Wednesday, July 5, 2017

More Kyrgyz Now Work in Russia than in Bishkek and Osh Combined

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 5 – Migration is changing the face not only of Russia but of many of Russia’s neighbors, with Kyrgyzstan offering what officials describe as truly “horrifying” statistics in this regard. At present, they say, more Kyrgyz are working in Russia than in the cities of Bishkek and Osh combined.

            Officially, there are now 600,000 Kyrgyz working in Russia. (Unofficial figures put the number at a million.) The current figure is four times more than the number of medical workers, teachers and police combined employed in Kyrgyzstan (

                Annually, official statistics show, Kyrgyz working in Russia send home approximately two billion US dollars. That figure is equal to 30 percent of the country’s GDP. Moreover, it works out to 3300 US dollars per gastarbeiter in Russia – or 280 US dollars a month – a figure that compared with a GDP per capita in Kyrgyzstan of about 1100 US dollars.

            After Kyrgyzstan joined the Eurasian Economic Community, the number of migrants leaving the country to work in the Russian Federation increased and is now running at approximately 50,000 new departures every year. As a result, there will be a million Kyrgyz working in Russia by 2024 if not earlier.

            And that in turn means that Kyrgyzstan will be on its way to surpass Tajikistan in supplying gastarbeiters to Russia. The latter country now has the larger share of its population there, and its remittances home amount to 42 percent of Tajikistan’s GDP, making it the largest recipient of such funds in the world.

                The impact of gastarbeiter experiences in Russia is mixed. On the one hand, many of them may feel more integrated with Russia and some may even choose to become Russian citizens. But on the other, the widespread xenophobia Russians show to Central Asian gastarbeiters may deepen divisions, however much Bishkek may depend on these remittances.

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