A groundbreaking treaty between Russia and Kazakhstan came into effect on August 18. (Russian news agencies, August 14) Its aim is to stem the flow of outmigration of "Russian-speakers" from Kazakhstan by reassuring members of the country’s non-Kazakh population that they will be able to obtain Russian citizenship and residence rights quickly and easily if and when they so desire. The idea is to allay the fears of Kazakhstan’s large Russian-speaking population and persuade them not only not to leave Kazakhstan, but also not to rush to apply for Russian citizenship. Kazakhstan wants to keep its non-Kazakh population since many of them are skilled workers vital for the revitalization of the country’s economy. At the same time, however, Kazakhstan does not want large pockets of Russian citizens living on its territory.
The situation in Kazakhstan differs in this respect from that in neighboring Kyrgyzstan. Kyrgyzstan has signed a comparable treaty with Russia. But Kyrgyz president Askar Akaev has also bent over backwards to make the country’s Russian-speaking population feel at home. His efforts include a promise to amend the constitution to give the Russian language equal status with the Kyrgyz language, and a 1994 presidential decree making it a crime to discriminate against anyone on the grounds that he or she is unable to speak Kyrgyz. As a result of such measures, annual outmigration from Kyrgyzstan has declined steadily since peaking at 106,000 in 1993. Last year, it was only 18,000. (ORT, January 17)
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