Russian Language Blog

What Brings Foreigners to Russia Posted by on Apr 6, 2015 in Uncategorized


Many of the readers of this blog may have visited Russia or other Russian-speaking countries at some point. A visit to Russia is a short-time experience for most people. What compels the chosen few to stay in Russia past the initial three months?

1. Intercompany transfer

What: One category of foreigners, usually bestowed the moniker of expats (экспа́ты, ekspaty), staying in Russia for extended periods of time are employees of foreign or multinational companies transferred or dispatched to Russia. Some are top managers (топ-ме́неджеры, top menedzhery). Others include journalists (журнали́сты, zhurnalisty) and English teachers (преподава́тели англи́йского, prepodavateli angliyskovo).

Why: Multinationals will often looks for employees familiar with the company’s practices and the Western way of doing business, however that may be defined in each case.

Who: As several articles recently pointed out, the title of “expatriates” is often reserved for workers from developed countries (ра́звитые стра́ны, razvitye strany). So, these are you Americans, Canadians, English, Dutch, Australians, French, Germans, and so on.

Pros: Russia has ranked moderately high on lists of top places for expats in the past

Cons: The recent drop in the value of the ruble (рубль), the national currency, has made Russia less attractive. Moreover, many battle isolation and lack of interaction outside of the expat bubble.

2. Study

What: Students from other countries come to Russia to get a college degree that will be recognized in their home country. In the days of the USSR, students from African countries were encouraged to study in the USSR as part of the assistance offered to these countries. Medicine (медици́на, meditsina) and engineering have traditionally been one of the occupations that attracts international students.

Why: Russian higher education has a high reputation, depending on the subject and the university. It is also often more affordable compared to other countries.

Who: Students from Africa and the Middle East find Russian universities attractive.

Pros: Tuition and room/board can be lower than for a comparable degree in other countries.

Cons: Due to differences in university systems, Russian degrees may not be fully recogniz/sed abroad. Instruction in English is not readily available. Finally, students might have a negative experience with racism.

3. Manual Labo(u)r

What: The most numerous group of migrants in Russia are migrant workers (гастарбайтеры, gastarbáitery) from countries of the former Soviet Union. They work in construction, janitorial or retail jobs. The top donor countries are Uzbekistan and Kyrgystan.

Why: Lack of opportunity or well-paying jobs makes people from the region look toward Russia.

Who: People from Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Ukraine, and other countries in the region.

Pros: Many adults from the former Soviet Union know Russian. Laxer entry requirements than from people from outside the region.

Cons: Again, a weaker ruble makes the country less attractive. Racism is a problem, too.

Have you lived in Russia in these or any other capacities? What was your experience like?

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About the Author: Maria

Maria is a Russian-born translator from Western New York. She is excited to share her fascination with all things Russian on this blog. Maria's professional updates are available in English on her website and Twitter and in Russian on Telegram.