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Ethnic Russians will soon find it easier to get Russian citizenship

January 23, 2013, 16:12 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila

MOSCOW, January 23 (Itar-Tass) — Getting Russian citizenship will soon be much easier for those who do not have the popularity of Gerard Depardieu. The Russian authorities have devised a way of responding to those angry over the ease with which the French actor got a Russian passport, practically over one day, while many others, eager to become Russian citizens, have been waiting for years.

State Duma members on Tuesday supported in the first reading two bills easing the rules of giving Russian citizenship to fellow Russians resident abroad and members of their families who might arrive in Russia under the state program for assistance to voluntary resettlement.

According to one bill getting a Russian passport under simpler procedures would be possible for all former citizens of the USSR and their descendants. They will be exempt from some hitherto mandatory rules and procedures, such as continuous five-year residence in Russian territory, a residence permit, proof of legal means of sustenance, and a certificate of sufficient command of the Russian language.

The program for assistance to the resettlement of fellow compatriots has been in effect since 2007, during which time about 125,000 people have moved to Russia. Each year the number of resettlers to Russia doubles.

The bill on the acquisition of Russian citizenship by compatriots is aimed at reviving the “Russian world”, the chairman of the State Duma’s CIS affairs and diaspora relations committee, Leonid Slutsky, is quoted by the daily Rossiiskaya Gazeta as saying. He speculated that “by 2015 another 100,000 people will resettle to Russia under the program.

Whatever the case, these figures are not the ones which were first hoped for. The original idea was resettlers to Russia would total half a million by the end of 2012. The program was to be available to 20-25 million former citizens of the USSR. But, as follows from what experts have been saying, the requirements for those returning to Russia are still too high.

As for the other bill the legislators discussed, it eases the procedure of granting Russian citizenship to children born into mixed families. Under that bill the child residing abroad will be able to get Russian citizenship under a simpler procedure, if one of the parents is a Russian citizen. Besides, the consent of the foreign parent to the child becoming a Russian citizen will be unnecessary.

The Russian president in his message to the Federal Assembly in December last year called for easing citizenship acquisition procedures for compatriots moving to Russia.

“Russia needs an influx of fresh blood. No denying that. It needs clever, educated, industrious people, who wish to not only work here for a while and leave, but to settle in Russia, who regard Russia as their home country.

However, the existing rules by no means facilitate this process. It’s rather the other way round. The process of getting Russian citizenship for our compatriots and for those who are close to Russia culturally and spiritually is too complex and outrageously over-bureaucratized.”

The head of state issued orders for drafting a faster procedure of grating Russian citizenship to compatriots, speakers of the Russian language and bearers of the Russian culture, direct descendants of those who were born in the Russian Empire and in the Soviet Union, who wish to move to Russia for permanent residence and, respectively renounce their current citizenship.

In the meantime, there have been quite a few cases in which ethnic Russians – citizens of the post-Soviet republics – have been denied Russian citizenship for years. Here is the latest example. The chairman of the Russian Journalists’ Union, Vsevolod Bogdanov, on Monday asked the head of the Federal Migration Service, Konstantin Romodanovsky, to help journalist Stanislav Mikryukov, a citizen of Uzbekistan, stay in Russia and get Russian citizenship.

“We are addressing you with an insistent request for cancelling the decision by the FMS department in Tomsk on the deportation of our colleague Stanislav Mikryukov and for granting him Russian citizenship in accordance with the law,” the message to Romodanovsky runs.

The Russian Journalists’ Union says that Mikryukov, a citizen of the former USSR, has resided in Russia for the past fifteen years. He has graduated from a Russian institution of higher learning, he has a job here, he pays taxes here, and he is a fluent Russian speaker.

“He is precisely the type of a compatriot whom we seek to persuade to resettle to the historical motherland,” Bogdanov said.

He has no doubts those who ordered Mikryukov’s deportation will find official excuses for insisting on their decision. As for the existing instructions on that score, they are very vague and confusing and may often be applied depending on the mood of the officials in charge.

“In this particular case, making a decision on the Mikryukov affair, the central question should be ‘Why? What is the logic, the sense, and what are the interests of the country they ostensibly protect?’ We know that our laws allow for granting Russian citizenship to a French actor virtually in two days’ time. In the Mikryukov case the affair lasts for fifteen years,” Bogdanov said.