Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Window on Eurasia: Central Asians Replacing Russians, Kabardinians, and Balkars in KBR

Paul Goble

Baku, April 30 – Relatively more educated ethnic Russians, Kabardinians, and Balkars continue to leave the Republic of Kabardino-Balkaria (KBR), with about half of their places being taken by less well-educated people from the neighboring republics of the North Caucasus and from Central Asia.
This shift – and it is likely far larger than official figures suggest because many in both groups do not register officially -- is not only exacerbating that republic’s economic problems but also, because the new arrivals typically have far more children than do the ethnic Russians and two indigenous groups, changing the ethnic map of that republic.
And it is a powerful reminder that the Russian Federation as a whole, with declining numbers of ethnic Russians and rising numbers of Muslim Gastarbeiters from the Caucasus and Central Asia, is not the only place where ethnic shifts are taking place: it is occurring in many non-Russian republics within that country as well.
In 2007, the “Caucasus Times” portal reported yesterday, approximately 4900 residents of the republic left, to pursue careers in the areas for which they were professionally trained or even to have a reliable income. And this departure of the republic’s “intellectual elite” is leaving firms there with a severe case of cadres “hunger.”
And their departure, which in almost every case is permanent and which the article on this site says now touches almost every family in the republic, is not being fully compensated by the new arrivals, most of whom have little or no professional training and thus cannot fill the jobs the others have left (
Indeed, so few of those who leave come back that they stand out. The only prominent one is KBR President Arsen Kanokov, who studied in Moscow and then returned to his home republic as a businessman and politician. But such exceptions, the article suggested, only prove the rule that republic’s once strong educated class will not soon be reproduced.
This is not the first time the ethnic mix of Kabardinia-Balkaria has changed in the post-Soviet period. In the early 1990s, both Mountain Jews and Germans left, leaving a major whole in that republic’s economy because the former were among the most active in developing what had been semi-legal trade and the latter in enhancing the productivity of agriculture.
But if the departure of the members of these two groups attracted a great deal of attention because of their “international” dimension, the departure of members of the three main groups in Kabardinia-Balkaria and the arrival of people from elsewhere in the North Caucasus and from Central Asia has not.
Not only are the statistics about these two flows problematic, but there are few outside organizations of states that appear to care very much about this process. And yet it may over the next ten to 15 years so change the ethnic situation in that republic as to require a wholesale reevaluation of just what that republic consists of.
The impact of these trends, “Caucasus Times” said, is reflected in a letter to the republic’s Gazeta Yuga by one KBR resident who has seen members of his family become a special kind of “forced” migrant, people who are forced to flee not violence but from economic disintegration.
“My family is like many in the Caucasus,” the writer says. “The children live and work beyond the borders of the republic. What forced them to leave their motherland? The elder son after service in the army in Moscow did not want to remain here. For six or seven months, he did not receive a kopeck of his salary.”
“He suffered a great deal because even though he was a healthy young man, he couldn’t bring any income home. [After trying to find someplace in KBR where he could earn a living,} he left for Saratov.” The daughter, trained in the republic’s arts institute, had the same experience and moved to St. Petersburg, where she was victimized by drug dealers.
And the younger son? “After graduation, he went to work on the coast where he has a job in an extremely prestigious place. When he tried to get his drivers license at home, [officials] wouldn’t even let him take the examination. That is how [our] little motherland,” the writer concludes, “has spit in the face of our young.”

No comments: