“The collapse of the Soviet Union: 20 years on”

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Anastassia Zabrodskaja

University of Tartu, Tallinn University, Estonia

6. Migrating West after the dissolution of the Soviet Union: Would you do it again?

After the dissolution of the Soviet Union when the quality of life deteriorated sharply, many people chose to migrate to the Western countries such as Germany and Norway. However, a large number of people also decided to migrate within the borders of the former Soviet Union. Today, and with 20 years of belated wisdom from the earlier choice, the question is; was the decision to migrate a right one, and would you do it again?

This and other questions were the topics of the research project: “General and special features of the adaptation of Russian-speaking immigrants: comparative analysis of the processes in Russia, Germany and Norway”, which was conducted in 2008 and 2009. This comparative study was based on a task-oriented questionnaire, as well as in-depth interviews. The pilot research covered three federal states of Germany, three federal regions of Russia, and the city of Oslo in Norway, with 190 respondents in Germany, 150 respondent in Russia and 62 respondents in Norway.

During the research, different factors affecting the decision to migrate to each of the specified destinations were analyzed. Because of “pull” factors, it is traditionally supposed that migration to the West is more attractive for the migrants from the former Soviet Union, thus making migrants to Germany and Norway more content with their decision than their counterparts moving only within the borders of the former Soviet Union. However, the results of the research point to another “truth”; Migration to the “West” was not necessarily the best solution for the different migrant groups in former Soviet Union.

Thus, the general level of feeling of equality with the local population was discovered to be highest in Norway (63.9%) lower in Russia (56.3%) and the lowest in Germany (36.4%). The migrants in Norway feel most comfortable in the country (45.9% of highest comfort feeling ), while those migrating within Russia showed significantly lower level of highest comfort feeling (20.9%), and the migrants to Germany expressed the lowest level of highest comfort feeling (16.3%). The same picture can be seen related to the emotion of “feeling at home”, with the highest level being two times higher in Norway (44.1%) than in Germany (22.3%) and Russia (23%). When considering the perceived influence of migration on there family, migrants in Norway again seem to be more satisfied with the situation, although the difference from the other countries is moderate at 63.4% in Norway, 60.7% in Russia, and 53% in Germany.

Although the difference in having a sense of comfort etc. is significant, most of the migrants would move to the same countries again if they have had the possibility to do so (46.6% for Russia, 54.9% for Germany and 64.5% for Norway).

So, why do some migrants to Western countries, having a better economic situation, social guaranties and stability, feel themselves only as good as, or sometimes even worse than in countries with unstable and socially less secure living conditions? In our opinion, only a complex analysis of “push” and “pull” factors, as well as objective and subjective aspects of life quality can answer this question.

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