Window on Eurasia: Russian Flight from CIS Countries Greater than From Baltic States
Vienna, June 5 -- The percentage decline in the number of ethnic Russians over the last 15 years has been larger in the 11 CIS member states than in the three Baltic countries, despite Moscow’s complaints about discrimination there and polls showing that Russians view the Baltic states as among the most unfriendly countries to Russia.
Declines across the region reflect primarily the exit of ethnic Russians from these places but secondarily to differential death rates – Russians tend to be older and less healthy -- and, at least in a few places such as Ukraine, a decision by those who had called themselves Russians to reidentify as members of the local titular nationality.
But however this shift is to be explained – and it appears to suggest that economic opportunities and personal security play a much greater role in the decision of individual Russians to depart or remain – it has the effect of changing the relationship between Moscow and these countries.
Thus, Russians departed from Tajikistan and Georgia, both of which suffered from civil wars in the 1990s, and from Armenia, whose economy was especially hard hit by the collapse of the Soviet Union, but they remained in the Baltic countries where there was no violence and where economic possibilities were far greater.
Indeed – and this may strike many as the most unexpected finding of all – a greater percentage of Russians left Lithuania (36.1 percent), which Moscow has praised for its treatment of ethnic Russians, than departed from Estonia and Latvia (26.1 percent and 22.4 percent), which the Russian authorities have sharply criticized on this score.
These are just some of the conclusions suggested by a table presented by Valeriy Tishkov, director of the Moscow Institute of Ethnology and chairman of the Social Chamber’s Tolerance Committee, to a meeting on Moscow’s evolving relationship with Russians outside of Russia (http://www.kreml.org/opinions/150934413?mode=print).
A table adapted from the one Tishkov offered is below:
Changes in the Number of Russians in the CIS Countries and Baltic States,
(First Column: Country; Second column: 1989 Census no. in 1000s; Third column: Post-Soviet no. in 1000s; Fifth column: percent decline)
Tajikistan 388 68.2 2000 82.4
Georgia 341 67.7 2002 80.1
Armenia 52 15.0 2001 71.2
Moldova 562 198.1 2004 64.8
Azerbaijan 392 141.7 1999 63.9
Turkmenistan 334 156.8 Est. 53.1
Kyrgyzstan 917 603.2 1999 34.2
Kazakhstan 6228 4479.6 1999 28.1
Ukraine 11356 8334.0 2001 26.6
Uzbekistan 1653 1141.7 Est. 17.6
Belarus 1342 1141.7 1999 14.9
Lithuania 344 219.8 2000 36.1
Latvia 906 603.2 2000 26.1
Estonia 475 351.2 2000 22.4
Russian Fed. 119865.9 115868.5 2002 3.3
All CIS Ctys. 25920.0 17842.2 29.4
Baltic Ctys. 1725.0 1274.2 26.1
Russians-total 143430.9 133710.7 7.9