Observing the discussions about visas [for Russians wishing to escape to the EU], I want to note how detached they are, in a way, from real life. It sometimes seems to me that this discussion is more about how Russians imagine “the West” than it is about helping actual people.
For many reasons it is more advantageous and convenient for certain people to leave, for example, for good old Kazakhstan. Why?
First, [Russia’s] longest land border is with Kazakhstan. There are numerous border crossings, and planes fly to and from there. This is one of the fastest and cheapest ways for many people to leave Russia.
Second, [Russians] don’t need visas to cross the border [with Kazakstan]. You don’t need a large packet of papers proving you have the right to a long-term stay, and you don’t need to go to a [Kazakhstan] consulate [before leaving Russia]. You can get a work patent and some kind of registration on the spot and remain in the country for a long time.
Third, it is easier to transfer your business there, to register it without losing previous business projects and connections. It is relatively easier to find a new job there or start your own business from scratch. There are still many tools for transferring money from Russia to Kazakhstan and back.
Fourth, it is a relatively cheap country: the prices are comparable to Russian ones.
Fifth, [Kazakstan] is still a culturally congenial country. The Russian language is widespread, and many of the bureaucratic rules and habits of everyday behavior in general are similar.
That is, generally speaking, from an “average Joe” point of view, good old Kazakhstan looks at the moment to be a more preferable place to go for very many people than good old Europe does. What follows from this? It implies the need, if we are talking about helping those who have left, to come up with a strategy for interacting with the conditions in Kazakhstan by establishing a dialogue with local politicians and officials, with society and its leaders, with the local media. In the end, this strategy should involve acquiring a basic knowledge of the language, culture and history of Kazakhstan, cultivating an attentive attitude to our own stereotypes and language, and getting rid of imperial habits. Europe and the West in general should be invited to cooperate with Kazakhstan in providing this assistance.
Еuropean visas, in fact, are hardly the main problem.
Source: Sergey Abashin, Facebook, 29 September 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader. I have featured Professor Abashin’s always invaluable and well-grounded reflections and observations on such topics as immigration policy in Russia and Russian attitudes to Central Asian migrant workers on many occasions on this website.