After the collapse of USSR, Russia faced many various problems, common for all post-Soviet republics, and the demographic crisis was once of them. Due to economic decline in 1990ies the birthrate dropped, many citizens left the country, and given the huge territory of the RF the demographic problem is a lot acute in Russia.

On the other hand, many Asian labor migrants started flowing in Russia, but as a rule, those were underskilled workers, mental and cultural aliens with poor knowledge of the Russian language.

Considering the situation the Russian government has announced the policy of attracting high-skilled professionals, ethnic Russians and even descendants of the USSR born citizens.
On July 9 president of Russia Vladimir Putin specifically emphasized the need to return to the question on the citizens of the former USSR, and that the direct descendants of those born in the Soviet Union or the Russian Empire should be granted Russian citizenship through a simplified procedure.

ForUm has asked politicians, historians and political scientists to learn how Putin's initiative will influence Ukraine and other countries, once sharing the common history.

Stanilav Kulchitski, a historian:

- Putin's announcement is not new. We've heard similar declarations from Russia before. In the beginning of 90ies people made their choice on citizenship. Now only in Transdnestrian region the citizenship issue is still open.

Speaking about Ukraine, well, our legislation prohibits double citizenship, though it does not stop some Crimeans from having second Russian citizenship, as well as some citizens of the Transcarpathian region from having Hungarian passports.

I don't imply anything, but this Putin's policy on certification of "fellows-foreigners" reminds the policy of Hitler in the end of 1930ies, when fighting the Versailles system Hitler was tracing his fellow citizens in neighboring countries and ended up conquering territories.

Russia is now trying to unite the so-called fellow Russians abroad in order to create a base for more effective foreign policy. However, I don't think that the Kremlin will resort to drastic expansion in Ukraine declaring the war. First of all, it's hardly possible to be at war with a country, which has only one broken submarine, and secondly, Europe, the US and China will hardly approve such actions.
Annexation of Ukraine is now being carried out through information and cultural space, and passportization is one of the methods.

Refat Chubarov, deputy head of Crimean Tatar Majlis:

- If Putin's initiative is followed by changes of the Russian legislation, Ukraine will have to adjust its legislation as well. I mean, in theory the double citizenship is prohibited in Ukraine, but in practice this norm of the legislation is not observed. In order to prevent the expansion we have to revise and strengthen our legislation.

There will be numerous volunteers wishing to get Russian citizenship in Ukraine, but how numerous will depend on the policies of both Ukraine and Russia.

If the Russian consulate in Simperopol applies strong persuasion, like it was during Yuri Meshkov times (the first and the last president of Crimea - ed.) there will be many people staying in line for Russian citizenship. In this case Ukraine has to do its best to explain the people all the consequences of the double citizenship.

Speaking about Crimean Tatars, I don't think many of us will fall for the Russian passport. We understand that the independent future of Crimean Tatars is possible only if the neighbor does not interfere. However, there are a lot of older people in Crimea, who will gladly accept the offer, and they number tens of thousands.

Andrey Okara, Russian political scientist:

- Russia has a serious demographic problem - it does not have enough population to hold and maintain the territory. That's why the authorities try to attract more educated and able to work population from CIS countries.

The procedure of obtaining of Russian passport is complicated, as taking in new citizens the state takes an obligation to provide social guarantees.

Putin's offer is most probably aimed at two categories of people: those who want to immigrate in Russia and work there and those who have so far failed to legalize their staying in Russia.

There is also a political motivation. One of the methods to strengthen its influence abroad is to consolidate the Russian Diaspora, the fellow citizens. However, it is not quite clear who those fellow citizens are. Are they ethnic peoples from the Russian territory (the Tatars, the Bashkirs, the Chuvashes)? Or are they people speaking the Russian language? Or are they those who consider themselves Russians? Such ambiguity offers a room for manoeuvre.

The passportization policy implies that these fellow citizens will become Russian agents abroad and will be used as a base to conduct desirable policy.

Hence, Ukraine fears that the Georgian scenario may repeat itself on its territory. However, Russia has not decided yet what policy to apply to Ukraine - hard or soft, as there is no strong political will to start pressing Ukraine using all possible means.

Speaking about Poland and Finland, which once were a part of the Russian Empire, the situation is completely different. Yes, these countries were a part of Russia once, but I doubt modern citizens of Poland and Finland would run for Russian passports. For the Poles and Finns the Russian Empire is the dim and distant past, not the pleasant one either.

Volodymyr Kornilov, political scientist, director of Ukrainian branch of CIS Institute:

- It's not the first time Russia announces yet another project on simplification of passport obtaining procedure. Formally this method legally already exists, but at the same time there are a number of resolutions, norms and orders which nullify the very program.

Of course this initiative is aimed at solving the demographic problem. Russian authorities do not ignore the issue, but raise questions and look for solutions.

Ukraine as well has similar problem: if not global extinction, then at least rather serious outflow of the population. Far from solving the problem Ukraine does not even raise the question of the possible options. There are a lot of people willing to become Russian citizens, but Ukrainians are limited in their wishes by the prohibition to have double citizenship. However, many law-abiding citizens of Ukraine would prefer to have Russian citizenship at the same time keeping the Ukrainian one. This dilemma must be solved at the bilateral level.

Borys Nemtsov, former vice PM of Russia:

- All those who wanted to be Russian have already become the Russian citizens. Putin's words on the necessity to return to the simplified procedure of granting Russian passports will not impress either Russian or Ukrainian citizens. He just said the words and that's it, no consequences are expected. 

Nika Chitadze, head of the International Issues and Security Research Center, Georgia:

- The given initiative has no future and looks not quite logic. It's obvious that citizens of Poland or Finland, even ethnic Russians, will not apply for Russian citizenship.

As for Georgia as a post-Soviet country, it may become a problem. We still remember Russia giving out its passports in two separatist regions of Georgia. In addition, a certain part of Georgian population already has Russia passports, especially those who have close relatives in Russia. But I doubt these people will form a kind of a fifth column, because they are true Georgian in heart and love their country.

Roman Yakovlevskiy, political observer, Belarus:

- Vladimir Putin tries to deliver on his promises. The promised passportization reminds the invasion of Abkhazia and South Osetia, when the majority of Georgians suddenly became Russians.
Putin's announcement smells imperial. But still I cannot imagine EU citizens- the Polish or the Finns - to apply for Russian citizenship.

On the other hand, former USSR countries like Ukraine, especially its eastern part, can be influenced by the offer. Many eastern Ukrainians may start groundlessly believing that in such a way they can solve their everyday problems.

Igor Lubashenko, analyst of the Polish institute of foreign affairs:

- The initiative to give out passports to the decedents of the born in the Russian Empire is hardly executable. First of all, it is impossible to collect necessary confirming documents. Secondly, Russian passports may be theoretically valuable for those who want to enter the Russian market, but not for the Poles, as they have open EU market in front. According to some data, about two million people have left Poland for the EU as migrant workers, and I doubt these people are interested in working in Russia.

I believe the Putin's initiative is mostly aimed at Ukraine, Belarus and South Caucasusю

Oazu Nantoym political analyst, former MP of Moldavia parliament:

- In the beginning of this campaign I would advise Putin to start with Alaska, as this peninsula was sold by traitors of the Tsarist Empire to American imperialists. I am joking, of course.

But seriously speaking, I doubt similar ideas will show results. After the collapse of the USSR the situation changed. Those who wanted to leave left, those who wanted to get Russian citizenship got it. But in general, Moldova citizens remain Moldova citizens regardless the complicated economic situations. Yes, some hundreds of thousands have left, but I don't see mass attempts to populate the Far East.

Putin's declaration most probably proves his hangups, the ones he cannot get rid of despite the fact that the USSR collapse more than 20years ago. But it is no longer our problem.


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