By Paul Goble
The Russian Ministry for the Development of the Far East says that it is preparing to announce before the end of 2016 a new demographic policy for that region over the next 15 years, one designed to boost the current population of that Chinese border area from six million to eight million.
Igor Romanov, the editor of the Beregrus portal, says that “it is obvious” on the basis of the documents that have been released so far that the ministry intends to meet this target primarily by bringing in immigrants from Central Asia, a development that he and others in the region very much oppose (beregrus.ru/?p=7470).
He says that experts have subjected such ideas to “the harshest criticism” but that the government continues to believe that moving cheap labor resources to the region, which will supposedly “solve” the needs of the raw materials extraction industry there is the best way to proceed.
What Moscow should be worried about but isn’t, Romanov says, is the quality of life of the people who live in the Russian Far East rather than their number. Life in the region has been rapidly “degrading in all relations but above all moral, educational and cultural,” and the introduction of Central Asian gastarbeiters will only make the situation worse.
By inviting them to come to the Russian Far East, he continues, “we will not in any way compensate for our democratic losses but simply ensure the replacement of the current population with another. Instead of the Russians who remain here will come other people, bearers of an alien culture, the so-called ‘new Russians’ [‘rossiyane’].
“The Far East is a strategic region. Here are resources; here is the outlet to the Pacific. And here are needed not alien migrants but powerful, state-thinking leaders, people capable of reviving a deteriorating society and reviving truly Russian statehood.” That doesn’t take a lot of people but rather the right kind, Romanov says.
“The life of Russia itself depends on the fate of the Far East,” he continues, and “here normal [ethnic] Russian people must life, to strengthen Russia and its access to the Pacific by their presence.” And the Beregrus editor then concludes with words that may worry some in the Russian capital.
“Two years ago,” he writes, “many volunteers went to the Donbass. Today, it is necessary for them to move to the Far East.” What is at stake, Romanov argues, is nothing less than “the preservation of Russia and its territorial integrity.”
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