VIENNA – Moscow’s new man in the Far East has called on ethnic Russians in Estonia who lack citizenship there to resettle on the Kamchatka peninsula, an idea few of them are likely to find attractive and one that highlights the problems of Putin’s proposal that ethnic Russians living abroad “return” to the Russian Federation.
Last week, Kamil’ Iskhakov, the Plenipotentiary Representative to the Far Eastern Federal District, suggested that at least some of the ethnic Russians living abroad whom Putin has called home to help solve the Russian Federation’s demographic problems should move to Kamchatka (http://lenta.ru/article/2006/0....
Specifically, Iskhakov, who has already attracted some negative comment in Moscow for his active support of the Islamic community in his region, said that Moscow “needs to think about resettling” some of those returning to Russia to the Far Eastern portion of the country in general and Kamchatka in particular.
That region, he suggested, needs a large number of people if it is to develop, and those returning from Estonia or elsewhere could help provide the basis for new growth. But Iskhakov added that for this to be possible, “we will have to do a great deal in order to make Kamchatka more attractive for life.”
In a comment about Iskhakov’s latest ideas posted on Lenta.ru, Petr Bologov suggested that Iskhakov’s suggestion that “a great deal” would need to be done before anyone would move there is perhaps the only realistic part of the Plenopotentiary Representative’s efforts to apply Putin’s ideas to the Pacific rim of the country.
Given the large number of economic and social problems in Kamchatka, Bologov suggested, “it is doubtful that Russians from Estonia will rush to stand in line to replace their ‘non citizenship status’ for full status as residents of a frozen, impoverished and terribly distant region.”
Indeed, the news agency commentator suggested, the only thing Estonia’s ethnic Russians – only 134,000 of whom lack citizenship in Estonia – are likely to think about Iskhakov’s proposal is this: They will say “thank you,” Bologov continued, “because at least he didn’t suggest they move to the [even more remote] Wrangel Islands.”
At one level of course, Bologov’s comments simply represent a journalistic piling on against a man whose ethnic and religious background – Iskhakov is a Kazan Tatar who served as major of Tatarstan’s capital prior to his current appointment and someone who has not been shy about his Islamic faith - have already made him a target.
But at another level, Bologov’s remarks unintentionally highlight why few ethnic Russians anywhere are likely to respond positively to Putin’s call for them to move to the Russian Federation. In almost all cases, they would not only see their per capita incomes decline but likely find other aspects of their lifestyles undermined as well.
Since Putin made his appeal to ethnic Russians living abroad, many Moscow commentators and officials have focused on the ethnic Russians living in Estonia and Latvia who do not yet have citizenship in either of those countries as the most likely candidates for moving to the Russian Federation.
While this lack of citizenship still annoys many ethnic Russians – because these two Baltic countries were occupied states rather than Soviet republics, the governments were not required by international law to give citizenship on the “zero option” basis – most are far better off there than they would be in the Russian Federation.
Most non-citizens in Estonia and Latvia have significantly higher incomes than do citizens resident in the Russian Federation. Most have far longer life expectancies – with non citizens in Estonia, for instance, living almost a decade longer than citizens in neighboring portions of the Russian Federation.
And however angry some are about their lack of citizenship, most ethnic Russians in Estonia and Latvia see their own futures and even more the futures of their own children as permanent residents and ultimately as citizens of these European Union countries rather than as citizens of the Russian Federation.
Consequently, as Bologov’s commentary suggests, only a microscopic percentage might be inclined to move back, especially if the Kremlin’s intention is that they come not to Moscow or St. Petersburg, two cities with relatively high standards of living, but rather to distant borderlands like Kamchatka where their future would be very much an open question.
Estonia’s non-citizens invited to come to Kamchatka (17)