Innovations and Reproductions in Cultures and Societies
(IRICS) Vienna, 9 - 11 december 2005

<< Issues of external and internal labor migration in post-Soviet Central Asia

Central Asian Labor Migration to Asiatic Russia (The Case of Western Siberia): Challenges and Opportunities

Boyko Vladimir (State Pedagogical University, Barnaul, Russia)



This paper aims to explore the migration of Central Asian labor to Western Siberia from different points of view, in order to map the flow of the migration geographically, socially (ethnically, etc.) and to analyze the situation of the targeted groups (legal status, job profiles, interrelation with the host/homeland community and authorities). Another goal of this paper is to provide the up to date information on the field of migration/labor studies, which they deserve because of their geographic focus and broad research scope. I will also employ a novel concept of external labor as a means of Siberian development. The main research method involves an interdisciplinary study of particular ethnic groups - temporal/seasonal and [in progress] integrated Central Asian job seekers/workers with different legal status: illegal migrants, contracted labor or semi-/naturalized Central Asians.


The Central Asian labor migration to Western Siberia is large-scale, primarily an economically driven phenomenon with certain multi-dimensional (economic, demographic, etc.) impact on the development of the Russian borderlands. The main gate of this migration is Novosibirsk with its international airport connecting Western Siberia with post-soviet Central Asia. The main flow of migrant labor comes from Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan and arrives here first before spreading out over the entire targeted region. The minor [ethnic Asian] migration to Siberia originates in Kazakhstan, but it is rather shuttle trade by nature, usually Kazakhs/Kazakhstani coming for petty business purposes with only a few of them (for instance, teams of Korean seasonal workers) coming to earn money as laborers.

Is my hypothesis that Central Asian labor is an appropriate socio-economic option in many terms - demographic, economic, etc. Basically, it is this kind of labor that can fill a niche in the local labor market, especially in construction and to some degree in industry. In addition, Central Asians would be a demographic factor contributing to the further social development of Asiatic Russia, a strategically important macro-region, playing the role of heartland for the rest of Russia. Moreover, they would form a human and socio-economic bridge between Russia proper and the former Soviet republics.

For the purposes of this project Central Asian Koreans and Afghans will be considered as particular groups with a highly specific origin/status/scheme, figuring in the context of the broader post-soviet migration but additionally demonstrating some involvement in the external migration of labor migration to Russia.

Data Sources and Methodology

The main body of reliable data has been drawn from government agencies (migration departments of regional/district branches of the Ministry of the Interior, border guard service) and business structures (construction firms, joint stocks, trading companies) and NGOs. The information has been collected by means of fieldwork (including contacts, interviews, visual monitoring, etc.) within the targeted groups (CA workers, "shuttle” traders, bazaar sellers, taxi drivers, etc.).

The Bibliography on the research topic consists of a short list of titles, some of them focusing on general problems of labor migration from Asia and certain Central Asian republics (Archipov V.Ya, International labor migration in Asia. Moscow, Institute of Oriental Studies, 1997; Olimova S., Bosk I. Labor migration from Tajikistan. MOM, 2003; From East to East. Migration and regional collaboration for strengthening ethno-political stability in Eurasia. Novosibirsk, 2002). Meantime, some research has been done in the last decade on the migration/labor movement to Asiatic Russia as well. My own contributions to the sub-field are among them: e.g. Korean community of Western Siberia. - Ethno-demographic processes in Kazakhstan and bordering territories. Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference (Ust-Kamenogorsk, 2004), Chinese in Asiatic Russia between Geopolitics and Fortune - Abstracts of the 2003 AAS annual meeting (New York, 2003), "Overseas”Asians in Asiatic Russia (Altai Province case): social and geopolitical aspects”. - Russia and the East: the Problems of Interrelation (Volgograd, 2002), etc).

A review of the existing literature and our own fieldwork indicate that there is some evidence of a comprehensive approach by government bodies and regional legislatures to Central Asian labor - indeed, a very valuable source of economic, social and other developments in the currently stagnating Russian border regions.

Innovationen und Reproduktionen in Kulturen und Gesellschaften (IRICS) Wien, 9. bis 11. Dezember 2005

WEBDESIGN: Peter R. Horn 2005-09-05