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Background Information | Russian Federation (2010) |

Russian Federation Background Trends Migration policy Integration policy Irregular migration Refuge and asylum Citizenship Future Challenges References

Background Information

Maria Nozhenko

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The Russian Federation (Russia) is the largest state in the world in terms of territory, occupying more than 11% of the land surface of the Earth, and is located in Eurasia.

Russian Federation (bpb) Lizenz: cc by-nc-nd/2.0/de

Russia shares borders with 16 countries; it has land borders with Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, China, Mongolia, North Korea and maritime borders with Japan and the USA. Russia is a federal state consisting of 832 "subjects of federation" (like states in the USA or Laender in Germany). There are six different types of subjects of federation: 21 republics, 9 krais, 24 oblasts (cities of federal significance), one autonomous oblast and 4 autonomous okrugs. The population density in Russia is very disparate – 324.7 inhabitants per km² in Moscow and the Moscow oblast as compared with only 3.9 inhabitants per km² in Siberia and the Far East, for example. The European part of the country is home to the largest share of inhabitants. The population is both aging and declining; natural population decline is very high and came to 12.6 million people from 1992 to 2008. Immigration only partly compensates for this population decrease. In the first post-soviet decade Russia had a very high relative index of migration, it occupied the third place in the world during the period of 1989-2002, and was the second biggest immigration country worldwide in 2003-2006. According to some experts, immigration is the key measure for improving the demographic situation in contemporary Russia, possibly counteracting depopulation.

Background InformationRussian Federation

Capital: Moscow
Official language: Russian
Area: 17.075.400 km2
Population (2009): 141.903.979 (FSSS)
Population density: 8.7 inhabitants per km2
Population growth (2008): -0.07 %
Foreign-born population as percentage of total population (Census 2002): 1.9 % (2.724.327 persons)
Labour force participation rate (2008): 53.4 % (ILO)
Unemployment rate: 7.6 % (2006), 6.6% (2007), 6.2 % (2008)
Ethnic groups (2002): 79.8 % Russians, 19.2% other ethnic groups, 1 % ethnic group not stated (Census)

International migration in Russia is composed of the inflow of immigrants from other countries of the former Soviet Union and an outflow of emigrants into economically more developed countries, such as Israel, the USA, Germany and other EU-member states. Russian academic and political discourses have adopted the term ethnic repatriation to refer to the inflow. Irregular labour migration evolved as a central problem during the ten years from 1996 to 2006. The majority of irregular migrants in Russia are labour migrants from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), who came legally to Russia under the visa-free regime, but stayed and worked illegally. Internal migration is very low and has not exceeded 3 % of the population during the 2000s. The vector of internal migration has changed in the post-Soviet time. Traditionally the main direction was towards the centre and eastward, but in the second half of the 1980s migration towards the periphery, the west and south increased.

Russian migration policy was significantly changed two times. First it became more restrictive in 2001 and then liberalized in 2006. Russian migration policy has also undergone conceptual changes. It was mainly reactive during the first 15 post-Soviet years and has become gradually proactive.



  1. Mansoor A., Quillin B. (eds.) (2006), p. 1.

  2. Vitkovskaya G, Panarin S. (eds.) (2000), p. 77.

  3. The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) was founded on 8 December 1991 by the Republic of Belarus, the Russian Federation and Ukraine. 8 former Soviet Republics – Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan jointed the CIS two weeks after that. Georgia joined two years later, in December 1993 and left CIS after the South Ossetian war. Three former Soviet Republics – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have never jointed CIS.

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Dr. Maria Nozhenko is a lecturer at the Department of Political Science and Sociology and research fellow at the Centre for European Studies at the European University at St. Petersburg (Russia).