World » Former USSR
Author`s name Michael Simpson

Deportation of the 21st Century

Are Russians to be evacuated from Turkmenistan with EMERCOM planes?
Last Sunday was the deadline for people holding dual citizenship in the former Soviet republic of Turkmenistan to decide whether they stay in the country headed by Saparmurat Niyazov of leave for Russia. 100,000 people with dual citizenship have faced a rather modest choice: they may either suffer humiliation in Turkmenistan or try to settle in Russia where they are not welcome as well.

The authorities of Turkmenistan understand that the dual citizenship problem is worth discussion. A special commission was created in the country for consideration of vexed questions if some arise. Unfortunately, the commission won't have a chance to consider the cases of all of the 100,000 people who are now facing the hard choice.

Director of the Institute of CIS Countries Konstantin Zatulin said on Monday that the number of ethnic Russians living in Turkmenistan was about 300,000 people. One third of them won't be able to move to Russia because of their low incomes. An Ashkhabad-Moscow airplane ticket costs an annual average wage paid in the republic. There is no railway communication between Turkmenistan and Russia, so the only way to leave the country is by plane. Even if Russians living in Turkmenistan decide to leave for Russia, it is unlikely that they will be a success with selling their property in Turkmenistan. First of all, real estate prices are very low in the republic as compared with those in Russia; they dropped even more when a campaign for dual citizenship liquidation had been launched. At best times, a three-room apartment cost $7-8 thousand in the capital of Turkmenistan, but now the price has dropped 1.5-2 times. The situation is sadder for those people who have no good apartments for sale. What is more, will people have an opportunity to legally withdraw money from the country if they are lucky to sell their real estate?   

Second, according to the Turkmen legislation people having no citizenship are automatically deprived of the right to hold any real estate. In other words, those people who preferred the Russian citizenship to the Turkmen one lost the right on June 22.

To all appearances, Russia has failed to find an adequate solution for the problem that arose in connection with the law on dual citizenship in Turkmenistan. Although the special commission was created, which was considered to be Moscow's great diplomatic success, no visible changes happened. Even if Saparmurat Niyazov doesn't demand strict observance of the new legislation, the fate of Russians in Turkmenistan will all the same be very hard.

Probably this is one of the reasons why Director of the Institute of CIS countries Konstantin Zatulin suggests that immediate evacuation of Russians from Turkmenistan must be started. He sees the measure as one of the ways to settle the problem. It is said that even EMERCOM planes may be used for such an evacuation. Nothing of this kind has ever happened before; still all methods are welcome to settle the hard situation that Russians suffer in Turkmenistan.

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