Russia Naturalization and Citizenship

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Naturalization is the process of granting citizenship to foreign-born residents. Naturalization papers are an important source of an immigrant’s place of origin, foreign and “Anglicized” names, residence, and date of arrival.

Historically, Russia has always been a country closed to foreigners. That’s why the population exchanges with other countries did not happen spontaneously, but only at “the Czar’s will”. The most widely known examples of Their Highnesses’ benevolence, to name just a few, are:

  • invitation of German Mennonites to colonize the newly acquired lands of Novorossia in the late 18th — 19th centuries;
  • permission given to some groups of the Balkan Orthodox nations (the Greeks, Serbians,and Bulgarians) to settle down within certain areas of the Russian Empire in the 19th century;
  • participation of the Chinese and Korean migrant workers in the Trans-Siberian Railroad construction in the early 20th century.

However, more often aliens acquired citizenship of the Russian Empire along with its spatial expansion: the Finns, Poles, Georgians, Moldavians, Adzharians, Azeri, Armenians, Kazakhs, and nations of Central Asia used to become the Empire’s nationals without changing their usual place of residence. Together with the new status they gained unprecedented mobility and prospects to migrate beyond the borders of their native lands throughout the entire Russia.

In the 13th–16th centuries, over one third of Russia’s nobility were of Tartar descent;

  • neither their own language nor religious contradictions and Islam in particular were able to obstruct the positive complementarity of the Slavic and Turkic ethnic groups;
  • in the 16th–18th centuries, the Finno-Ugric and Turkic nations of the European North, Volga basin, Urals, and Siberia were integrating into the state and society both through their cultural and linguistic assimilation as well as conversion to Orthodox faith and through naturalization that vested them with all the rights and responsibilities of the ethnic Russian nationals;
  • in the 18th century, the peoples of the Baltic provinces were to various degrees assimilated by the Germans, Swedes, Poles, but not by the Empire’s dominant nation — the Russians;
  • in 1809, with annexation of Finland, the Finns were exempt from duties and taxes, which were obligatory for the rest of the Empire’s nationals, while the Russians themselves were in fact treated in Finland like foreigners;
  • the Empire’s authorities decided to give up the complete naturalization of the Northern Caucasus nations since Russia’s civil and legal systems were simply unable to incorporate them at the time;
  • in the second half of the 19th century, while incorporating the territory of Central Asia and today’s Kazakhstan, there were no attempts made to naturalize the indigenous populations and to extend on them the terms and norms of the all-Russian legislation.