Fragile Migration Rights: Freedom of movement in post-Soviet Russia, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Fragile Migration Rights

Freedom of movement in post-Soviet Russia, 1st Edition

By Matthew Light


224 pages | 4 B/W Illus.

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The Soviet Union comprehensively governed the mobility of its citizens by barring emigration and strictly regulating internal migration. In the aftermath of the Soviet collapse, the constitution and laws of the new Russian Federation appeared to herald a complete break with the repressiveness of the previous government. Russian law now proclaims the right of Russian citizens and residents to move around their country freely.

This book examines how and why this post-Soviet legal promise of internal freedom of movement has been undermined in practice by both federal and regional policies. It thereby adds a new dimension to scholarly understanding of the nature of rights, citizenship, and law enforcement in contemporary Russia. Most contemporary works focus on the attempts of developed Northern countries to regulate migration from the global South to the global North: here Matthew Light examines the restriction of migration within Soviet and post-Soviet Russia, providing a comprehensive view into an area rarely explored within migration scholarship.

Fragile Migration Rights develops a comprehensive theoretical framework to analyse this complex subject. It is essential reading for students and academics from a range of disciplines including criminology, human rights, migration studies, and political science.


"Fragile Migration Rights is a must-read for scholars of contemporary migration and migration policy. Focusing on an area of the world that has received woefully little attention in the immigration literature, it is descriptively rich, analytically astute, and beautifully written."

Kitty Calavita, Chancellor's Professor Emerita of Criminology, Law and Society at the University of California , USA.

"Matthew Light does a masterful job in interpreting and explaining Russia’s byzantine migration policy. He begins with his own personal experiences with Russian migration authorities, something that all of us Russian researchers have encountered, before explaining the history of migration controls during the Soviet and post-Soviet eras in Russia. The study will appeal to those interested in a better understanding of contemporary Russian society and to those interested in the migration policy of an emerging migration destination."

Timothy Heleniak, Department of Geography, George Washington University, USA

"In this comprehensive study of migration policy in post-Soviet Russia, Light demonstrates convincingly that the state falls well short of its stated commitment to human rights and the rule of law. On the contrary, in the realm of migration policy the Russian state is disorderly, fragmented, and frequently corrupt. Light shows how a combination of national conditions and policies, widely varying regional practices, and arbitrary behavior by local officials has made not only immigrants, but Russian citizens seeking to relocate within their own country, vulnerable to a crazy quilt of rules and procedures. Well-written and meticulously researched, and with illuminating comparisons to the United States and other countries, Fragile Migration Rights is an important and welcome contribution."

Brian D. Taylor, Director of Centre of European Studies, Syracuse University, USA

"This book makes an important and timely contribution to the study of migration and migration policies in post-Soviet Russia. Building on original research in several Russian regions, the book developed a sophisticated four-level model for explaining the "post-Soviet paradox" - Russia's restrictive migration policy towards post-Soviet immigrants despite Russia's demographic crisis - as well as puzzling variation in receptivity to immigrants among comparable Russian regions. Light's book is especially valuable for embracing and uncovering complex causality, including informal power and institutional relations, informing Russian immigration policies at the federal and local levels, and for showing how "pervasive informalization" of Russian migration policies results in a migration regime that has distinct features not present in either liberal capitalist states or in authoritarian states elsewhere."

Oxana Shevel, Department of Political Science, Tufts University, USA

Table of Contents

1. Introduction 2. Migration Controls in the Soviet Union 3. Post-Soviet Migration Trends and Policies 4. Migration Controls in Contemporary Moscow 5. Belgorod Oblast 6. Krasnodar and Stavropol 7. Migration Policy in Russia Since 2006 8. Russian Migration Policy in Comparative Perspective

About the Author

Matthew Light is Associate Professor of Criminology and Sociolegal Studies at the University of Toronto, Canada.

About the Series

Routledge Studies in Criminal Justice, Borders and Citizenship

Globalizing forces have had a profound impact on the nature of contemporary criminal justice and law more generally. This is evident in the increasing salience of borders and mobility in the production of illegality and social exclusion. Immigration and its control are highly charged topics in contemporary crime policy and politics. In the past two decades such matters have become subjects of extensive scholarly analysis throughout the social sciences. Though criminology has been a relative latecomer to this body of work, it is now possible to speak of an emerging ‘criminology of mobility.

Routledge Studies in Criminal Justice, Borders and Citizenship showcases contemporary studies that connect criminological scholarship to migration studies and explores the intellectual resonances between the two. It provides an opportunity to reflect on the theoretical and methodological challenges posed by mass mobility and its control. By doing that, it aims to chart an intellectual space and establish a theoretical tradition within criminology to house scholars of immigration control, who have traditionally published either in general criminological or in anthropological, sociological, refugee studies, human rights and other publications.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Criminology
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Emigration & Immigration