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MOSCOW, April 02. /ITAR-TASS/. Russia keeps pressing for the reunification of what is sometimes referred to as the 'Russian world' - people of Russian descent that are committed to the Russian culture and speak Russian. In the latest move along these lines Russia adopted a special bill to ease the procedure of granting Russian citizenship to compatriots who are fluent in Russian, including former Soviet citizens.
Although the program for drawing compatriots into Russia was launched several years ago, now the decision cannot but be looked at in the context of the latest events in Ukraine, where ethnic Russians account for more than 15% of the population. Sceptics have been warning that the opportunities for getting Russian citizenship on easier terms will not so much attract migrants from Ukraine as thrust the door open to Central Asians, who are far from always prepared, let alone eager, to adapt themselves to Russian realities and lifestyles.
The State Duma on Tuesday adopted in the first reading a bill on simpler rules of granting Russian citizenship. To get a Russian passport, the applicants will have to abdicate their current citizenship, move to Russia and take and pass a Russian language test. The new rules will be applied to all those who have ever lived on the territory of Russia or the former USSR or have direct relatives.
The bill received the backing of not only the ruling party United Russia, but also of the Liberal Democrats and the Communists. A Just Russia party voted against the bill. They fear that millions of labor migrants from Transcaucasia and Central Asia may get Russian citizenship too easily.
State Duma member Mikhail Yemelyanov, of A Just Russia Party, argues that the bill in its present shape in fact poses a threat to the country’s national security.
“You are legalizing the millions of migrants who are already on the Russian territory. They will get the right to participate in elections and to cast ballots, while staying loyal to their native countries,” he warned.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on April 13 instructed the government to draft a bill which would considerably ease the procedure of applying for and getting Russian citizenship by Russian speakers whose direct relatives once lived in the territory of Russia or the USSR. Putin said that the procedure of getting Russian citizenship by compatriots was too complex and “outrageously over-bureaucratized.”
The Russian leadership has repeatedly declared the intention to promote integration processes in the post-Soviet space, to make Russia a center for the compatriots to rally around and to pro-actively protect those who consider themselves part of the Russian world. In 2006 a special program for the resettlement of compatriots began to be implemented. However, it has fallen short of the authorities’ expectations.
The Ministry of Regional Development said on Monday that from the moment the program was launched and up to the end of 2013 approximately 162,000 people moved to Russia, while the original expectation was to welcome as many as 300,000. Last year 36,800 resettled to Russia. In 2012 there had been twice as many re-settlers - 63,000. In the meantime, as the chief of Russia’s Federal Migration Service, Konstantin Romodanovsky said late last year that Russia would need 300,000 migrants a year up to 2025.
The Regional Development Ministry says that the sentiment in favor of resettling to Russia is the strongest in Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Moldova. Eight percent of the applicants for Russian citizenship are in Armenia and Ukraine.
Political scientist Viktor Alksnis told the portal Svobodnaya Pressa (Free Press) that after the two decades since the collapse of the Soviet Union the idea of building a common political space in Eurasia would not be very easy to accomplish.
“The initiative is too late,” he said. “Had the decision been made back in the 1990s, it would have had great success. Now, I am afraid, this initiative would greatly complicate the situation in Russia from the standpoint of inter-ethnic relations. First and foremost, we would see an influx from Central Asian countries. I very much doubt that people in Belarus or Ukraine would be lining up for our passports.”
The president of the Migration of the 21st Century fund, former deputy chief of the Federal Migration Service, Vyacheslav Postavnin, disagrees. He is quoted by the RBC daily as saying that Ukrainians would be very eager to get Russian passports.
“The standard of living in Ukraine is dwindling. Besides, many Ukrainians have families and homes in Russia,” he said.
"I do not think that people in Ukraine will be applying for Russian citizenship by the thousand,” Ukrainian political scientist Aleksei Albu claims. “True, the idea will have both supporters and opponents. Moreover, there will be opponents among those who currently disagree with the junta in Kiev. The protests in the Southeast began not because people wished to live in Russia. They hate the idea of living in a situation where armed gangs dictate their terms to them."
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