Migration and mobility

Russia's population began to decline shortly after the breakup of the Soviet Union, even though it had been growing since World War II. The current socioeconomic transition Russia is experiencing accounts for most of this decline. Russian leaders are worried that the slow population growth could create labor shortages in areas of economic growth. It also could lead to uncontrolled internal migration. There are great differences in birth, death, and natural increase rates throughout Russia. In general, higher birth and natural increase rates are found in Siberia, the Far East, and in autonomous ethnic group regions. Economic problems and reduction of state financial incentives (higher wages) have led to an out-migration from northern and eastern Siberia, the Ural Mountain region, and the Far East. There is some in-migration in western Siberia, where oil fields are located. Internal out-migration in northern Russia, west of the Ural Mountains, is greatest in the Murmansk area and the Komi area. Reductions in military bases and closures of some economic activities have forced people to move south.

Since the fall of the Soviet Union, there has been massive in-migration from other post-Soviet republics. Almost 3 million Russians have moved back to their home country. In the early 1990s, many people of Russian ethnic origin felt some repercussions in former republics. In places like the Baltic states, Russians were relegated to second-class citizens. Politically motivated decisions established linguistic provisions that made Russian, once the official language to all, nonofficial. Many ethnic Russians, some of them living in these states for generations, decided to move to Russia, rather than lose their ethnic identity. Unfortunately for the new states, vast numbers of those who decided to leave for Russia were educated people who could otherwise contribute to the local economy.

The migration of so many people into Russia has placed great strains upon existing housing, social services, and public facilities. Russia also has experienced a large return of military personnel, who were required to leave post-Soviet republics and central European countries after the Soviet Union fell. The government has identified a number of areas of Russia as “reception regions” for migrants. Most are located in agricultural areas with a low population.However, most migrants prefer to move to large towns and cities in the central and southern portions of western Russia. Russia's traditional population distribution patterns have also been modified by an out-migration of more than 600,000 Russians to other countries of the world. Most of these people go to Germany, the United States, Canada, and Israel.