Citizenship Dilemma: Demography concerns in Armenia as Russia eases terms for ex-Soviets

Citizenship Dilemma: Demography concerns in Armenia as Russia eases terms for ex-Soviets

On April 21, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law on simplified terms of granting Russian citizenship to people who lived in the former Russian Empire or the USSR and their descendants. Those wishing to obtain a passport of the Russian Federation will now have to prove their knowledge of the Russian language and renounce the citizenship of their current state.

Until now, there was a law allowing such persons to obtain citizenship in preferential order, but they could avail themselves of the institution of dual citizenship and keep the nationality of their original country. This is what many citizens of Armenia did. According to official data, more than 200,000 citizens of Armenia also have Russian citizenship.

But Russia not only has changed its attitude towards dual citizenship, preferring to give citizenship to only those who renounce their own, but also tightened the conditions of stay for migrant workers in the country. The limitation of the term of stay for citizens of Armenia and other countries to three months caused many migrant workers to think about obtaining Russian citizenship. And now this can be done on simpler terms.

Public figures and politicians in Armenia already voice concerns that the Armenian population may begin to decline rapidly because of this law in Russia. There are about 10 flights from Yerevan to Moscow every day. People, especially those from rural areas, go to Russia in search of jobs. They are certain to prefer Russian citizenship if they face a choice, especially that the Armenian authorities are in no hurry to discourage people from going abroad by creating jobs in Armenia.

Moreover, when asked to comment on the probability of mass renunciation of Armenian citizenship and acquisition of Russian citizenship by Armenians, deputy head of the ruling Republican Party Galust Sahakyan said that “we all are citizens of Planet Earth, and everyone is free to live wherever they want.”

Ethnographer Hranush Kharatyan together with the Preparliament civil initiative has voiced concerns over the attitude of Armenian citizens, many of whom are ready to leave because they find that “there is no way of living in this country” and that “this country belongs to the regime”. She believes that it is not so much the Armenian or Russian governments that are to blame as the citizens themselves as they do not associate themselves with their state.

Still, there are also objective reasons for this disgruntlement of the population. Residents of rural areas reeling under the burden of expensive loans cannot cultivate their land and sell products. They say they see no other way out of this situation. They blame the government for failing to stimulate domestic production, accusing it of creating conditions for the enrichment of only banks and importers. As a result, the Ararat valley is barely cultivated, while oligarchs purchase the unused land and set up fisheries there.