Russian Authorities Mull Tougher Residence Requirements

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 1 Issue: 88

Nezavisimaya gazeta reported today (September 20) that in parallel with the Kremlin’s restructuring of the country’s system of governance in the wake of the recent terrorist attacks, the State Duma’s Committee on Constitutional Law and State Construction is drafting legislation that would “restore the Soviet practice of control over migration,” meaning “citizens will not be able to change their place of residence without the authorities’ permission.” According to the committee’s chairman, Vladimir Pligin, who is a member of the pro-Kremlin United Russia party, the measure will be “a separate law which, possibly, will replace a number of laws in force and other normative acts, including the 1993 law ‘On the rights of citizens to free movement’.” Pligin told the newspaper that the drafting of the legislation would be completed by the end of September or beginning of October.

That 1993 law granted Russian citizens the right “to freedom of movement, choice of place of sojourn and residence” and seemingly overturned the Soviet-era propiska residence permit. Yet while the Constitutional Court followed up with several rulings during the 1990s declaring propiska systems instituted by the authorities in various regions, including Moscow, unconstitutional, these regional governments managed through bureaucratic creativity to maintain mandatory residence permits.

While Pligin refused to detail the draft law’s exact provisions, Nezavisimaya gazeta noted that a State Duma working group on urgent anti-terrorist measures has also put forward a number of proposals that would place limits on citizens’ movements. One would limit the entry and stay of citizens “in regions with complex demographic or criminogenic conditions.” According to the paper, this would in effect extend the provisions of the law governing states of emergency to targeted regions without doing so formally. Another proposal would require citizens arriving in regions other than their own to “pre-register” with district police offices and would allow police to carry out passport checks in living quarters to ensure this provision’s observance. The working group also proposed deporting illegal residents to their place of permanent residence.

Nezavisimaya gazeta reported that similar proposals are being put forward by the authorities in Moscow and a number of southern regions and the Interior Ministry. Indeed, Moscow City Duma deputy Yuri Popov earlier this month went even further, stating that members of a given ethnic group should be banned from coming to Moscow if the members of that group who are already in the capital exceed 10% of the city’s population. Popov conceded that this proposal, if adopted, would violate various constitutional rights but said the laws of wartime meant that certain rights had to be sacrificed for the sake of security (Gazeta, September 8). Moscow City Duma Chairman Vladimir Platonov, however, rejected Popov’s suggestion as “ideologically tactless” and a “gross violation of the constitution” (RIA Novosti, September 10).

Still, Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov himself complained during an anti-terrorist rally in Moscow on September 7 that the federal authorities had not allowed the capital to toughen its registration rules for migrants (MosNews, September 8). Last week, Luzhkov specifically called for “mandatory registration” of all visitors to Moscow. Expanding on Luzhkov’s comments, Sergei Smidovich, an aide to Moscow’s vice-mayor and former head of the Moscow city government’s committee on migration, said that the 1993 law “On the rights of citizens to free movement” was “expressly created to destroy the system of migration control” and should be rescinded. This move, he insisted, would not violate the constitution (Rossiiskaya gazeta, September 20).