Migration and the Challenges of Diversity

According to the United Nations, as of 2010 there were 214 million people living outside of their country of birth, up from 80 million almost four decades ago. This is a particularly prescient issue in the countries of the former Soviet Union, where large scale migration is a relatively new phenomenon. The collapse of the Soviet state brought with it expanded freedom of movement, and many citizens have chosen to relocate away from ethnic conflict, political ambiguity, and economic hardship. In addition, the loosening of border controls has made the region a desirable corridor for migration from Southeast Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.

The Kennan Institute has invested over ten years into researching and monitoring migration in Russia and Ukraine, as Russia jumped to second place in immigrant-receiving countries, and Ukraine currently has the tenth largest immigrant population in the world. Parallel to this growth, the Kennan Institute has steadily kept its attention focused on the many issues that heightened migration in Eurasia brings.

The core of the Institute’s migration programming is currently conducted through a research grant on immigration in Russia that is led by Professor Cynthia Buckley of the University of Texas, Austin and was launched in 2009. The project takes an up-close look at the effects of immigration on Russian cities as well as the immigrant experience itself. Three Russian cities have been chosen for in-depth analysis: Ekaterinburg, Krasnodar, and Nizhnii Novgorod. The research team also seeks to increase understanding of the overall Eurasian migration system and explore how migration patterns reflect social structures, cultural competencies, and economic motivations, in post-Soviet states.

The Institute has also completed a research project looking at the impact of nontraditional migrants—from countries that did not have a history of migration to the USSR—in Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv. A 2001-2002 survey conducted by the Kennan Kyiv Project focused on immigrants from Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. The survey consisted of: a questionnaire for immigrants, a survey of Kyiv city residents, and an experts’ survey of officials from various government levels and specialists who have regular contact or work directly with nontraditional immigrants. Survey questions focused on the main characteristics of immigrants in Kyiv, their living conditions, inter-ethnic relations, and the attitude of Kyiv city residents and the municipal government toward them. The study demonstrated that Ukraine is becoming a country that is increasingly attractive to foreigners and persons without citizenship, providing immigrants with opportunities for peaceful and productive lives. Results of the project were published in Ukrainian by the Kennan Kyiv Project and Stylos in 2003, and an abridged English translation, Nontraditional Immigrants in Kyiv, was published in 2004 by the Kennan Institute and the Comparative Urban Studies Project of the Woodrow Wilson Center.

In addition to taking on its own research initiatives, the Kennan Institute has also attracted an increasing number of migration experts in its scholar competitions. Some scholars-in-residence who have focused on migration in recent years include: Vladimir Malakhov, Leading Research Fellow, Department of Social and Political Philosophy, Institute of Philosophy, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow who received a Fulbright-Kennan grant to study "National Integration and Transnational Migration: Dynamic of Immigration Regimes in Industrially Developed Countries"; Natalya Klevalina, Editor, Solzhenitsyn House of Russia Abroad and Galina Starovoitova Fellow focused on "Rises and Falls of Russian Immigration in U.S. in the 20th Century"; Marya Rozanova, Associate Professor, Admiral Makarov State Maritime Academy and Head of the Center for Civil, Social, Scientific, and Cultural Initiatives, St. Petersburg, who received a Starovoitova grant to work on her project “The Migration Policy Development in Urban Areas of Contemporary Russia”; Adriana Helbig, Assistant Professor, Department of Music, University of Pittsburgh was a Title VIII Research Scholar exploring the topic “Hip-Hop, African Migrants, and Transnational Articulations of Racialized Class Identities in Post-Orange Revolution Ukraine”; Olga Vendina, Senior Researcher, Institute of Geography, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, was a Starovoitova fellow working on the project “Playing the Ethnic Card in Moscow: Ethno-Cultural Policies and their Unintended Side Effects”; and Leyla Keough, Title VIII Research Scholar, studied “Driven Women and Migration Management in Post-Socialist Europe.”

Another important aspect to the Institute’s migration programming is conferences, of which there have been several dedicated to the topic in the past few years. In June 2010, the Kennan Moscow Project co-sponsored an international conference entitled “Immigrants to Russia: Social Challenges” in Moscow. Nearly 30 immigration specialists from Russia, Tajikistan, Azerbaijan, and the U.S. participated in the two-day event. Experts who focus on Russia, Ukraine and the U.S. spent the day in Washington, D.C. in April 2010 comparing the immigration situation in the respective countries at a seminar entitled “Demography, Migration, and Tolerance: Eurasian Experience in Context.” In October 2009, the Kennan Institute together with the Institute for Democracy and Cooperation (INDEMCO), sponsored an all-day conference on “Migration in Russia and the U.S.: Problems and Solutions.” A delegation of eight top migration experts from Moscow traveled to Washington, DC to discuss immigration issues with their American counterparts. The Kennan Institute and the Comparative Urban Studies Program cosponsored a one-day federal conference in June 2008 on “Transnational Migration to New Regional Centers: Policy Challenges, Practice, and the Migrant Experience,” bringing together leading specialists from Africa, Europe, and Central and North America to discuss how new migrant communities are transforming cities around the world. In April 2008 the Kennan Institute cosponsored a conference in St. Petersburg with the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation, St. Petersburg State University, the Committee on Foreign Relations of the City of St. Petersburg, and UNICEF, that was entitled “International Scientific-Practical Conference on Tolerance and Intolerance in Contemporary Society: East and West.” Representatives from the Washington, D.C. and Kyiv offices presented their ongoing migration research and its relationship to tolerance and intolerance in society. In 2004, the Kennan Institute hosted two meetings of a Title VIII-Supported Research Workshop on “Immigration, Forced Migrants, and Refugees in Central Eurasia.” The results of the workshop were published as a volume titled Migration, Homeland, and Belonging in Eurasia, edited by Cynthia Buckley of the University of Texas at Austin and Kennan Institute Director Blair A. Ruble. Moving forward, a significant conference related to the Russian cities research grant (mentioned above) is planned for the fall of 2011.

Finally, migration topics have continuously been featured in the Kennan Institute’s publications. For a complete list of publications relating to immigration, please see our publications page.

The Kennan Institute will continue bringing scholars and policymakers together to discuss issues of migration in Eurasia. Migration in Russia and Ukraine has significant implications not only for the two countries respectively, but for the wider surrounding region and ultimately for the increasingly globalized world.

Experts & Staff

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