the actions of a resettler and procedures of the host side.
  4. Approaches to decision-making and financial support for the measures established at the federal, regional, and local levels are taken into account.
  5. Rigid requirements are established for regional resettlement programs.
  6. Considerable attention is paid to information support and documentation measures for the immigrants.

However, launching the State Program before the problems of previous years’ immigrant compatriots prompted a negative response from human rights activists and experts. The vague outline of the target audience, the lack of sufficient analysis of possible risks, insignificant money allotted in aid, lack of proper arrangements in settlement areas, and inadequate quality and level of employment offered to compatriots – were the main bones of contention regarding the State Program. Furthermore, experts were skeptical about the prospects of the State Program having any impact on the population size and the country’s economic development [20].

The small number of resettlers compared with the plans announced is usually seen as an indication that criticism over how the program was implemented was justified. Unfortunately, initial plans to welcome compatriots (50,000 -100,000 per year) proved unrealistic, and overly inflated indeed. However, while criticizing the Program, one should also bear in mind the objective circumstances that critics usually overlook.

Not everything in politics can be measured in quantitative indices. This State Program to an extent fell hostage to a broader pragmatic and economy-centered approach in socio-economic policy. The search for resources (including labor) and for ways to consolidate the country’s international prestige led to the emergence of a “Program of Excessive Expectations.” Furthermore, in practice, the entire package of legal and regulatory documents required for launching the State Program (including the first regional programs) was only finalized and endorsed in mid-2007, and the regions opened their doors to compatriots at the end of that year.

But the small initial influx of resettlers proved something of a silver lining. This made it possible not only to work with people on practically an individual, case by case, basis, but also made it possible to identify the flaws and shortcomings in the existing legislation. As it turned out, not all the provisions set out in the State Program met the requirements of the regions concerned or, for that matter, those of the prospective resettlers, which were so grave that they resulted in some prospective resettlers refusing to participate in the Program.

Turning to the gaps and shortcomings that obstruct implementation of large-scale plans to use the potential of compatriots in resettlement, first – there was no definition of “compatriot for the purpose of the State Program.” Consequently, it was impossible to define exactly the segment of people that the program covered. It was clear that, in many cases, rigid selection criteria blocked participation in the Program by those who, in law, came under the definition “compatriot.” Meanwhile, the legal definition, in turn, continued to be disputed [13]. In practice, the approval of a potential resettler’s application depended on two factors: the availability of a confirmed job and knowledge of the Russian language sufficient to fill out the application and have an interview with the officials who were to accept the paper. Therefore, the Program could include people who, formally, were not compatriots (descendants of persons of titular ethnicity), but not those who were unable to find employment that fell within the rigid list of vacancies. The following factors impeded the broader implementation of the State Program at the first stage:

  • the fact that obtaining the status of participant in the State Program depended on the availability of a particular job in a particular region covered by the Program;
  • difficulties assisting compatriots to settle in a rural area;
  • the ban on college and university students from participating in the State Program; v
  • the ban on those who already find themselves in the territory of the Russian Federation obtaining the status of participant in the State Program, etc.

The procedure by which settlement areas were classified into three categories impeded the distribution of budgetary resources (such as, for example, resettlement allowance), which in turn prevented the creation of conditions attractive for resettling compatriots in those regions that were in the greatest need of population influx. It also made coordinating regional programs more difficult.

These shortcomings had a negative impact on the image of the Sate Program as perceived by compatriots, for to them it is not only economic circumstances that are important, but also cultural, patriotic, and socio-psychological factors.

Taken together, these issues were important factors in the Program’s lack of efficiency. There is, however, another reason that lies in an entirely different realm from poorly executed management decisions. It should be recalled that the State Program represented the first ever attempt, in new Russia, to construct a fully-facilitated migration channel: from the potential resettler planning to move to them being granted Russian citizenship. Over the time that the Program has been in operation, recruiting infrastructures have been built abroad, functional approaches developed, regulations set down, areas of responsibility outlined, and sources of funding identified. But as experts note, the Program’s main flaw has been strategic disparities in the objectives of the federal center and those of the regions.

If border areas suffer population drain and this is assessed as a challenge the state faces, they have to be populated at the expense of the federal, not regional budget, let alone local resources. The term “settlement of a territory” implies the entire set of measures, from job creation and housing provision to developing a modern infrastructure and modern living conditions. If the region launching a major construction project finds itself in an acute need of mass, short-term labor resources, it should not be forced to receive compatriots for permanent residence. If the settlement of idle agricultural areas by those who are willing and prepared to work the land is a concern shared by both the country and the region, then participants in the State Program should be able to obtain land, including that in federal ownership, at least for long-term lease and with the priority right of redemption.

It should be noted that annual research carried out under the auspices of the Russian Foreign Ministry [14], the annual international information forum, “Integration of Compatriots” (MIFIC) [15], regular meetings with representatives of Russian communities within the framework of regional round tables, discussion of State Program problems and provisions at World Congresses of Compatriots – all offer evidence that, despite all the flaws in its implementation, the Program has been center stage for those compatriots who in one way or another contemplate moving to Russia.

The Ministry of Regional Development of the Russian Federation was assigned the task of increasing the efficiency of the already-operating resettlement mechanism, and work started in 2009.

Implementing the State Program 2009-2012. [8]

The world financial crisis that developed in 2008, affecting the global labor market, has also been a factor in the State Program’s implementation. Regions that had recently been prepared to offer hundreds of new jobs were now turning down potential resettlers. With so many local jobseekers, interest in “those people abroad” dwindled considerably.

A paradoxical situation had taken shape by the end of 2008. Both experts and public organizations and authorities continued to highlight the importance of efficient measures to help compatriots move to Russia. The compatriot theme remained on the political agenda, the need to act in this area was declared in such strategic documents as the Concept of Demographic Policy of the Russian Federation and Presidential Messages to the Federal Assembly. However, in 2008, it was only Kursk Region that joined other regions of the Russian Federation in carrying out the State Program. Furthermore, the 13 regions open to compatriots had received only slightly over 8,000 people, and most of these settled in the Kaliningrad Region, rather than in the Far East or Siberia.

These results prompted experts and politicians to declare that the State Program had failed, while the authorities had to carry out a careful analysis of the reasons for this poor performance. It became obvious that, unless radical changes were made, the State Program would fail to yield the desired results. As a matter of fact, prospective improvements and, later, key approaches to the Program’s modernization did feature on the 2007 and 2008 agendas of the annual international forums “Integration of Compatriots” held by the Regional Development Ministry as part of the information support for the Program. But it took time to collect evidence regarding how the law was being enforced.

32,500 compatriots arrived in 2011, more than in all the previous years combined. And in 2012 it became evident that this influx was growing (over 17,000 people in six months, with another 5,000 applications awaiting decision).

It should also be noted that work on a new version of the State Program was started on the initiative of the Regional Development Ministry in January 2009, while the Government issued its direct assignment much later, in April 2010. This is quite understandable. Amid the developing crisis, there could be no definite answer to the question “what is to be done with the ‘inefficient’ Program: should it be closed or modernized?” And neither the expert community nor the Government could answer this question.

Those who called for the State Program to be closed down pointed out that it had no economic relevance, and at times ignored its cultural components [9]. Indeed, within the time that had elapsed from the moment of the first resettlers arriving (latter half of 2007) to that point (a little under a year and a half), immigration had produced no appreciable economic effect in Russia’s recipient regions. This was also due to a number of restrictions set down in the State Program.

This was chiefly due to the orientation of compatriots participating in this resettlement solely towards wage labor. This excluded those people who would not be employed, but who would instead create jobs from participation in the State Program. The crisis had aggravated the situation on the labor market, and this further reduced demand to hire compatriots in the regions. The Government concentrated its efforts chiefly on providing assistance to Russian citizens who were made unemployed. In these conditions, resettling foreign citizens, and the special attention they needed regarding employment and social support, was shifted to the periphery of government attention [10].

As a response to criticisms leveled at the State Program, part of the expert community fielded geopolitical arguments making reference to the country’s foreign policy. Russia’s image in the world to a great extent depended on its attitude to the former citizens of the once united country. It was impossible to support the “Russian world” while ignoring the aspirations of millions of compatriots outside Russia. Yes, the number of arriving was so small, but the main influx was still ahead. It was just a matter of correcting mistakes and moving on [11].

In 2009, the issue of modernizing the State Program was an internal objective shared by Russia’s Regional Development Ministry and a group of experts who viewed the State Program as an important element of the country’s migration and foreign policies. Officially, the Program was to be accomplished in 2012, and there was sufficient time to discuss and make a strategic decision about its fate.

The overarching objective that people working on the re-conceptualized State Program set themselves was quite ambitious: to make the Program the foundation of a developed policy on human potential in the post-Soviet space. It was obvious that the policy towards former citizens of the Soviet Union arriving in Russia should not replace the broader policy towards economic migration.

Conceptually, the new version of the State Program was based on the following principles:

  • voluntary participation by the Russian Federation’s regions in implementing the Program;
  • territories for priority settlement identified;
  • categories of participants in the Program (types arrival channels) identified; v
  • state support system that is flexible depending on destination territory and participant category.

Two tasks were set: on the one hand, making it easier for the regions to follow regional resettlement program procedure, and on the other, lifting the excessive administrative barriers confronting potential resettling compatriots.

On July 13, 2010, the Regional Development Ministry website carried a draft executive order by the President of the Russian Federation endorsing a new version of the State Program [12].

However, in coordinating the draft presidential order endorsing the modernized State Program it turned out that there were conceptual differences in approaches to policies regarding the resettlement of compatriots. As a result, some key provisions proposed by the Regional Development Ministry were excised from the Program. Provisions failing to win support included those concerning the regions’ voluntary participation in implementing the State Program, the classification of participants in categories, and their selection by a rating system.

In addition, the migration situation is periodically subject to change, which in turn dictates changes in how the document is adopted. For example, the Program had to be corrected following the Customs Union’s formation, and again following the idea of synchronizing the adoption of the new version of the State Program and the Concept of the State Migration Policy of the Russian Federation, etc.

At the same time, the problems that were clearly in evidence and which interfered with the successful realization of the Sate Program were dealt with even before the new version was adopted. As a case in point, Executive Order Number 60 was issued in January 2010 by the Russian President, empowering the authorities to grant the status of participant in the State Program to compatriots who have permanent or temporary residence in Russia with no need for them to make a preliminary visit to the country of citizenship. On January 1, 2012, amendments to the Federal Tax Code came into effect granting participants in the State Program, from the moment of their resettlement, the same rights that residents of the Russian Federation enjoyed, leading to a reduction in income tax payable from 30 percent to 13 percent.

As a result, 32,500 compatriots arrived in 2011, more than in all the previous years combined. And in 2012 it became evident that this influx was growing (over 17,000 people in six months, with another 5,000 applications awaiting decision). Even taking Order Number 60 into account, given people’s apprehensions that they would not make it – given the fact that the State Program seemed to have an uncertain future, the conclusion is obvious: the State Program is in compatriots’ interests. The regions have accumulated sufficient experience and learned how to work with resettlers, while the community of the latter are much better informed both about the State Program overall and the terms of participation. A joint assessment by the Regional Development Ministry and the Federal Migration Service has shown that, with appropriate financial support, the country may receive up to 50,000 new citizens annually for at least the coming 5 years. This will serve as an important factor in achieving the goal set by the President of bringing the annual migration increment in the country’s population up to some 300,000, with compatriots abroad accounting for a considerable proportion of that number. The dispute over “who is a compatriot for the purposes of the State Program” was finally resolved. For the new Program, this is set out in accordance with the new version of the law “On the State Policy of the Russian Federation Regarding Compatriots Abroad” passed in July 2010.

The State Program in its modified version will make it possible to greatly simplify the procedures governing providing assistance to compatriots. But an even greater effect may be achieved at the next stage, that is, with the realization of approaches that today have not yet won support.

This, in the first place, is the regions’ voluntary participation in implementing the Program, which will make it possible to open the entire territory of the country to resettlement. To these ends, a compatriot should be supported taking due account for his or her profession or occupation. For instance, it is important for young people to acquire higher education, which involves arrangements for transfer from a university or college abroad to a Russian university, along with the provision of hostel facilities. For business people, especially those who would like to do business in rural areas, the main preference may be easy tax terms, the opportunity for compensation as they transfer their businesses to Russia, and assistance in transportation of equipment, machinery or animals. For those who would like to settle in a rural area the main incentive would of the allocation of land plots. These are among the factors to be considered.

To conclude, envisaging specific conditions for accession to the Program for each category of prospective participant, along with a specific set of preferences and state support measures, would result in a flexible resettlement system, and the migration traffic would be differentiated from the outset, resulting in better targeted and more efficient support for arriving compatriots.

The problem that still remains to be resolved is providing the opportunity for an individual or legal entity to cover the expenses of participants in the State Program and/or initiate the development of a resettlement program. This means, for example, that an industrial corporation or enterprise acting within the framework of a resettlement project that it initiates in a specific region could recruit the labor force required and receive state support for this purpose. Or, arrangements could be made for family reunification without too many difficulties.

The problem of acquiring citizenship is one of the most complicated issues returning compatriots face. Amendments to be made in the “Regulations on the Procedure for Decisions on Granting Citizenship of the Russian Federation” (and proposed for introduction to point 7, article 14 of the law “On Citizenship of the Russian Federation”) could allow a compatriot to gain citizenship on the grounds of registration at the place of his or her residence. At present, meanwhile, the person in question is obliged to have registration at their place of residence. Therefore, immediately upon arrival, having obtained a temporary residence permit, the individual concerned must either buy a home or lodgings, or acquire a registration paper. This latter sometimes leads to corruption and the emergence of what has come to be known as “elastic” or “stretched” apartments, with several dozen people registered at a one- or two-room apartment on paper, without actually living there.

Alongside work on the new version of the Program, measures were taken throughout the period to expand the regions’ involvement in the State Program as it was operating. It was clear that a considerable proportion of potential resettlers wanted to join their relatives or friends, or to move to somewhere they could find a well-paid job and settle down without much delay, but would then find that the desired region (or municipality) was not participating in the Sate Program. Understanding that this meant they would receive no resettlement assistance, these individuals changed their plans, opting to stay where they were and wait for a more opportune moment. The joint effort by the Regional Development Ministry and the regions yielded results: 10 new regional programs for resettlement were adopted in 2009, and by 2012 the number of regions receiving compatriots had grown to 40, which is practically half of the country.

At present, the State Program remains the only integrated federal program in the sphere of migration. It represents an important government tool and can serve as a model for other migration programs.

There is no doubt that the State Program, planned to be completed in 2012, will be carried on and remain a permanent feature on Russia’s policy landscape. And this means that the discussion of the problems that remain unresolved will continue among experts, the federal authorities, and the regions of the Russian Federation.

Table 1. Stages in Russia’s migration policy in compatriot resettlement

Stage Background Decisions Results
1992–1994 Stage 1: First wave of resettlement. Disintegration of the USSR. Mass influx of refugees and forced migrants. Development of migration policy started in a situation requiring immediate decisions. Federal Migration Service established. Fundamental laws passed on refugees and forced migrants. The international Agreement signed on Cooperation in the Area of Labor Migration and Social Protection of Migrant Labor in CIS Countries (1994). The Federal Migration Program adopted for 1994–2002. Immigration control instituted. The greater part of the forced migrants’ traffic rationalized and streamlined. A system of assistance and guarantees worked out for these categories of migrants. A network of NGOs set up to work with resettlers (Forum of Resettler Organizations, the “Memorial” human rights center).
1995–2001 Stage 2: The search for a solution. Gradual normalization of situation in the CIS. Reduction in the number of resettlers. Search for constitutional and legal solutions in the migration sphere. The Law on Citizenship adjusted to the current situation. Repeated restructuring of the Federal Migration Service that was paralyzing its work. Departure from the policy of paternalism with regard to resettlers. Requirements for naturalization made more rigid.
2002–2005 Stage 3: Change of course. Course towards tightening the migration regime for all categories of migrants and further reduction in the number of resettlers from countries of the former USSR. Strengthening of the law enforcement trend in migration policies. Efforts to bring back the most-favored policies towards former fellow citizens. The extremely rigid new Law on Citizenship passed, and subsequently mitigated. The Federal Migration Service becomes an enforcement agency, suffers a drain of experienced staff specialized in the work with forced migrants. Easier requirements for naturalization for first wave resettlers and compatriots from the CIS. New naturalization channels arranged for compatriots from the CIS (educational, military).
2006–2008 Stage 4: Focus on compatriots. New wave of resettlement required due to the crisis in the population situation. Development of a new policy regarding compatriots. The State Program of voluntary resettlement of compatriots adopted (Executive Order Number 637) along with relevant legal and regulatory instruments. A fully operational migration channel opened for compatriots. Work is intensified with potential resettlers abroad. Frustrated expectations of implementation of the first version of the State Program.
2008–2012 Stage 5: Modernizing the State Program. An increase in the number of resettlers. Stepping up the regions’ activities in implementation of the State Program. Indentifying gaps and shortcomings in the State Program. Work underway to modernize the State Program. [possible results] The State Program continued after 2012. An increase in the number of compatriots resettling to Russia, including to the strategically important territories in the Far East and trans-Baikal area.

Several conceptual texts were selected for this Anthology that from various viewpoints discuss the policies towards compatriots resettling in Russia. V.S. Nikitin, for one, in an interview for the Rossiiskaya Migratsiya (Russian Migration) magazine refers to the migration policy as one of the chief instruments to solve the problem of protecting both the population and the territorial integrity of Russia. N.V. Mkrtchian in his article gives an overview of the problems that surfaced at the initial stages of measures taken concerning refugees and forced resettlers. Ye.K. Kirillova in her work analyzes the reasons for the low efficiency of the State Program and the main difficulties that the first resettlers encountered. S.N. Gradirovsky discusses strong points in Russia’s repatriation policy and “corridors for our own folk” that have always been present in Russian migration policies. M.A. Travnikov in an interview for the Migratsiya XXI vek (Migration. 21st Century) explains the prospects of the State Program and its new version.


1. According to point 3, article 3, of Federal Law Number 99-FЗ “On the State Policy of the Russian Federation Regarding Compatriots Abroad” May 24, 1999, “Compatriots […] denote the persons and their descendants living outside the territory of the Russian Federation […] and also […] the persons whose relatives in direct parentage earlier lived in the territory of the Russian Federation, including persons who had citizenship of the USSR, live in the states formerly part of the USSR, and have acquired citizenship of these states, or become stateless persons.”

2. The Federal Migration Service of Russia was established in June 1992.

3. Specifically regarding the Programs of Ethnic Repatriation, the most vivid example can be found in Tatarstan where these programs were launched in the early 1990s when President of the republic Mintimer Shaimiyev urged Tatars in CIS countries to return. Although not all of them received the expected assistance or even the status of forced migrant that would entitle them to material aid, several settlements, however, were built for them, 100-150 houses in each place. The construction of houses and utilities was jointly funded by the Federal Migration Service and local budgets, with repatriates also sharing in the expenses.

4. Federal Law Number 99-FЗ On the State Policy of the Russian Federation Regarding Compatriots Abroad, May 24, 1999. In the new version, this law was passed on July 23, 2010. The definition of the term “compatriot” evoked heated disputes, but in the end its expanded version was adopted (see note 1).

5. The Concept of Regulation of Migration Processes in the Russian Federation. Endorsed by Decision Number 256-р of the Government of the RF on March 1, 2003. 6

6. Instruction Number 1/15651 of the Ministry of the Interior, On Documentation by Means of Residence Permit of August 22, 2000.

7. For this reason, over the years since Russia’s accession to the Geneva Convention (1992) and the passage of the first Federal Law “On Refugees” (1993), only several hundred people acquired refugee status in Russia, the overwhelming majority of them citizens of Afghanistan who entered the country in the early 1990s. Their problems and those of their children, who are now grown up but who still have no other legal status, remain one of the sore spots in migration policies.

8. Supplement Number 3 to the sub-program “Fulfillment of state obligations for provision of housing to the categories of citizens defined by federal legislation” under the Federal Target Program “Housing” for 2011-2015. And also “The number of families of citizens to improve their housing conditions within the implementation of the sub-program ‘Fulfillment of state obligations for provision of housing to the categories of citizens defined by federal legislation’ under the Federal Target Program ‘Housing’ for 2011-2015” (in the version endorsed by Decision Number 825 of the Russian Federation Government, October, 2011).

9. Valery A. Tishkov, “Not Necessary for Immigrants to Know Russian”, in Rosbalt, February 8, 2006.

10. 10 The working group was headed by Viktor Ivanov, aide to the President of the Russian Federation.

11. Executive Order Number 637 by the President of the Russian Federation “On Measures to Provide Assistance to Compatriots Abroad in Voluntary Resettlement to the Russian Federation, July 22, 2006.

12. A. Vishnevsky, “Will Central Asians and Compatriots be able to Repair Russia’s Demography?” TsentrAzia, May 20 2009; V. Yelizarov and A. Vishnevsky, Interview for RIA Novosti, February 2010

13. See, for example: K. Amelyushkun, “Who are you, Russian Compatriot?” Russkaya linia Portal, October2, 2008.

14. Excerpts from the study of 2011 are published in the present Anthology.

15. See the Forum web site mifis.ru, where the State Program is discussed by both its participants and those intending to move.

16. The section was prepared in collaboration with A.V. Zhuravsky, director of the Ethnic Relations Department, Regional Development Ministry of Russia.

17. See, for example, V. Mukomel, “Compatriot Resettlement Program Failed” // NEWS.am. July 11, 2011.

18. See, for example, the verbatim report of a meeting of the expert group to review Strategy 2020, Number 7, June 2011, discussing a new version of the State Program. 18

19. vIbid.

20. Text of the Program and Explanatory Notes for the Executive Order. URL: http://minregion.ru/documents/draft_ documents/410.html.

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