If current trends continue, with ever fewer immigrants from Central Asia and the Caucasus coming to Russia and with birthrates among Russia’s larger non-Russian ethnicities remaining low, Zhanna Zayonchkovskaya says, the Chinese will be the second largest ethnicity in Russia by mid-century.
The senior scholar at the Russian Academy of Sciences Institute for Economic Predictions said that Russia has no choice but to rely on immigrant workers and that it has no other source except for China, on which it is likely to be able to rely in the next several decades. Zayonchkovskaya added that [quote]Russia will not be able to do without massive immigration even if it raises the pension age. Doing that “will not level out the demographic waves or the problems of having a sufficient number of working age people. It will solve the problems of the pension fund, but the demographic situation will remain just as complex.”[/quote]
There are three reasons why her remarks are likely to be especially disturbing to many Russians:
- First, Russians have long been accustomed to believe that the second largest nationality in the Russian Federation are the Tatars, a group which Russians generally view as integrated or at least Russian speaking, qualities not found among immigrants from Central Asia, the Caucasus or China.
- Second, Zayonchkovskaya’s words also suggest that one or more of the Central Asian or Caucasian country migration flows into Russia is larger than the six million Tatars, a conclusion that, if true, means immigration into the Russian Federation is far larger than any Moscow official has ever acknowledged.
- And third, her projection not only feeds into Russian fears about the overwhelming size of China’s population opposite Russia’s underpopulated Siberia and Far East but also may have consequences for the country’s ethnic mix far sooner than even the Moscow demographer suggests.
The reason for that final point is that there is evidence that an ever larger number of young Chinese men who can’t find spouses at home because of Beijing’s notorious one-child policy that led to gender-selection-driven abortions are coming to Russia to find brides.
Many of these new mixed couples are returning to China, but at least some are remaining to live and work in Russia, a trend likely to transform the ethnic mix in Russia east of the Urals if not yet in the country as a whole.
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