ZOIS Study Explores Attitudes of Russian Migrants in South Caucasus

On May 3, the Center for East European and International Studies (ZOIS) released a study titled “Russians in the South Caucasus: Political Attitudes and the War in Ukraine”, one of the findings being that Russians living in Georgia much less likely to have had participated in political activities (including protesting the war in Ukraine) while living in Russia, than Russians in Armenia. The face-to-face survey, conducted by Félix Krawatzek, George Soroka, and Isabelle DeSisto, surveyed 1,600 Russian respondents who had fled to Georgia and Armenia due to the war in Ukraine in late 2022. The respondents were asked to share their experiences and attitudes towards living in those countries.

The study’s key findings revealed that Moscow, St. Petersburg, Rostov-on-Don, Krasnodar, Kazan, Nizhny Novgorod, Saratov, and Novosibirsk were the most common places of origin for the respondents from Georgia. In addition, the survey revealed that respondents in Armenia were more inclined to envision a future outside of Russia, actively participate in political activities during their time in Russia, engage in political discussions after moving abroad, and hold a positive view of Ukraine’s president compared to those in Georgia. Conversely, a higher number of Russians in Georgia reported closely monitoring the ongoing war.

The study highlights two waves of “mass” migration that occurred after the onset of the war. The first wave, which took place in the initial weeks, saw predominantly young urbanites – both men and women – who tended to be better-educated (more than 70% of respondents had completed higher education) and more affluent than the overall Russian population. Following the announcement of partial mobilization by Vladimir Putin on September 21, 2022, there was a disproportionate number of military-age, 18 to 24 years, men among the migrants who were seeking to avoid conscription.

The study’s researchers surveyed 853 respondents in Georgia, with 60% in Tbilisi and 40% in Batumi. Of the respondents in Georgia, 56% reported being married, and one-third indicated that they had children. These findings suggest that the Georgian environment may be more family-friendly and perceived as having a higher quality of life than in Armenia, where most respondents were single and childless.

A larger number of respondents in Georgia reported difficulties finding employment (206) and facing discrimination against Russians (33) compared to those in Armenia. On the other hand, issues such as finding accommodation, obtaining legal status as a migrant, experiencing psychological difficulties, facing financial problems, maintaining relationships with people in Russia, and encountering problems with Russian authorities were cited more frequently by respondents in Armenia.

Attitudes of the Russians in Georgia

Russians in Georgia have been seen as more representative of the Russians in Russia. When it comes to their liberal views, in particular the view on the same-sex marriage, “in Georgia, 58% of respondents stated that consenting adults should ‘definitely’ or ‘generally’ have the right to engage in same-sex relations, while 37% said they should not”. Singles and people with higher education are more likely to be approving of the LGBTQ. The study notes that the respondents were more tolerant to the issue, than Georgians.

The study asked Russian respondents in Georgia about their political and civic engagement levels in the six months prior to leaving Russia. Only 36% of respondents reported being involved in at least one of the following activities: participating in a protest unrelated to Ukraine, volunteering, or donating to an NGO or helping Ukrainian refugees. However, at 14%, the proportion of respondents who reported participating in a protest unrelated to events in Ukraine reflects a much higher level of protest participation than is typically seen in Russia.

Regarding the participation in pro-Ukraine demonstrations in Georgia, the study notes: “Individuals who left before the partial mobilization were more likely to have protested abroad: 12% compared to just 4% of those who left afterwards. Similarly, those aged 18 to 24 were twice as likely to have participated in protests in Georgia than respondents in the 35–49 age group (10% vs 5%)”.

According to the study, the percentage of respondents in Georgia who feel responsible for Russia’s political future is less than 40%. Nearly 30% of respondents reported never feeling a sense of responsibility, while a significant fraction was unsure how to respond to the question.

The respondents’ evaluations of key Russian institutions, while mostly unfavorable, exhibit some differences. Among these institutions, the army received the least negative rating, with only 52% expressing strong disapproval. On the other hand, President Vladimir Putin received a very negative rating from 64% of respondents. In Georgia, two-thirds of respondents believe that the Russian authorities are primarily responsible for the war in Ukraine. In contrast, a smaller fraction of respondents (11%) assigned blame to Western states/NATO, while 5% blamed Ukraine. Among the youngest respondents, 68% held the Russian authorities responsible, compared to only 52% of those aged 35 to 49.

Also Read:

This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)


Back to top button