Accepted Paper:

Between hope and despairs: Expectations and disappointments among Kazak repatriates  


Peter Finke (University of Zurich)

Paper long abstract:

This paper deals with a rather specific type of migration, which has in recent years achieved considerable attention, namely ethnic repatriation. In specific, it will look at the case of Kazakstan, which has experienced tremendous demographic shifts in the course of the last decades. Within a period of 25 years, one million ethnic Kazaks moved to their 'historical homeland', following an official invitation by the latter's government. Today, the repatriates make up for some six per cent of the total population, and close to ten per cent of the titular group. The first to come were Kazaks from Mongolia, of which in several waves and counter-movements, roughly sixty per cent have left their country of origin for a variety of reasons. Mostly settling in the northern parts of Kazakstan, which are dominated by Russian-speakers, many of them feel disadvantaged and lacking the support promised to them upon migration. Instead, transnational ties with the kin left behind in Mongolia are often a more vivid part of their social networks.

This paper will investigate the role of hope and it's vanishing during the migration process. In the first place it will address the question of who had hoped for what, and why things did not materialise the way they were supposed to. Obviously, expectations for the migrants had been created by the inviting state, which had it's own hopes with their resettlement. Neither of these have been realistic as time has proven retrospectively. And both sides could be blamed for a certain naïve enthusiasm in the beginning. The situation has changed in the meantime and besides the difficulties of integrating at their new homes, the oralman - as the repatriates are called in Kazakstan - sense a new hopelessness when it comes to the option of a return to Mongolia, although the latter state shows no strong objection to this. But unfulfilled expectations are now understood as failure by both migrants and by those who stayed preventing new hopes to emerge.

Panel ANT-02
Migration between hope and despair: paths of mobility inside and beyond Central Asia