Ethnic Conflict in the Post-Soviet World: Case Studies and Analysis

By Leokadia Drobizheva; Rose Gottemoeller et al. | Go to book overview

MINORITIES, REFUGEES, AND MIGRANTS

17.

Interethnic Tensions and Demographic
Movement in Russia, Ukraine, and Estonia

ZHANNA ZAIONCHKOVSKAIA


General Migration Patterns

The migration of different ethnic populations of the former Soviet Union (FSU) can be understood only within the context of the fundamental changes taking place in the sociopolitical and economic systems of the new republics. The breakup of the USSR, the collapse of the old social and political system, and the resulting economic crisis all play important roles in the contemporary migration process.

The dissolution of the USSR should be understood as an extremely difficult process, not as a single event. The former republics are gaining or regaining their sovereignty, but this process is being accompanied by a struggle for power, an explosion of nationalism, the exacerbation of religious differences, and the appearance of contested "hot spots" along many borders. This is particularly true between Russia and Ukraine, and Russia and Estonia.

The social and economic position of ethnic Russians who find themselves living beyond the borders of Russia has dramatically worsened since the end of 1991. Social and ethnic tensions, the new geopolitical situation, economic depression, and a fall in the general standard of living are perceived by this previously relatively privileged group as having a disproportionate impact on them.

In general, the population of the republics of the FSU has reacted in an extraordinarily defensive way to the breakup of the Soviet Union: it has largely curtailed what could be termed "normal" migration (i.e., migration motivated by employment, marriage, or study) while drastically increasing what could be called "stress-induced" migration. The latter is largely the result of the dislocation that has accompanied the disintegration of the social order.

The number of new arrivals to cities during 1987-90 dropped substantially: in the FSU as a whole by 19 percent, in Russia by 21 percent, in Ukraine by 16 percent, and in Estonia by 37 percent (See Table 17.1). From 1991 to 1992, immigration to Russia fell by 20 percent. Although we do not have comparable

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