Chinese Could Become Second Largest Nationality In Russia – OpEd


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 nationalities remaining low, Zhanna Zayonchkovskaya says, the Chinese will be the second largest nationality 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 ( and

Zayanchkovskaya added that Russia will not be able to do without massive immigration even if it raises the pension age. Doing that, she said, “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.”

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, Zayanchkovsky’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.

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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