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Kremlin Floats Plan to Create Millions of New Citizens

Citizenship offer aimed at inducing Russian speakers from the neighborhood to move to the motherland.

15 March 2019

The Russian government has launched its latest program to combat the effects of population loss.

 

The Kremlin hopes that 5 to 10 million people will take advantage of its plan to grant citizenship to Russian speakers in neighboring countries, The Moscow Times reports, citing Kommersant. The program is set to run for six years.

 

Russia’s population fell by 93,500, or 0.06 percent, to 146.8 million in 2018, according to the Russian statistics office, marking the first population decline in 10 years. Last year was the first since 2008 that migration has not offset natural population losses, according to the Moscow paper.

 

Now, the Kremlin is looking to countries with large Russian-speaking populations from Ukraine and Moldova to Kazakhstan, to act as “donor countries” for new Russian citizens.

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin holding a baby. Image via archive.premier.gov.ru.

 

Sources told Kommersant that bills are in the works to expedite immigration and citizenship processes.

 

The declining population can be attributed in part to the falling number of women of childbearing age, a problem that originated in the economically tumultuous 1990s. During this time, women put off having children, Anatoly Vishnevsky, director of the Institute for Demography at the Higher School of Economics, told RFE in 2017.

 

The plan to attract migrants is the latest in a series of measures aimed at halting population decline. In 2017, President Vladimir Putin announced a three-year, 500 billion ruble ($8.6 billion) subsidy program to encourage larger families, according to Bloomberg.

 

 

  • Consequences of the declining population include a declining workforce. In 2017, Economy Minister Maksim Oreshkin called Russia's demographic situation "one of the most difficult in the world," saying that 800,000 working-age people would be lost annually over the next few years, according to RFE.

 

  • To counteract the impending labor shortage, legislation taking effect this year has increased the retirement age for men from 60 to 65, and from 55 to 60 for women, according to Xinhua. The proposal, initially setting the new retirement age at 63 for women, aroused widespread public alarm last year and was eventually watered down.

 

  • And to attract more workers to the Russian Far East, where the population has dropped by a quarter in the past 30 years, the government last year promised 1 million rubles ($17,500) to workers who moved there for a minimum of two years. Another program offers free land to ethnic Russians who settle in the region.
Compiled by Eliza Siegel 
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