Geographic Influences on Migration Patterns in Russia & Central Asia

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: David Wood

David has taught Honors Physics, AP Physics, IB Physics and general science courses. He has a Masters in Education, and a Bachelors in Physics.

Human migration in Central Asia and Russia has been based in large part on the geographical features of the countries in the regions. Learn more about human migration and its patterns, and take a closer look at those of Russia and other Central Asia countries, including Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. Updated: 11/09/2021

What Is Migration?

Human migration is the seasonal or long-term movement of humans from one area of the Earth to another. But, why do people do this? Isn't it all nice and cozy right where you are? Well, I guess that depends where you are. People don't usually move just because they feel like it. It's usually for practical reasons: to get married, to escape persecution or a natural disaster, to find work, or to better one's education. Today, we're going to discuss the migration patterns of the countries of Central Asia and Russia. What are those countries? The area of Central Asia and Russia contains a total of six countries: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

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  • 0:01 What is Migration?
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Migration Patterns of Russia

Immigration from abroad is a big deal in Russia. According to 2013 U.N. estimates, Russia was the second largest receiver of immigrants that year, second only to the United States. Russia's population is aging, and many areas have high mortality rates. This has kept the demand for labor high, and immigrants have been flocking to the country ever since the fall of the Soviet Union. Russia, after all, has much higher wages than most countries in the world. Many of these immigrants come from former Soviet countries or allies that offer fewer opportunities. But there are also refugees and asylum seekers from war-torn countries.

During the days of the Soviet Union, the government restricted residency permits, which meant that not many people moved from rural areas to cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg. But many of these restrictions were relaxed in 2006, and there is now much more internal migration, mostly from the center of Russia towards the west and south edges.

Migration Patterns of Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan has had a relatively open-door policy when it comes to migration from other countries. The government actively encourages legal immigration because workers are very much in need. Kazakhstan also has abundant oil reserves and fertile land, as well as a booming construction industry, and average incomes are much higher than elsewhere in Central Asia. All these factors have made it an attractive place for people to move from other, poorer parts of Central Asia. In fact, Kazakhstan is seeing a positive net migration of people into the country. The most common source countries are Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, and many people even cross the border just to work, returning to their homes abroad in the evenings.

Internal migration within Kazakhstan is mostly from rural areas to urban areas. As more and more people have given up their nomadic, herding lifestyles, the cities of Kazakhstan have grown rapidly. The general trend has been away from the east and north and towards the south and west.

Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan

Migration patterns in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan are largely out of the country. Each of these countries struggles for various reasons: corruption and lack of resources in Kyrgyzstan, drought and famine in Turkmenistan and Tajikistan, and a controlling and oppressive regime in Uzbekistan. Also, pay rates are lower in these countries and unemployment is high. Moving to other countries might not lead to an easy life, but it certainly tends to lead to a better one than staying in the rural parts of these countries. People move for various reasons: to support their families, put their children through school, or build homes. Few people really want to leave their families, but they do out of necessity.

Many people from these countries move to Kazakhstan or Russia, for several reasons. First, both of these countries enjoy a higher standard of living. They're also conveniently located. But more importantly, there are strong cultural ties. Kazakhstan has a large Islamic population, like other Central European countries. And they all had good relations with the Soviet Union, even though Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan were officially neutral.

Both Kazakhstan and Russia have large ethnically Russian and Russian-speaking populations, as well. Because of these ties, you don't need a visa to move between the countries, and this causes a lot of immigration to Russia. Kazakhstan is also popular because of its open-door immigration policy, making it easier to move there than Russia.

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