Immigrant Workers Now Form 10 Percent Of Russia’s Population – OpEd


Vadim Kozhenov, president of the Federation of Migrants of Russia, says that Gastarbeiters and their families now form almost ten percent of the residents of the Russian Federation (

Because most of the migrant laborers in Russia today are from Central Asia and thus of Muslim heritage if not always belief, Kozhenov’s statement strongly suggests that the Muslim share of the population of the Russian Federation is not in the single digits some have claimed but rather a about 25 percent of the total.

That will come as a shock to many ethnic Russians who have been lulled to sleep by the insistence of the Putin regime that ethnic Russians form more than 80 percent of the total, claims that have always been problematic given the fact that they do not include immigrants from the former Soviet republics in general and from Central Asia in particular.

First of all, this means that the Gastarbeiters, who now form disproportionately large portions of the big cities – they rarely move to rural areas and only very occasionally to small or mid-sized cities, will become ever more prominent and more likely to form ghettos or make political demands.

Second, it means that Muslims, encouraged by this new measure of their growth in influence, are also likely to become more active, insisting that Moscow treat them with the greater respect due a community that now includes more than one in every four residents of the country – and quite possibly more.

And third it means there is likely to be a Russian backlash against such immigration, especially if the tensions with the West over Ukraine and Syria partially recede and thus open the way for Russians to return to the more xenophobic attitudes they regularly expressed before Putin’s invasion of Ukraine eclipsed them.

Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

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