Internal Migration: A Civil Society Challenge

  • Justin Burke


One unfortunate though perhaps unavoidable consequence of the Soviet Union’s disintegration was massive population displacement. An estimated 9 million people felt compelled to flee their homes in the late 1980s and early 1990s, as the Soviet empire collapsed under the weight of its own sloth. The only internal population movement larger in scale in the post-World War II era occurred in India and Pakistan following the departure of the British. A major cause of upheaval across Eurasia was interethnic conflict arising out of the nationalist passions stirred by former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev’s perestroika policies. A wide array of confrontations—including those in Abkhazia, Chechnya, Nagorno-Karabakh and Tajikistan—created millions of refugees and displaced persons. Meanwhile, millions of Russian speakers have also been on the move. Feeling unwelcome in many of the newly independent states—particularly in the Baltics and Central Asia—large numbers of Russian speakers, most of them ethnic Slavs, have been leaving the “near abroad” and returning to the Russian heartland. In addition, economic hardships are influencing migration trends.


Language Policy Displace Person Soviet Republic Forced Migration Russian Speaker 
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  1. 21.
    See Paul Kolstoe, Russians in the Former Soviet Republics (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1995), 108.Google Scholar
  2. 22.
    For background on Baltic demographic and citizenship issues see Jeff Chinn and Robert Kaiser, Russians as the New Minority (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1996), 97–116.Google Scholar

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© Mark G. Field and Judyth L. Twigg 2000

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  • Justin Burke

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