Staunton, August 17 – Outmigration from the North Caucasus is “inevitable,” Russia’s presidential plenipotentiary there says. No “Chinese wall” is going to stop it, Aleksandr Khloponin adds, arguing that “the entire issue is how to ensure that this process will not exacerbate inter-ethnic and inter-confessional conflicts” across the Russian Federation.
Experts say, “Novyye izvestiya” journalist Veronika Vorontsova reports, that the level of outmigration from the North Caucasus is high and increasing, although they acknowledge that “exact figures” for the entire region are not currently available (newizv.ru/society/2013-08-16/187354-smena-klimata.html).
But the partial figures that are suggest just how large this flow is. According to the Federal Migration Service for Stavropol kray, about 6,000 North Caucasians move to that predominantly Russian region every year. Over the last decade, the number of Dargins has increased from 6700 to 8300 in Rostov oblast and from 3500 to 4200 in Astrakhan oblast.
And migration experts add that “a minimum of 100,000” Chechens have moved out of their republic and region.
Most North Caucasians move to other parts of the Russian Federation and especially to its largest cities, but some of them – and this appears to be especially true of Chechens and to a lesser extent Ingushes – move abroad to Kazakhstan or even to one of the countries of Western Europe.
To the likely horror of some Russians, the federal North Caucasus Federal District is actively supporting outmigration. Its Inter-Regional Resource Center provides about 60,000 rubles (2000 US dollars) to each North Caucasian who wants to move to central Russia, a significant sum and one that North Caucasians can apply for more than once.
As Vorontsova points out, the North Caucasus occupies about two percent of the land area of the Russian Federation but has about 12 percent of the country’s population. Unemployment in the region is “the highest in Russia,” with six of the ten “unemployment leaders” being North Caucasus republics.
Moreover, it has high rates of population growth – last year, in Daghestan alone, the birth rate exceed the death rate by 300 percent – and overpopulation in particular places. But these demographic factors are not the only drivers of outmigration, the “Novyye izvestiya” journalist says.
Others include “the absence of elementary rights” among the population there, a region where ICG expert Ekaterina Sokiryanskaya says, “all Russian problems are present in a hypertrophic form,” including but not limited to official failure to enforce laws, “total corruption,” arbitrary behavior by force structures, and “a ‘privatized’ justice system.”
Changing those things is going to be difficult if not impossible, and consequently, outmigration from the North Caucasus is going to continue. The best the Russian authorities can do, experts say, is to seek to re-industrialize the region to hold workers there and to integrate migrants from the region into Russian life rather than having them form ghettos in Russian cities.