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Russia’s wartime emigration sparks a ‘reckoning’ in Central Asia
In the initial months after Moscow launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, hundreds of thousands of people left Russia. Some were fleeing the war’s economic repercussions or the country’s accelerated descent into authoritarianism, while others saw emigration as a moral necessity. Then, in September, Putin’s mobilization announcement set off a new wave of panic, causing another 700,000 or so to leave Russia in a span of just two weeks (though some have since returned).
A huge number of these wartime emigrants ended up in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, sparking what some have termed a “Russian migrant crisis.” The result on the ground in these countries has been an unprecedented reversal of a decades-old status quo that had Central Asian migrants moving to Russia to perform manual labor for relatively high wages, often while being subjected to racism and mistreatment from locals.
To learn about how this reckoning has played out on a human level, The Naked Pravda spoke to migration researcher and journalist Yan Matusevich, who’s spent the last five months conducting interviews with Russians newly arrived in Central Asia.
Timestamps for this episode:
- (5:16) Who are the people who have moved from Russia to Central Asia? What makes this a ‘monumental’ moment?
- (19:41) How have people in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan reacted to the influx of Russians? What difficult conversations has this migration forced people to have?
- (28:54) Who gets overlooked in the discussion about wartime migrants to Central Asia?
- (35:40) How do these migrants from Russia fit into traditional migration categories? Are they refugees? Asylum seekers? None of the above?
- (45:01) Why did Kazakhstan recently make its visa laws slightly less friendly to Russian citizens? How will this affect Russian emigrants there?
- (52:51) Why do some Russians in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan fear being deported to Russia? Is this likely to happen?
Hosted by Sam Breazeale. Production, sound editing, and mixing by Kevin Rothrock.
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