Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Window on Eurasia: Are the EU’s Roma about to Move to Russia?

Paul Goble

Staunton, May 4 – Rising tensions between the Roma and the titular nationalities of the European Union have sparked reports in Moscow that some of this often-despised community are about to be moved to the Russian Federation, either on their own or from a deal between the EU and Russian officials who believe that that country needs all the migrants it can get.

Yesterday, “Komsomolskaya Pravda” reported about this possibility (, picking up on a story that had run the day before on the portal (

According to, the possibility of an agreement by which Europe’s Roma will be dispatched to the Russian Federation and possibly Ukraine is to be the subject of upcoming discussions between the EU and the Russian Federation, a step France and several East European countries support but the Germany reportedly opposes.

The first public mention of this, said, was a “Komsomolskaya Pravda” radio program on April 12 when Roman Grokholsky, a leader of the Roma community in the Russian Federation, said that in his view, “Russia for economic reasons could accept [Europe’s Roma]. It is an enormous land” (

As Yuri Filatov put in yesterday’s “Komsomolskaya Pravda,” “Europe it seems has found a radical solution for the problems of its Roma [who number between nine and twelve million] – simply to take them and resettle them in Russia.”

European countries do not have a good record in their dealings with the Roma. Last year, for example, French President Nicolas Sarkozy expelled “several thousand” of them to Bulgaria and Romania, an action that was denounced by international human rights groups but generally supported by the French people and by residents of many other EU countries.

But despite this support, European governments have concluded, Filatov continues, that is “neither technically nor economically” feasible “to deport all the Roma to Romania or Bulgaria as was done in the past: the sizes of these countries do not allow that and local nationalists are protesting ever more loudly against” that idea.

As a result, Europeans have come up with the notion “why not resettle all the Roma in Russia (and also in Ukraine),” which have the space and the jobs to accommodate them and which, in the view of the Europeans, have a tradition of tolerance for the Roma, as reflected in Russian novels and music.

It is anticipated, the paper says, that “each Roma family would receive from the European Union money for travel and resettlement.” The exact amount hasn’t been determined but it would likely be in the range of 500 euros per person, the amount Roma deported from France received earlier.

“In this way,” Filatov says, “by counting on our accommodating spirit and hospitality, ‘tolerant’ Europe wants on our account to resolve the problem of its own intolerance. And it is worth noting that in the circles in and around the powers that be in Russia, there is actively being prepared the basis for such decisions.”

Indeed, the “Komsomolskaya Pravda” journalist says, the Russian elite is thinking about far more than just Europe’s Roma. Specifically, it is thinking about the Chinese and even Africans as a means of addressing the Russian Federation’s increasingly severe demographic decline.

Filatov cites the comments of Zhanna Zayonchkovskaya, the head of the migration laboratory of the Institute of Economic Prognostication at the Russian Academy of Sciences, at a meeting last week devoted to the demographic dimensions of Moscow’s strategy paper for 2020 (

Given Russia’s declines in its overall population and especially among working age cohorts, Zayonchkovskaya said, Russia will have to attract at least 20 million additional migrants over the next 15 years. Central Asian countries can supply no more than six million of these, and so most will have to come from China.

Chinese workers are already coming into Russia and they will only increase in number over the coming years, Zayonchkovskaya said, noting that “the longer we put our heads in the sand, the more unexpected this will be for us.” And there is going to be a big change: by mid-century, she said, there will be more ethnic Chinese in Russia than Tatars.

Such migration flows will only feed more xenophobic attitudes among Russians, such as those that the recently banned (the case is now on appeal) Movement Against Illegal Immigration (DPNI) reflect and seek to channel. And it is no surprise that the DPNI portal features these stories about Europe’s Roma.

But Zayonchkovskaya’s comments reflect the dilemma in which the Russian government finds itself: If it allows more immigration, increasingly from non-Slavic peoples, it will face an ever more antagonistic population. But if it doesn’t, the Russian economy will suffer, and the regime will face class rather than ethnic anger.

No comments: