O. R. Gulina (Hrsg.): Migration as a (Geo-)Political Challenge in the Post-Soviet Space

Migration as a (Geo-)Political Challenge in the Post-Soviet Space. Border Regimes, Policy Choices, Visa Agendas

Gulina, Olga R.
Soviet and Post-Soviet Politics and Society
Stuttgart 2019: Ibidem Verlag
156 S.
Reviewed for Connections. A Journal for Historians and Area Specialists by
Rano Turaeva, Universität München

This book deals with a timely topic, namely migration policies in the post-Soviet space. There are some other scholarly works that deal with each regional complex related to migration, refugee crisis, and border issues separately and in an in-depth manner.1 After the collapse of the Soviet Union, political uncertainty and fear of economic collapse prevailed as many of the former Soviet republics faced considerable challenges such as poverty, conflicts, and political turmoil. These situations led to an increasing mobility all over the post-Soviet states, with people migrating in masses from the countries where economies collapsed completely or partly or where economic survival was not possible anymore. The most skyrocketing numbers were seen in Russia – the country received more than ten million migrants from other former Soviet republics. Although a very small book, it contains politically and legally relevant information about the agreements, statistical information of migratory dynamics, and a long list of legal provisions for each of the post-Soviet states concerning migratory policies. The author presents a legal and political analysis of the strategies utilized by the ruling elites of the former Soviet states, such as citizenship politics, refugee politics, and residence and labour regulations.

The book contains eight chapters. Chapter 1 discusses the legal
framework of migration management in the post-Soviet states, which is divided into three time periods: the 1990s, 2000s, and 2010–2018. Chapter 2 details the bilateral relations of Russia with Georgia, Urkaine, and Belarus. Chapter 3 discusses demographic challenges facing Russia and the interrelated migration flows. Gulina argues that Russia`s demographic problems as a result of population decline and economic problems connected to labour shortage are compensated for through migration from other countries. The author carefully analyses migration patterns resulting from the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, which led to a refugee and migration crises.
In chapters 4 and 5, the author deals with more detailed accounts and political processes of migration between Russia and Ukraine. As a result of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, refugees and migrants from Ukraine moved to Russia, Belarus, as well as throughout Europe. These highly political processes, which are analysed in the context of the conflicts and refugee crises, show how sovereignty was negotiated through citizenship policies and residence regulations. The author argues that the situation of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict served as a “cake” for all parties, who negotiated their share within a complex geopolitical game. Furthermore, in chapter 6 the author discusses how European migration laws are related to refugees from the post-Soviet states and the definition of “safe countries of origin”. She further addresses the aspects of refugee flows and migrants from post-Soviet states in Europe. In chapter 7, she deals with questions of diaspora and transnational networks between post-Soviet states and the European Union.

In this context, she discusses how institutionalization processes of diaspora activities and their engagement with their home countries were supported by sending countries. The author states that “diaspora issues” are “politicized” by giving examples from the Azerbaijani diaspora, which is defined in political terms and directs the conflicts with Armenia. She also brings in examples of repatriation policies from Russia, Kazakhstan (the issue of oralman), and Kyrgyzstan. The author argues that repatriation policies are closely related to demographic decline such as in Russia as well as representation of titular nations in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, where Russians and other national representatives made up almost a majority of the entire population or were proportionally high enough to restrict the ruling nations of Kazakhs or Kyrgyz from being a majority in their own countries.
The last chapter of the book discusses the relations between the post-Soviet states and the “West”, particularly the European Union, and their efforts in maintaining Eurasian Union, which would more or less mimic the European Union. The author compares the different approaches followed by post-Soviet states in their Eurasian politics and international relations. The author gives examples from Moldova, Georgia, and Ukraine – which chose a European approach – whereas Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan focused more on relations or political patterns with Russia as well as on the Eurasian Economic Union. Furthermore, such countries as Armenia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan move in both directions to gain maximum amount of benefits offered by both models. The author also discusses Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, which have developed their own geopolitical positioning and international relations without opting for one or another way (West or Eurasian Union).
She also focused on the important role assigned to Russia, which works to keep its powerful position within the Eurasian political space, going beyond the post-Soviet states. The author concludes that geopolitical positioning of the countries described in the book have the potential to cause conflicts of interests and security risks, which are directly related to migration policies, issues of sovereignty, border conflicts, migration, and refugee crises.

The book is an easy read and accessible for any reader. It contains rich amount of information about every aspect related to migration within and from post-Soviet states, addressing pressing issues, such as conflicts, within the same space. The book can be used as a handbook (it is short) when needing to understand legal, political, and economic issues related to migration and refugee crises stemming from the conflicts and economic failures of the post-Soviet states. The lists of political instruments, legislative information, and statistical compilation makes the book handy for any reader who would like to look up this information. However, the book misses a more fine-grained analysis of the further complexities that can be seen in Central Asia, which is a comparatively different region that needs another approach. Accordingly, such migratory dynamics within the Central Asia itself require a more systematic study. The book is still timely, offering legal, political, and economic information on major developments concerning migratory and refugee dynamics and raising important questions related to the geopolitical games played within this region. The book can be recommended to a wide range of readers who are interested in the post-Soviet states, migration and refugee crises, as well as conflicts and geopolitical games played within and beyond post-Soviet space.

1 Rustamjon Urinboyev: Migration and transnational informality in post-Soviet societies, in: Anna-Liisa Heusala / Kaarina Aitamurto (eds.), Migrant Workers in Russia. Global Challenges of the Shadow Economy in Societal Transformation, Abingdon 2016, pp. 70-93; Timur Dadabaev, Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) regional identity formation from the perspective of the Central Asia States, in: Journal of Contemporary China 23 (2014) 85, pp.102-118; Rano Turaeva, Post-Soviet Uncertainties. Micro-orders of Central Asian Migrants in Russia”, in: Inner Asia, 15(2013) 2, pp. 273-292; Caress Schenk, Why Control Immigration?, Toronto 2018; Rano Turaeva, / Rustamjon Urinboyev, Introduction. Labour, Mobilities and Informal Practices in Russia, Central Asia and Eastern Europe, in: idem (eds.), Labour, Mobility and Informal Practices in Russia, Central Asia and Eastern Europe, London 2021, pp. 1-16.; Marlene Laruelle, Migration and Social Upheaval as the Face of Globalization in Central Asia, Leiden 2013.

Editors Information
Published on
Temporal Classification
Regional Classification
Book Services
Contents and Reviews
Additional Informations
Language of publication
Language of review