Russian President Vladimir Putin signed legislation recently offering fast-track citizenship to Russian speakers anywhere within the former Soviet Union. Analysts believe the law is motivated by a desire to enhance Moscow’s influence in Ukraine and elsewhere, but it may have unintended consequences for the Kremlin in Central Asia.
In Kyrgyzstan, the law has alarmed, confused and excited Bishkek’s chattering classes. Some see Russian citizenship as an opportunity to escape grinding poverty and political instability; others believe it will become easier to milk the Russian budget for social benefits; still others fear the measure could hasten Kyrgyzstan’s brain drain and pose a threat to the country’s sovereignty.
In order to be eligible for citizenship under the new regulations, one has to pass a Russian-language exam proving native-level proficiency. One also must hail from or have relatives from somewhere on the territory of the former Soviet Union. In addition, applicants must renounce their current citizenship, though details on this point are vague. They must also apply for Russian citizenship in Russia, not at an embassy abroad.
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