Ukrainian Migration Research Before and Since 1991

Open Access
Part of the IMISCOE Research Series book series (IMIS)


This chapter provides an overview of research on trends in Ukrainian migration before and since independence in 1991 with the aim of historicizing both the mobility patterns and research agendas of such mobilities. The chapter specifically sets out to analyze continuities and disruptions emerging from two distinct ideologies of Soviet and post-Soviet Ukraine that shaped approaches to researching and documenting migration. In seeking to link these two periods of migration it suggests factors for further research. Previous research agendas have been dominated by studies examining “hard facts” and major migration trends; in-depth studies of macro-level determinants of migration and the micro-level aspirations associated with it remain neglected. Post-independence research treats migration from Ukraine as a new economically driven phenomenon, neglecting the continuities linking it to mobility patterns of Soviet times.


Migration policy and research in the USSR Internal migration in the Soviet Republics Resettlement Labour migration History of migration 

2.1 Introduction

During the Soviet era, academic research understood migration as a way of regulating and re-allocating the labour force, balancing the supply and demand of labour. Severe censorship prevented the publication of migration statistics. Attention was devoted to the development of theories and methods of analyzing migration processes. After 1991, when Ukraine became independent from the Soviet Union, it became one of the most important countries in the world for both immigration and emigration. Not only are migrants using the well-known Central European migration route to the EU; there has been intensive population exchange within the USSR (not always voluntary) and previous traditions of migration have resulted in personal ties with the population of neighbouring countries.

The patterns of contemporary migration, and the aspiration of migrants, cannot be understood without a historical perspective that explores the eras pre- and post-1991. The caesura of 1990–1991 set a major transformation in motion: from Soviet states to democratic state structures, from command economies to liberal markets, and from Soviet population management to liberalized mobility of people. Academic institutions and individual research agendas were also transformed. The newly established economic regime both in Ukraine and in the wider region is prone to economic fluctuations (such as those caused by the economic crisis starting in 2008), and so migrants’ strategies and corresponding policy regimes are of an increasingly temporary nature. 1991 also gave a new lease of life to Ukrainian migration research, which though still not entirely independent of neo-traditionalist and nationalist forces, was able to benefit from both more highly developed methodology and new empirical data going well beyond the former ideological limits and regulations of censorship.

This chapter provides an overview of migration research, concepts and trends before and after 1991, linking the two historical eras of migration and seeking explanations that have hitherto been absent from research. Consideration of the growing significance of temporality in the migratory movements in the region points to the need for a systematic historical analysis of Ukrainian migration. Post-1991 understandings of migration are still influencing migration patterns and discourses in the twenty-first century.

2.2 Aspects of and Trends in Migratory Movements Before 1991

In a 1986 TV programme about the perestroika years, which was shown to both American and Soviet audiences and was one of the first TV “bridges” between the USSR and the USA, a participant claimed that “there’s no sex in the USSR”. This idiom has been used to characterize the level of hypocrisy in Soviet reality, and it applies to discussions of migration in Soviet times. In the view of the Soviet authorities, migration, like sex, “did not exist”. Soviet policy as well as academic discourses viewed the internal relocation of the population as the redistribution of the labour force serving the economy’s needs. International migration – going abroad or leaving the Soviet Union – was treated as treason. Migration statistics were not publicly available. Censorship forbade the use of precise figures when it came to demographic statistics or the size of the labour force. The authorities only allowed these statistical categories to be described in relative terms. This censorship was officially justified on national security grounds. However, the main reason for secrecy was the extremely high rate of forced population relocation and the enormous human losses that accompanied it, which contradicted the Soviet leadership’s claims of constantly improving living standards and high rates of population growth. The regime, which deported whole nations and exiled millions of people to deserted areas, strictly controlled population movement with the help of a passport system and closed borders, seeking to keep its population control policies secret.

At the same time, migration had a strong impact on the development of Ukraine’s population. Emigration from Ukraine in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries corresponded to developments in Europe at that time. The nature of these migrations from the two parts of Ukraine (belonging at that time to two countries) and the reasons for them (poverty, lack of arable land, unemployment) were the same, differing only in their direction: east, to the Transvolga Region, Siberia and the Far East from the territories of the former Russian Empire; and west, over the ocean, from the Austria-Hungarian territories. The political emigration that subsequently added to economic emigration had different causes: the failed wars of national liberation (1917–1920) and the redrawing of the world as a result of World War II. Today the Ukrainian diaspora numbers at least ten million people (see Chap.  1). Early analyses of statistical data and sociological research into migrants (Bachynski 1914; Popok 2007; Troshchinsky 1994) published at the turn of the nineteenth century were subsequently revisited after the fall of the USSR.

Migration policy in the USSR sought to settle large numbers of people in remote territories and to mix different ethnic groups to create a homogeneous population enabling a unitary state to be preserved and developed by a new historical community, the “Soviet people”. In Soviet times, opponents of the Soviet regime, individuals who had shown themselves disloyal towards the regime and certain ethnic groups were relocated in increasingly large numbers, while visits abroad by Soviet citizens and visitors entering the USSR were strictly limited and controlled. As many as one million people were evicted from Ukraine’s rural areas in the interests of collectivization. After the annexation of Western Ukraine in 1939 under the terms of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, 10% of its population was forcibly resettled. With the onset of war between the Soviet Union and Germany, more than 400,000 descendants of German colonists were deported. In 1944, nearly 200,000 Crimean Tatars as well as Bulgarians, Armenians, Greeks and Germans were deported from Crimea. After the war 300,000 people involved in the national liberation movement and members of their families were deported from Western Ukraine to remote areas in the northern and eastern regions of the USSR. Thus internal movement increased and international migration all but disappeared.

Under these circumstances, research on the population, including its mobility, represented a danger to the authorities (since new evidence undermining Soviet ideology could have been found), which led to the suppression of research in this area. This is exemplified by the history of the Demographic Institute of the Academy of Science of Ukraine. Founded in 1918 and headed by M. V. Ptukha, the Institute was one of the world’s first institutions specializing in population studies (Steshenko 2001). In the second half of the 1930s, when the disastrous consequences of collectivization, the great famine and repression became evident, demographic research, including migration studies, practically ceased to exist. The Soviet authorities considered the census of 1937 “subversive”, suppressed its results and classified it “secret”. In 1938, the authorities ordered the closure of the Institute and the harassment of its staff, including Ptukha.

Migration studies recommenced only during the Khrushchev Thaw of the 1960s due to the state campaigns aimed at the development of virgin lands and mineral resources in the east and the north, which demanded relocation of considerable numbers of workers to remote and sparsely populated areas of the USSR. The success of the resettlement policy, the decision making associated with it, and the integration of individuals in these new places could be studied. Another line of research was the declining growth rate of the labour force, which represented a substantial problem for the sprawling Soviet economy with its large share of labour-intensive production.

Under conditions of strict centralization, within which both academia and science operated, most advanced studies were carried out at the central scientific establishments of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR based in Moscow. Its contribution to research was notable, not only for its high standards but also for the relative freedom of its scientific investigations, especially in comparison with other research centres based in the Soviet republics. The revival of migration studies in the USSR is associated with the names of T. Zaslavska (1970), Zh. Zaionchkovskaya (1972), V. Perevedentsev (1975), L. Rybakovskiy (1987) and others who worked for the Novosibirsk branch of the Academy of Sciences and later in Moscow. Their research demonstrated that in spite of the authorities’ efforts, the outflow of the population from Siberia exceeded the inflow. Their research helped to establish measures aimed at stimulating migration to the east and north of the country.

Migration research that began at the Academy of Sciences fostered studies at leading scientific centres in other regions of the USSR, securing the legitimization of the subject. Thanks to these initiatives, migration research was quickly revived in Ukraine. Scientific traditions that were preserved by researchers such as V. M. Ptukha and his students continued at the Institute of Economics of the Academy of Sciences. The focus in the 1960s was the analysis of statistical data concerning the scale, direction, social composition and driving forces of migration. In the 1970s and 1980s, a shift in the theoretical focus towards explaining migration processes contributed to the development of migration policy measures (Zagrobskaya 1982).

2.2.1 Internal Migration in the Soviet Republics

From 1960 to 1970, 5–6% of Ukraine’s population changed their place of residence annually, crossing both administrative borders and even those of the Ukrainian Soviet Republic (Yankovskaya 1977). According to the last Soviet census in 1989, 44.4% of Ukraine’s then residents had changed their place of residence at least once in their lives. Migration was consistently important, but there were differences in the regions where migratory movements took place. The lowest rates were in the western regions, those in central regions were about average, while the highest were in the Donetsk-Dnipropetrovs’k industrial area and the agricultural regions of the south-east.

Similar to other researchers in the USSR, the examination of migration processes by Ukrainian researchers focused mainly on internal migration processes within the USSR. According to the migration typology applied by Ukrainian researchers, migration within Ukraine was considered internal, while moving to other Soviet republics was called external. International migration was regarded as absolutely insignificant and was associated only with rare exchanges of experts and specialists (Berezyuk 1969). More than half of the total internal migration was inter-city resettlement. One-third was rural-to-urban migration and about 10% was movement between rural areas (Tovkun 1966).

Mass migration to the cities and concentration of industries caused serious urban social, economic and infrastructural problems (especially in cities with a population of more than half a million) (Stepanenko 1981). Rural areas and small rural towns became increasingly run-down (Stepanova 1984). Researchers pointed out that migration placed a strain on transport infrastructure, created difficulties in providing goods and services, produced a shortage of accommodation and triggered changes in the demographic structure of the population. Suggestions aimed at reducing excessive migration included improving living conditions in rural areas and building more higher education institutions in the provinces, while at the same time limiting migration to urban centres. Rural employers introduced bonuses, advantageous terms for acquiring accommodation and better opportunities for promotion and career development (Onikiyenko et al. 1975).

Although most migration took place within the republic, there were also population movements from Ukraine to other Soviet republics. During the last decade before the break-up of the USSR, the annual migration turnover between Ukraine and the rest of the USSR was about 1.5 million. Another feature of inter-republic migration was the persistent positive migration balance. During the 1950s, the migration balance exceeded 550,000, accounting for over 10% of the total population increase in Ukraine. In the 1960s, the migration surplus was about 530,000, which was 12.9% of the total population increase (Academy of Science of the UkSSR 1977). In the 1970s, it was less than 200,000, and in the 1980s 132,000 or 14.3% of the total population increase (Khomra 1992). Though the value of migration surplus gradually decreased, the balance remained positive in Ukraine even when it became negative in most Soviet republics (Academy of Science of the UkSSR 1977). Migrants mostly came from Kazakhstan, other Central Asian republics, the North Caucasus and the Central Black Earth Region as well as from Transcaucasia. A negative migration balance was recorded between Ukraine and the North Siberian region (especially Tyumen Oblast) but also the Central Region and the Russian Far East.

Men dominated emigration while immigration was gender balanced but consisted predominantly of return migrants and ethnic migration from non-Slavic republics which had “expelled” people as a result of rapid demographic growth. From the second half of the 1980s interethnic tensions increasingly came into play. Since ethnic Ukrainians dominated migration outflows and the numbers of ethnic Ukrainians arriving were much lower, the number of Ukrainians living outside Ukraine grew: 13.8% according to the 1979 census; 15.4% according to the 1989 census. At the same time, the number of inter-republic immigrants increased: for example, in 1959 Russians constituted 16.9% of Ukraine’s population and in 1989 22.1%. During the inter-census period from 1979 to 1989, the number of Azerbaijanis living in Ukraine grew 2.1 times, Tajiks 1.8 and Armenians 1.4.

In the Soviet era migration of people meant migration of the labour force (Khomra 1990). Researchers drew attention to the declining labour force which meant that Ukraine would not be able to provide manpower to other regions of the USSR in the future (Zahrobska 1974). From both an economic and social point of view, migration was considered a positive phenomenon leading to changes in the social structure favourable to the working class (rural-to-urban migration), rising education standards (educational migration) and closer relations between the nations of the USSR (mixing of different ethnic groups) (Zahrobska 1974).

Soviet researchers saw the increase in migration as a natural result of high levels of production growth. In socialist terms, the relocation of labour brought about the settlement of new territories, technical progress and the improvement of welfare and educational standards (Khomra 1979). This increase in relocation was facilitated by the abolition of private land ownership, decreasing property ownership, the availability of jobs in every region of the USSR and rapid processes of industrialization and urbanization (Khomra 1979). At the same time, the authorities expected that, according to the basic tenets of socialist development, the volume of “migration” would gradually decrease once the development of different regions of the country had evened out and the gap between standards of living in rural and urban areas as well as between physical labour and intellectual work had been bridged.

2.2.2 Resettlements

Ukrainian researchers viewed migration along the lines of Soviet interpretations of Marxist theory; its systematic nature under socialism was opposed to the spontaneous migration in capitalist society (Khomra 1987). While capitalist migration is determined by elements of capital reproduction, the aim of socialist migration is to improve and develop the overall personality of migrants and the effectiveness of social production (Khomra 1990).

Ukrainian researchers categorized organized and unorganized resettlements in terms of redistribution of manpower and migration respectively (Onikiyenko et al. 1975). In accordance with the predominant ideology of the time, there could be no contradiction between the collective will of the community and personal interests. Organized resettlement increased over the years: in 1965, organized resettlement made up 31% of total migration flows and in 1975 it constituted 45%. The share of unorganized resettlement decreased from 65 to 55% (Yankovskaya 1977). In spite of people’s legal right to choose their place to live and work, in Soviet times such freedom did not imply freedom from the obligation to contribute to the Soviet community as such, and it did mean that the interests of Soviet society took precedence over private interests (Khomra 1987).

Organized resettlement occurred mainly within Ukraine, yet one-third of migrants were “directed” to other republics of the USSR. At the turn of the 1950s and the beginning of the 1960s, fifteen regions in the west, centre and north-east of Ukraine experienced constant resettlement out of the republic. The largest-scale resettlement project was the development of virgin lands elsewhere. Up to half of the Ukrainian resettlement projects were directed to Kazakhstan (Zharobska 1974). Later, considerable numbers of workers went to develop the oil and gas fields of Western Siberia and to build the Baikal-Amur railway.

There were three types of organized resettlement. The first, which already existed at the time of the Russian Empire and in the early decades of Soviet rule, was the resettlement of peasant families from densely populated areas and those lacking arable land to areas with considerable land resources. These rural resettlements made up 7–11% of all organized relocations. Most people were resettled from the west and centre of Ukraine to the southern steppe area of the republic or outside Ukrainian territory. Thus, between 1961 and 1975, 100,000 people were resettled, 62% to the Crimea where there was a large need for manpower after the deportation of its native population.

The second type, which began in the 1930s and made up 20–26% of all organized resettlement, was allocation of manpower required by industry, i.e. resettlements linked to contracts of employment. Between 1961 and 1975, 1.5 million Ukrainians were affected by these “organized recruitments”, which took place in all regions (except for Mykolaiv, Kherson and Kirovograd regions and the Crimea (Yankovskaya 1977), i.e. the main regions of rural settlement). People moved either to Donetsk-Prydniprovsk industrial region or outside the republic. The third type was supposed to mobilize labour for construction work. These campaigns were mainly aimed at young workers. A further type directed graduates into work. State authorities allocated jobs to graduates from vocational schools, secondary technical schools and institutes of higher education.

However, these resettlement schemes were not always successful. First, although these types of organized resettlement were presented by the authorities as an economic measure (the ideology of creating Soviet citizens was merely a side-effect), they never overrode other migration systems and patterns even in the harshest totalitarian times of the USSR. Second, a considerable proportion of migrants on organized resettlement schemes returned to their previous place of residence or failed to remain in the place to which they were allocated. For example, research using data from agricultural zones in the south of Ukraine from 1968 to 1972 shows 16.7% of migrants soon left their allocated place of settlement (Yankovskaya 1977). Third, not only newly resettled persons, but also the native population, left the areas to which they were directed (in the north and the east of the USSR). Despite all the authorities’ efforts, the balance of migration in/outflow was negative most of the time (Onikiyenko and Popovkin 1973).

2.2.3 Migration Policy

Soviet migration policy was subdivided into three areas: administrative, economic and ethical (Khomra 1979). The administrative domain included instruments of migration control, such as the passport system, which restricted the issue of passports to certain categories of citizens (such as the rural population before 1974), and the institution of propiska (residence registration/permit).1 However, as most scholars argue, the effect of these instruments was limited. Since most rural residents had no passport, it ought to have been impossible for them to seek work or education elsewhere. However, the migration of young people from the villages to the cities increased instead of decreased as planned by the authorities. For example, young men from rural areas often never returned to their villages after military service. Equally ineffective was the restriction of residence permits in big cities. People refused to leave urban areas, as they knew it might be impossible to return, which resulted in disproportional urban growth. Suburbs were not formally part of the city but commuting distances increased, adding to the burden on infrastructures.

Indirect migration flow instruments that proved more efficient included incentives relating to working or living conditions, improved community services and the introduction of regular salary increases as well as significant pension benefits and other bonuses related to specific regions (Yankovska 1980).

“Ethical means” or rather, ideological pressures that influenced migration in the socialist system, are a special area of migration policy. Various resolutions of the Communist Party and its youth organization, Komsomol, affected resettlement regulations; for instance, in 1974 the Trans-Siberia railroad was announced as a Komsomol-sponsored construction project. The XVIIth Congress of the Youth Communist League appealed to young people to participate in the construction of the road. The regional Committee of the Komsomol mobilized young people for resettlement using so-called “Komsomol trip sheets”, which assigned them to the construction area in Siberia. In previous years, the same scheme had been used to provide labour for the development of the Siberian oil and gas fields.

Researchers established the following migration policy objectives: increased job satisfaction through improved matching of workers’ qualifications with type of work; ironing out regional differences in living standards; reducing discrepancies between working and living conditions in urban and rural areas; growth of production; development of social infrastructure; and sanctions on employers failing to provide appropriate conditions for new settlers (Onikiyenko et al. 1975).

2.2.4 Non-Soviet Migration

Migration between Ukraine and countries outside the USSR was uncommon and had no significant effect on population growth or economic development. Only during World War II and its immediate aftermath was it substantial. More than 200,000 Germans were repatriated from Galicia, Volyn and Northern Bukovina in 1939–1940. Between 1945 and 1946, following an inter-governmental agreement with Poland, half a million ethnic Ukrainians were (mostly) forcibly resettled in Ukraine, and 800,000 ethnic Poles were removed from Ukraine to Poland. At the same time, 30,000 Czechs left Volyn for Czechoslovakia (Bruk and Kabuzan 1991).

In the post-war period, immigration from outside the USSR was strictly limited. Only a handful of political refugees took shelter in the USSR. The Ukrainian Red Cross, for example, looked after a couple of hundred Yugoslav citizens who found themselves in Ukraine after the 1949 conflict between Tito and Stalin, and communists from Chile who arrived in Ukraine. People had to get the authorities’ permission to leave the USSR, which was only (and not always) granted if they could provide an invitation from close relatives. Hence most emigrants were members of ethnic minorities with relatives abroad (e.g. Jews, Germans). However, according to data from Ukraine’s Ministry of the Interior, during the entire post-war period and until 1970, only 2000 permits to leave Ukraine for Israel were issued. Emigration increased in the 1970s when, under pressure from the international community, the USSR was forced to mitigate emigration bans. During this decade, 81,000 permits for emigration to Israel and 3000 to Germany were granted. Nevertheless, international migration constituted little more than 1% of total migration. Its share grew somewhat during the perestroika era, when emigration restrictions were liberalized, reaching 2.7% of total migration flows in 1989 (Khomra 1992).

For ideological reasons, international migration was studied either as an example of something taking place in other countries or from a historical perspective, i.e. as a process that occurred in the past. Thus, a noticeable area of international research in the 1970s and 1980s was the study of migration processes in Europe and the USA. These studies were rich in data; the development of world migrations was examined, and the status of migrant workers in the destination countries as well as the main courses of migration policy in receiving countries were discussed (Shlyepakov 1960; Frolkin 1975; Shamshur 1987). However, the ideologically limited understanding of migration undermined the analytical potential of these studies: it was understood as a form of exploitation dictated by capitalism. Some of these studies, such as those treating labour migration from Yugoslavia, were censored and not available to the general public (Malinovskaya 1984).

More fundamental scholarly analysis of the emigration of Ukrainians to the USA and Canada in the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries became possible during the Khrushchev Thaw era. A whole range of historical studies were conducted which analyzed statistical and archival data, memoirs and letters, the destiny of the emigrants and the circumstances of the overseas resettlements (Shlyepakov 1960).

The democratization of Soviet society in the perestroika era enabled Ukrainian scholars to partially liberate themselves from political prejudice towards the analysis of international migration. Previously restricted topics became gradually more acceptable, such as the history of forced resettlement and deportation by the totalitarian regime. The analysis of once confidential documents enabled publication of the shocking death toll among Ukrainians caused by subjugation and famine (Perkovskiy and Pirozhkov 1990; Buhay 1990).

2.3 Aspects of and Trends in Research on International Migration After 1991

The break-up of the Soviet Union transformed overnight what was formerly categorized “internal migration” into “international migration”. People migrated in this period in great numbers both within and across the borders of the former territory of the Soviet Union. Out of the 1989 population of the USSR, approximately 25.3 million Russians lived outside Russia (Heleniak 2002). Among a whole range of repatriation movements, between 1994 and 1998 some 636,000 people left Ukraine for Russia (Cipko 2006).

In 1991, the Ukrainian academic landscape experienced a breakthrough as the ideological oppression of the Soviet era came to an end. Considerably broader methodologies were employed and much more empirical data was made available. A revision of Ukraine’s migration history took place, though it cannot be denied that the work of Soviet Ukrainian scholars laid the foundation for contemporary migration research. The migrations of Soviet times – mainly deportations and political emigration – remain a politically sensitive topic in Ukraine. At the same time, a degree of caution towards international migration was inherited; thus it is still interpreted by some scholars as a departure from the norm, representing the “real” challenge to a society’s development.

With independence, the economic and regulatory context of migration changed in Ukraine. The state-building process needed research-based recommendations for the development of new migration policy and legislation. Funding was scarce, so migration research relied mainly on the support of international organizations, international funds or consortia. The 1996 Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) conference organized by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) gave a major impetus to research on migration, setting up an action plan that promoted the study of various aspects of the migration situation in Ukraine. During the transition period the most active branch of research was the law and legal studies, due to the need for a new legislative framework to regulate migration. Other areas of research gradually emerged – especially in sociology and economics – developing new concepts and typologies of Ukrainian migration. Ukrainian research tended to neglect migrations of previous decades, focusing instead on new migratory phenomena, which can be categorized into three main groups:
  1. 1.

    Labour migration, often used as an umbrella term to include various other migratory patterns and forms of migration such as irregular or circular migration;

  2. 2.

    Irregular migration;

  3. 3.

    “Ethnic” migration and repatriation.


As the results of studies on Ukrainian labour migration and irregular migration have been extensively addressed in other chapters (see Chaps.  3 and  4, and Part II) the focus here regarding the first two groups is on the new approach to research as compared with studies in Soviet times. The third group, “ethnic” migration and repatriation, is introduced more thoroughly.

2.3.1 Labour Migration and Irregular Migration

In the Ukrainian context “labour migration” tends to be used as all-encompassing term for migration. Migration is often understood in Ukrainian research as well as in the public domain as labour migration, since it is hard to imagine why a person would migrate if not for work.

The research focus has shifted to a pattern formally categorized as “unorganized migration”, i.e. the research became agency centred. The majority of research on Ukrainian labour migration in the past two decades has addressed selective migrant groups and specific regions or specific thematic areas, and qualitative large-scale survey methods have predominantly been used rather than sparsely quantitative research. Detailed in-depth findings based on ethnographic methodology (as elaborated by Massey 1993 and Massey et al. 1990) were presented in 1994 (Pirozhkov et al. 1997; Frejka et al. 1999). 440 in-depth interviews were conducted in migrant households in Kyiv, Chernivtsi and in another village close to Lviv. The research concluded that migration served as a survival strategy in the years of economic crisis and transition. A longitudinal perspective was added in 2002 when the same methodology was applied to discuss changes in structure, character and destination of migrations (Pirozhkov et al. 2003).

With the development of labour migration from Ukraine, NGOs based in Ukraine and in the destination countries started to engage in the field. In 2002, Women’s Perspectives, an NGO based in Lviv, conducted one of the first surveys with the help of migrants in Italy (Western Ukrainian Centre 2003; see also Chap.  10). Another study was conducted by a group of scholars from Lviv in collaboration with the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in eight destination countries. In around 100 in-depth interviews they found psychological issues to be one of the main reasons for migration (Malynovska 2011). Further research was devoted to the issues of children who were “left behind” in Ukraine. In 2006 the Women’s Rights Centre La Strada Ukraine conducted 103 interviews with children in five regions, from which they concluded that children whose parents are abroad had a number of problems of a psychological and social nature and were increasingly likely to show vulnerability and deviant behaviour (Levchenko 2006) (for more details see Chap.  5).

The labour migration research spectrum has expanded rapidly, with numerous studies on emigration from widely varying perspectives now available. For instance, a group of researchers from the EU-funded EUMAGINE project has examined the current migration hopes and dreams of (non-) migrants in Ukraine (; see also Vollmer 2015).

Although there are many studies on irregular migration from Ukraine, none of them present an in-depth investigation of the situation. One of the first studies on irregular migration to use detailed interviews was conducted in 1999 by a joint Hungarian-Polish-Ukrainian project funded by the IOM (Klinchenko et al. 2000). Another publication to include analysis of international law and Ukrainian legislation was Illegal Migration and Trafficking in Women edited by the Institute of State and Law of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine (Shemshuchenko 2001). The living conditions and legal status of irregular migrants were examined by another Ukrainian team of researchers and their results published by the Kennan Institute in 2001 and 2008. This longitudinal perspective offered a rich analysis of changes in migrants’ situation over 7 years (Braichevska et al. 2004; Braichevska et al. 2009). The causes of this kind of migration are discussed in detail in Chap.  4.

2.3.2 Ethnic Migration and Patterns of Repatriation

In the early days after the Ukrainian struggle for independence (1991–1993), migration was dominated by mobility of previously Soviet citizens of various ethnic backgrounds to their corresponding “homelands” newly established as nation-states. Nationals of all other newly established independent states moved out of Ukrainian territory, while Ukrainians and Tatars returned from the Russian Federation, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. However, members of ethnic minorities (Germans, Greeks, Jews and Poles) who had relatives abroad also started to leave Ukrainian territory between 1987 and 1990. In 1990, for instance, 68,000 permits to leave for Israel were issued (see also Chap.  1). Deportees and their descendants returned to Ukraine: 250,000 Crimean Tartars, Bulgarians, Armenians and Greeks returned to Crimea and more than 2000 Germans resettled in southern Ukraine (Vollmer et al. 2010; Zayonchkovskaya 2000). After resettlement, many returnees found themselves on the margins of society. For example, in 2005, only about 50% of returned Crimean Tartars were permanently housed, while more than 50% of those of working age were unemployed (Malynovska 2006).

A particularly difficult aspect of the ethnic migration of the 1990s was the arrival, settlement and restoration of rights to former deportees (Crimean Tatars, Bulgarians, Armenians, Greeks and Germans). This has attracted the attention of historians, lawyers, economists and sociologists. The history of deportations , the struggle for rehabilitation, the process of repatriation and the legal, political, social and economic problems of returnees and their integration into Ukrainian society have been the subject of numerous studies (Gabrielian and Petrov 1998; Zinchenko 1998; Ilyasov 1999; Pribytkova 1999).

Important historical documents and statistical data on the deportation, return and reintegration of former deportees in Crimea were published between 1999 and 2003. Significant sources include a series of volumes entitled Deported Crimean Tatars, Bulgarians, Armenians, Greeks, Germans and the journal Crimean Studies published in English and Ukrainian by the Centre for Information and Documentation of Crimean Tatars.

Attention has also been drawn to the repatriation of former deportees by the significant costs the Ukrainian state incurred between 1992 and 2010. The arrival of returnees had serious political consequences and international repercussions. The large number of Ukrainians returning to their native land resulted in a record-high migration balance between 1991 and 1993, with the population increasing by half a million, although fertility rates remained negative.

Research on repatriation can be divided into two categories: (1) studies of the scale and trends of returnees to Ukraine (e.g. Hrushevsky and Kutkovets 1992; Troscyns’kyj et al. 1998); and (2) studies of issues arising from their reintegration (e.g. Braychevska 1999; Malynovska 1999; Minhasutdinov 1999). Some researchers have devoted their work to individual ethnic groups and their migrations out of or back to Ukraine. Diamanti-Karandou (2003) focused on Greeks migrating in the period 1990–2000, while others such as Klinchenko et al. (1999) and Malynovska (2007) have examined the limbo status of Meskhetian Turks currently residing in Ukraine. Only a few articles have been devoted to new ethnic groups forming due to new patterns of migration (Volosyuk and Pylynsky 2002; Braychevska and Malynovska 2002).

2.4 Conclusions

Research agendas on Ukrainian migration remain politicized, even though dominating ideologies of the state have changed drastically. In particular the role of external funding is (though not as severely as in the 1990s) influenced by political developments and institutional power relations.

There is no specialized research institution dedicated to international migration and there are very few examples of international collaboration, though this seems hardly surprising in a country where both the authorities and the public perceive a poorly defined migration policy as “normal”. Even the establishment of a new State Migration Service has not improved the situation. An example of this failed improvement is the use of such statistics to create policies relating to labour migration and Ukrainian citizens living abroad.

Many studies from the past cannot be seen as reliable sources documenting migration. A systematic historical study that examines temporality and its main variable of time is at the heart of prospective research. The historical perspective calls for further research examining the link between the two distinct eras of Ukrainian history and its implications. Taking the historical perspective into account is a field of research that would look at current micro systems or the evolving migration cultures that are emerging in Ukraine. Interestingly, they are set to change and develop following the political upheaval of Maidan in 2014 and the ongoing military crisis in the east of Ukraine.


  1. 1.

    Propiska was used to control migration, especially to big cities, health-resort regions and border areas, where it was almost impossible to obtain a residence permit. Propiska was the basic administrative document without which one could not get a job or go to school, use the health services, draw a pension or social security payments. Living without propiska could also result in administrative penalties, and up to 1974, criminal charges.


  1. Academy of Science of the UkSSR. (1977). Demograficheskoje razvitije Ukrajinskoj SSR (1959–1970) [Demographic development of the Ukrainian SSR (1959–1970)]. Kiev: Naukova Dumka.Google Scholar
  2. Bachynski, J. (1914). Ukrajins’ka immihratsija v Z’jednanyh Derzhavah Ameryky [Ukrainian emigration to United States of America]. Kyjiv: Druk.Google Scholar
  3. Berezyuk, A. I. (1969). Sezonnaja migratsija naselenija Zakarpatskoj oblasti USSR I puti jeje uporjadochenija [Seasonal migration of rural population of the Transcarpathian region of the Ukrainian SSR and the ways to its orderliness]. Кyiv: Institute of Economics, Academy of Science of the UkSSR.Google Scholar
  4. Braichevska, O., Volosiuk, H., Malynovska, O., Pylynskyi, Y., Popson, N., & Ruble, B. (2004). Nontraditional immigrants in Kyiv. Washington: Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.Google Scholar
  5. Braichevska, O., Malynovska, O., & Pylynskyi, Y. (2009). “Netradytsijni” immigranty u Kyjevi: sim rokiv potomu [Nontraditional immigrants in Kyiv after seven years]. Кyiv: Stylos.Google Scholar
  6. Braychevska, O. (1999). Repatriates in Ukraine: The ways of integration. Migration Issues, 3, 34–39.Google Scholar
  7. Braychevska, O., & Malynovska, O. (2002). Afghan community in Kyiv: The formation and socio-demographic characteristics. Migration Issues, 2, 36–48.Google Scholar
  8. Bruk, A., & Kabuzan, V. (1991). Migratsionnyje protsesy v Rossii I SSSR [Migration processes in Russia and the USSR]. Moscow: Institute for Scientific Information in Social Sciences, Academy of Science of the USSR.Google Scholar
  9. Buhay, M. F. (1990). Deportatsiji naselennja Ukrajiny (30–50-na rr.) [Deportation of the population of Ukraine (30–50s)]. Ukrainian History Journal, 10>, 32–38.Google Scholar
  10. Cipko, S. (2006). Contemporary migration from Ukraine. In R. R. Rios (Ed.), Migration perspectives. Geneva: IOM.Google Scholar
  11. Diamanti-Karandou, P. (2003). Migration of ethnic Greeks from the former Soviet Union to Greece, 1990–2000: Policy decisions and implications. Southeast European and Black Sea Studies, 3(1), 25–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Frejka, T., Okólski, M., & Sword, K. (Eds.). (1999). In-depth studies on migration in central and eastern Europe: The case of Ukraine (Economic Studies 12, United Nations Economic Commission for Europe). New York/Geneva: United Nations.Google Scholar
  13. Frolkin, N. M. (1975). Trudovaja immigratsija vo Frantsij v novejsheje vremja [Labour immigration in France in modern times]. Кiev: NaukDumka.Google Scholar
  14. Gabrielian, O. A., & Petrov, V. P. (1998). Krymskije tatary: deportatsyja, vozvrashchenije I obustrojstvo [The Crimean Tatars: Deportation, return and settlement]. Simferepol: Amen.Google Scholar
  15. Heleniak, T. (2002). Migration dilemmas haunt post-Soviet Russia, country profiles – migration policy institute. Washington, DC: Migration Policy Institute.Google Scholar
  16. Hrushevsky, O., & Kutkovets, T. (1992). Ukrajintsi v Rosiji: analiz za rezultatamy doslidzhennja [Ukrainians in Russia: Analysis of the study’s results]. Moscow: Hrom. Dumka.Google Scholar
  17. Ilyasov, R. (1999). Krymskije tatary: kratkij obzor proshlogo i analiz sotsyal’no-ekonomicheskogo polozhenija nastojashchego [The Crimean Tatars: A brief overview of the past and analysis of the socio-economic situation of the present]. Simferopol: Krymuchpediz.Google Scholar
  18. Khomra, A. U. (1979). Migratsija naselenija: voprosy teoriji, metodiki issledovanija [Migration of population. Theoretical questions, research methods]. Kyiv: Nauk. Dumka.Google Scholar
  19. Khomra, A. U. (1987). Planomernost’ migratsii pri sotsializme [Systematic nature of migration in the times of socialism]. Demographic Studies, 11, 75–91.Google Scholar
  20. Khomra, A. U. (1990). Vosproizvodstvo naselenija [Reproduction of population]. Кiev: Nauk. Dumka.Google Scholar
  21. Khomra, A. U. (1992). The migration of population of Ukraine in 1959–1988: Basic laws and development tendencies. In Migration and urbanization of population (pp. 33–52). Кiev: Nauka. Dumka.Google Scholar
  22. Klinchenko, T., Malynovska, O., Minhasutdinov, I., & Shamshur, O. (1999). Meskhetian Turks in Ukraine: de-jure nationals, de-facto refugees. Migration Issues, 2, 37–48.Google Scholar
  23. Klinchenko, T., Malynovska, O., Mingazutdinov, I., & Shamshur, O. (2000). Migrant trafficking and human smuggling in Ukraine. In F. Laczko (Ed.), Migrant trafficking and human smuggling in Europe: A review of the evidence with case studies from Hungary, Poland and Ukraine (pp. 329–416). Geneva: IOM.Google Scholar
  24. Levchenko, K. (Ed.). (2006). Problemy ditej trudovyh mihrantiv: analiz sytuatsiji [Problems of children of migrant workers: An analysis of the situation]. Kyiv: TOV Agenstvo “Ukraiina”.Google Scholar
  25. Malinovskaya, E. A. (1984). Problema trudovoj emigratsii v social’no-ekonomicheskoj politike SFRJ [The problem of labour emigration in social-economic policy of SFRY]. Кiev: Institute of Economics.Google Scholar
  26. Malynovska, O. (1999). Repatriatsija v Ukrajinu [Repatriation to Ukraine]. Migration Issues, 4, 17–29.Google Scholar
  27. Malynovska, O. (2006). Migratsija I migratsijna polityka v Ukrajini [Migration and migration policy in Ukraine]. National Institute of International Security Problems. Accessed 19 Mar 2012.
  28. Malynovska, O. (2007). Friendship of nations: Meskhetian turks in Ukraine and the presentation of ethnic identity. In T. Trier & A. Khanzhin (Eds.), The meskhetian turks at the crossroad: Integration, repatriation or ressetlement? (pp. 238–287). Flensburg: European Centre for Minority Issues.Google Scholar
  29. Malynovska, O. A. (Ed.). (2011). Social’no-ekonomichni na etno-kul’turni naslidky migratsiji dlja Ukrajiny [Socio-economic and ethno-cultural consequences of migration for Ukraine]. Conference paper 27 September 2011. Kyiv: NIIS.Google Scholar
  30. Massey, D. (1993). The methodology of an ethnosurvey. In D. J. Bogue (Ed.), Readings in the methodology of population research. New York: UNFPA.Google Scholar
  31. Massey, D., Abarcon, R., Dur, J., & Gonzales, H. (1990). Return to Aztlan. Berkley/Los Angeles: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  32. Minhasutdinov, I. (1999). Dejaki obstavyny ta rezultaty repatriatsiji v Ukrajinu 1991–1998 [Some conditions and results of repatriation to Ukraine’s 1991–1998]. Refugees and Migration: Ukrainian Journal of Law and Policy, 2, 82–91.Google Scholar
  33. Onikiyenko, V. V., & Popovkin, V. A. (1973). Komplexnoje issledovanije migratsionnyh protsessov [Complex study of migration processes]. Moscow: Statistika.Google Scholar
  34. Onikiyenko, V. V., Sych, A. S., & Trubenko, B. I. (1975). O territorial’noj mobil’nosti trudovyh resursov [On the territorial mobility of manpower]]. In: Problems of use of human resources. Кyiv: Nauk. Dumka.Google Scholar
  35. Perevedentsev, V. I. (1975). Metody izuchenija migratsii naselenija [Methods of population’s migration study]. Moscow: Nauka.Google Scholar
  36. Perkovskiy, A., & Pirozhkov, S. I. (1990). Demografichni vtraty narodonaselenja Ukrajins’koji RSR v 40-h rokah [Demographic losses of the population of the Ukrainian SSR in the 40s]. Ukrainian History Journal, 2, 46–50.Google Scholar
  37. Pirozhkov, S. I., Malynovska, O., & Marchenko, N. (1997). Zovnishnja mihratsija v Ukrajini: prychyny, naslidky, stratehiji [External migration in Ukraine: Causes, consequences, strategies]. Kyiv: Akadempres.Google Scholar
  38. Pirozhkov, S. I., Malinovskaya, E., & Homra, A. (2003). Vneshnije trudovyje migratsyi v Ukraine: sotsyal’no-ekonomicheskij aspect [Foreign labor migration in Ukraine: Socio-economic aspect]. Kyiv: National Institute for International Security Studies.Google Scholar
  39. Popok, A. A. (2007). Zakordonne Ukrajinstvo jak ob’jekt derzhavnoji polityky [Ukrainians abroad as an object of public policy]. Kyiv: Alterpres.Google Scholar
  40. Pribytkova, I. M. (1999). Pravovyje i gumanitarnyje problemy reintegratsyi raneje deportirovanyh v Krymu [Legal and humanitarian issues of reintegration of formerly deported people in Crimea]. Kyiv: Company VAITE.Google Scholar
  41. Rybakovskiy, L. L. (1987). Migracija nasrlrnija: prognozy, factory, politika [Migration of population: Prognoses, factors, policy]. Moscow: Nauka.Google Scholar
  42. Shamshur, O. V. (1987). Zolotyjr dveri immigratsiji: chto krojetsa za njimi? [“Golden door” of immigration: What’s behind it?] Kharkov: Prapor.Google Scholar
  43. Shemshuchenko, J. (Ed.). (2001). Nelehal’na mihratsija ta torhivlja zhinkamy v mizhnarodno-pravovomu konteksti [Illegal migration and trafficking in women in the international legal context]. Кyiv: Institute on state and law of National Academy of Science of Ukraine.Google Scholar
  44. Shlyepakov, A. (1960). Ukrajins’ka trudova emigratsij v SShA I Kanadi (rinetsj 19 – pochatok 20 stolittja [Ukrainian labour emigration to the USA and Canada (end of the19th – beginning of the20th centuries)]. Kyiv: SAUkSSR Publishing.Google Scholar
  45. Stepanenko, A. V. (1981). Goroda v uslovijah razvitogo socijalizma [Cities in the conditions of developed socialism]. Кiev: Nauk Dumka.Google Scholar
  46. Stepanova, A. P. (1984). Aktual’nyje problem demografiji v issledovanijah uchenyh USSR [Urgent demographic problems in the studies of the scholars of the UkSSR]. Кiev: The Institute of Economics of the AS of the UkSSR.Google Scholar
  47. Steshenko, V. (2001). Mikhail Vasiljevich Ptuha kak demograph 1884–1961 [Mihail Vasiljevich Ptukha as a demographer 1884–1961], Demoscope weekly, 35–36. Accessed 26 Jan 2014.
  48. Tovkun, V. (1966). Sovremennaja migratsija naselenija v Ukrajinskoj SSR [Modern migration of the population in the UkSSR]. Кiev: The UkSSR Productive Forces Study Council.Google Scholar
  49. Troshchinsky, V. P. (1994). Mizhvojenna ukrajins’ka emihratsija v Evropi jak istorychne I sotsial’no-ploitychne javyshche [Inter-war Ukrainian emigration in Europe as a historical and socio-political phenomenon]. Kiev: Intel.Google Scholar
  50. Troshchinsky, V. P., Shvachka O., & Popok A. (1998). Emihratsijnyj potentsial osib ukrajins’koho pohodzhennja ta vyhidtsiv z Ukrajiny – zhyteliv Respubliky Kazakhstan: analitychnyj zvit pro provedene sotsiolohichne doslidzhennja/Mizhnar. orhanizatsija z mihratsiji [Immigration potential of persons of Ukrainian origin and immigrants from Ukraine-residents of Republic of Kazakhstan: Analytical report on sociological study/International organization for migration]. Kyiv: Pheonix.Google Scholar
  51. Vollmer, B. (2015). Ukrainian migration and the european union – dynamics, subjectivity, and politics. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  52. Vollmer, B., Bilan, Y., Lapshyna, I., & Vdovtsova S. (2010). Ukraine: Country and research areas report. EUMAGINE Project paper No. 3. Oxford: Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS), Centre of Sociological Research (CSR).Google Scholar
  53. Volosyuk, H., & Pylynsky, J. (2002). Dejaki aspekty formuvannja v’jetnams’koji spil’noty u m. Kyevi [Some aspects of formation of the Vietnam community]. Migration Issues, 1, 27–34.Google Scholar
  54. Western Ukrainian Center. (2003). Sotsial’ne oblychcha novitnjoji trudovoji mihratsiji: rezul’taty masovoho sotsiologichnogo opytuvannja ukrajins’kyh zarobitchan v Italiji [Women’s perspectives. The social face of the new Ukrainian labor migration: Results of mass survey of Ukrainian workers in Italy]. Lviv: Women’s Perspectives Western Ukrainian Centre.Google Scholar
  55. Yankovska, E. A. (1980). Problemy udoskonalenja upravlinja terytorial’no-galuzevym pererozpodilom trudovyh resursiv [Problems of improvement of territorial and sectoral redistribution of manpower resources management]. Visn SA UkSSR, 4, 97–102.Google Scholar
  56. Yankovskaya, E. A. (1977). Pereraspredelenije trudovyh resursov [Redistribution of labour resources]. Кiev: NaukDumka.Google Scholar
  57. Zagrobskaya, A. F. (1982). Migratsija, vosproizvodstvo I urovenj obrazovanija naselenija [Migration, reproduction and the educational level of the population]. Кiev: NaukDumka.Google Scholar
  58. Zahrobska, A. F. (1974). Organizovani pereselenja v systemi migratsiji naselennja URSR [Organized resettlements in the system of migrations of the population of the UkSSR]. Кiev: NaukDumka.Google Scholar
  59. Zaionchkovskaya, Z. A. (1972). Novosjely v gorodah [New settlers in the cities]. Moscow: Nauka.Google Scholar
  60. Zaslavska, T. I. (Ed.). (1970). Migratsija sel’skogo naselenija [Migration of rural population]. Moscow: Mysl.Google Scholar
  61. Zayonchkovskaya, Z. (2000). Recent migration trends in the commonwealth of independent states. International Social Science Journal, 52(165), 343–355.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Zinchenko, Y. (1998). Kryms’ki tatary: Istorychnyj narys [Crimean Tatars: Historical review]. Kyiv: Institute of Political and Ethnonational research, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2016

This chapter is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License ( which permits any noncommercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and source are credited.

The images or other third party material in this chapter are included in the work’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in the credit line; if such material is not included in the work’s Creative Commons license and the respective action is not permitted by statutory regulation, users will need to obtain permission from the license holder to duplicate, adapt or reproduce the material.

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS)University of OxfordOxfordUK
  2. 2.National Institute for Strategic StudiesKyivUkraine

Personalised recommendations