VIENNA — Two out of every three current residents of Kaliningrad say they oppose any new wave of immigration, even if it consists only of ethnic Russians whom the governor of that non-contiguous Russian exclave has invited from the former Soviet republics and Baltic states.
Sergei Tsyplenkov, director of the Kaliningrad Sociological Center, told a conference last week that “66 percent of Kaliningraders oppose another wave of immigration,” fearing competition for jobs and angered by the benefits Governor Georgiy Boos is offering potential immigrants (http://www.rosbalt.ru/2006/08/....
If Boos has his way, the region will use financial and other incentives to attract some 450,000 ethnic Russian “compatriots” over the next nine years, a group whose number represents almost 50 percent of the current residents, who themselves almost in every case are those who came in one of three earlier waves of immigration.
When Soviet forces occupied Germany’s East Prussia in 1945, they killed or drove out almost the entire population before incorporating most of that region into the USSR as Kaliningrad oblast. In the years that followed, Moscow organized the arrival of Russians, Ukrainians and Belarusians to that area.
Following the recovery of independence by the Baltic republics and the disintegration of the Soviet Union, Kaliningrad became a non contiguous Russian exclave. In the early 1990s, it attracted a second wave of immigrants, mostly ethnic Russians with higher education from the Baltic states.
Several years later, this wave was followed by the third, primarily working class people from Kazakhstan and Central Asia, many of whom operated their own businesses and some of whom were involved in the illegal flow of goods between Eurasia and the European Union.
According to experts who participated in the Rosbalt roundtable, the region would have relatively little difficulty providing jobs for what would be an annual influx of roughly 50,000 people. But they warned that the region is nonetheless not prepared for a new wave of arrivals.
On the one hand, there is not enough housing stock or plans to build enough to prevent housing costs from going up. Already some current residents are finding it difficult to move because of this surge in housing prices, a situation that explains much of the antagonism of current residents to the possibility of more new arrivals.
And on the other hand, the attitudes of local residents toward outsiders regardless of ethnicity who have already come to the region is something potential immigrants know about and often decide is a good reason not to move even to a region which represents a gateway to the European Union.
Vitautas Lopata, a Lithuanian immigrant from Kazakhstan who is now a wealthy businessman and deputy in the Kaliningrad oblast Duma, told roundtable participants that those who came from Central Asia and Kazakhstan in the past had brought with them “about a billion dollars” of investment.
But, he continued, the hostility of local resident to these arrivals in the second half of the 1990s has led others who might follow them to decide against coming to Kaliningrad, thus shutting off what had been one of the most important sources of new investments to the economy of that region.
In addition, he said, many of those who might have considered coming to Kaliningrad in the past are put off by low salaries there. Average salaries “do not exceed 9,000 rubles” (320 U.S. dollars) a month, and potential immigrants know that they can get up to 1500 euros (1950 U.S. dollars) a month if they move to EU countries.
Unless the authorities in Kaliningrad and Moscow address all these issues – housing, salaries, and the attitudes of the current residents – the participants in last week’s roundtable warned, Boos’ program is likely to remain little more than slogans, one that “instead of positive things will bring a mass of problems and conflicts.”
Kaliningraders oppose new immigrants – even if they’re Russian (21)