"The Russian Academic Union in Bulgaria" was founded in March 2004 and was registered in the Sofia court as a community with non-profit activity. The Union is the successor of the "Russian Academic Union in Bulgaria", which existed between 1925 and 1944. Members of the Union are either physical persons - current or ex-citizens of USSR or Russia or their inheritors, who have been doing academic work on the territory of Bulgaria, or juridical, who help with the realization of the society goals regardless of their nation or registration places.


Russian-speaking Europe

Comparative characteristics of the communities of the old generation in the different countries and problems of integration

(based on the results of a survey)

The material, proposed for discussion, contains data from a survey conducted in Germany that have been taken as a baseline and are compared with analogous data of two Balkan countries, Bulgaria and Greece and with the summarized data of Bulgaria, Greece, Germany, Finland and Latvia.

Women prevail in the Russian-speaking immigrant communities in the countries of the European Union. Although in Germany their share is considerably smaller compared to the other countries only 66% (compared to Bulgaria, where it is about 90%), nevertheless, it exceeds 50%. The German respondents are considerably older compared to the ones of the other countries. People, aged over 60, account for 85% of the interviewees, while in Bulgaria they are only 37%. There is also considerable difference in the place of residence of the respondents. In Germany, the survey covers only inhabitants of a single town, Essen. In the other countries, the respondents come from different population centres, including capitals. In this context, I would like to underscore again that our survey is not nationally representative for any of the included countries but this applies particularly to Germany, given that the participants in the poll from this country reside in a single town. This is related to the circumstance that, in Germany, the poll was conducted only among the members of a club of Russian-speaking pensioners.

More than half of the respondents are married. In Germany the share of married is the same as in the other countries, 66%. In that country, the divorced and the single among the interviewees is the smallest - 5% and 2%, respectively.

The families of Russian-speaking immigrants in Europe usually have two children. In Germany, such families account for the largest share, 56%. Yet, families with many children are less compared to the other countries only 5%. In Greece, for example, these families are 17%.

The Russian language is native for the majority of the polled immigrants. In Germany, their percentage is 90% being the highest compared to the other countries covered by the survey. Besides, the number of Russian immigrants talking with their children in Russian is the highest in Germany - 71%. Therefore, the immigrants in Germany can definitely be described as having the highest number of Russian-speaking members compared to the other countries. This is so in spite of the fact that the absolute majority of these immigrants are ethnic Germans or Jews.

The polled immigrants have arrived in Germany after the disintegration of the Soviet Union. Asked about the place, from which they have immigrated, 99% of the respondents point out Russia or another country, being a former Soviet republic. Regarding the time of immigration, 98% point out that they have been living in Germany for less than 20 years. This is radically different from the situation in Bulgaria, where the majority has emigrated from the USSR 20 years ago or even earlier.

It should be noted that the Russian-speaking immigrants are well educated. In all survey-covered countries people with higher education account for about 60%. Yet, immigrants residing in Germany set an absolute record in this respect with university graduates accounting for about 80% of all immigrants. This is due to the fact hat more than half of the Russian-speaking immigrants are Russian Jews, who typically acquire university degrees.

There is considerable difference regarding employment as well. If in all countries under review over 30% of the respondents are employed in the public and private sectors altogether (in Greece 27%, in Bulgaria 46%), they are only 2% in Germany. Another typical thing for Germany is that a large share of pensioners reside there 74%. This obviously has to do with the age of the interviewed. We should not forget that 85% of the respondents are aged over 60 either.

The majority of the interviewed immigrants in Germany hold only Russian citizenship or citizenship of a former Soviet republic. In Germany, these immigrants account for 53% of the interviewed. Their share is larger compared to the one in all other countries, including Bulgaria and Greece. For example, in Greece only 15% are nationals of their country of origin. Greece has the highest number of people with dual nationality 50%. In Germany, these people are fewer in number compared to the other countries 24%. Yet the difference from the other countries is not that big. The share of holders of Russian citizenship or citizenship of a former Soviet republic among the children of immigrants in Germany is similar: it equals 37%, while in Bulgaria it is 6% and in Greece 9%. The share of the children of Russian-speaking immigrants in Germany holding only German nationality is minimal at 7% (in Bulgaria children holding only Bulgarian nationality is 56% and in Greece, ones with Greek nationality only is 17%). This fact is related to the German legislation, which allows dual nationality only in exceptional cases.

The absolute majority of the interviewed immigrants in Germany rely on social benefits. Their share exceeds several times the respective number in Bulgaria, Greece and all other countries taken together. Actually, there are no immigrants in Germany relying on salary (from permanent or temporary job). This circumstance is related to the age of the respondents.

The fact that social benefits are the main source of income is logically related to the reasons for the emigration. Better social prospects are a main motive for choosing Germany as country of residence. There is considerable difference between the number of people having pointed out this reason for immigration to Germany and the other countries, in particular, Bulgaria: while in Germany their share is 61%, in Bulgaria it is only 10%. The next most important reason for immigration to Germany is the better political situation and better prospects for the children. In Bulgaria and the other countries, generally, it is the marriage to a national of the respective country. For Greece, a characteristic main reason is re-emigration.

One quarter of the Russian-speaking immigrants has not had serious problems upon immigration. Among the rest, social and psychological problems prevail 53%, followed by communication 46% and financial and economic 46%. In Greece, financial and economic and communication problems are pointed out as the most serious. The same applies to the general indicators for all countries. Cultural and ethnic problems are most rarely pointed by our compatriots.

The German respondents are most satisfied with social insurance and medical services. This is what, respectively, 58% and 52% of them have pointed out in the poll forming the largest share of respondents having given this answer. In Bulgaria and Greece their share is considerably lower. In Bulgaria, the highest number of interviewed are most satisfied with their employment and the holiday options, while in Greece - with the holiday options and medical services. However, in all countries more than half are pleased with their place of residence. This answer has been pointed out by the highest number of respondents in Bulgaria 63% and Germany - 61%.

On relatively rare occasions, our compatriots encounter intolerant attitude towards their relatives or themselves: more than half of the respondents have never experienced such attitude under any circumstances. In Germany, none of the respondents has encountered intolerant attitude in the sphere of administrative services: obtaining citizenship, issues, related to the everyday life and legal consultations. However, the situation is not similar in all countries. For example, in Greece, 21% of the respondents have been faced with intolerant attitude upon obtaining citizenship. A minimal number of the Russian-speaking immigrants in Germany have encountered intolerant attitude upon seeking employment or assessment of their performance at work. This figure is probably influenced by the fact that the respondents are no longer in active employment age. However, there are cases of such attitude in other countries: 23% of the respondents point out that intolerant attitude has been shown towards them. Most often, Russian-speaking immigrants in Germany encounter intolerant attitude upon receiving medical and social services. This is probably related to the fact that they use these services most often. The number of respondents having given this reply is the highest in Germany compared to the other countries covered by the survey. The respondents in Bulgaria, Greece and Germany believe that the intolerant attitude towards them by the local population exceeds a little the average level.

Our compatriots have pointed out the possibility for children to obtain high-quality education and the possibility to travel as the main advantages of the EU membership of their countries of residence. In Germany, the latter circumstance is dominating and is pointed out by 83% of the respondents. Interestingly enough, this applies both to the new EU member-states (Bulgaria) and to the old ones (Greece), as well as to the EU founder-countries (Germany).

It is particularly important for us to be aware of the respondents opinion about the main directions of training for better integration of the immigrants. The majority of the polled believes that it is obligatory to study the language of the country of immigration. Communication skills definitely take the second place in terms of importance in the training of immigrants in Germany. The same applies to Bulgaria and Greece. Only 12% of the interviewed in Germany have pointed out the need of having awareness of legal issues, which compares with 61% in Bulgaria and Greece. The need of enhancing the computer proficiency is pointed out by 51% in Germany, 50% in Bulgaria and 67% in Greece. Regardless of the age, everyone is aware of the need of having computer skills. I think that this has also to do with the possibility of receiving information about the immigrants, particularly in the initial stage.

The Russian-speaking immigrants in Germany are best informed about the national and European immigration policy. Only 33% say they have little information about this issue. Their percentage is considerably higher in Bulgaria 45% and Greece 60%. Obviously, this is related to the fact that Germany is one of the EU founder-countries, has been actively implementing such policy for a long time and sets the trends in this sphere across Europe. However, even in Germany the percentage of people having given such answer is not satisfactory. It is quite awkward that every third person is not aware of his/her main rights and obligations of immigrant.

The language barrier is the main obstacle to the integration of the Russian immigrants in Germany. The representatives of the Russian Diaspora in Greece hold the same opinion. Considerably less people in Bulgaria consider language as the main barrier to integration. Least attention to the awareness of the statutory and legal norms is paid in Germany, where only 12% of the respondents point out the need of such knowledge. However, in Greece, 41% consider this to be a main obstacle to integration.

The need of a national consultative centre for immigrants is pointed out by all polled representatives of the Russian-speaking communities but the ones living in Germany. Obviously, this question was not asked by the organizers of the poll intentionally due to the fact that such centres were set up in Germany long time ago. They have been actively operating and have revealed their advantages.

Our compatriots in Greece show higher political activity compared to the ones in Bulgaria and Germany. Probably, in Germany, this tendency is influenced by the fact that this is the country with the largest percentage of people, who are not eligible voters and are of older age. While about 50% of the eligible voters in Greece participate or will participate in elections, in Germany this share is 25-30%.

About 20% of the interviewed representatives of the Russian-speaking community in Germany consider themselves as citizens of that country. These data differ considerably from the data about Bulgaria, where only 5% consider themselves to be Bulgarian citizens, while in Greece this percentage is 40. At the same time, these, who consider themselves as Russians are about 20% in Germany, 85% in Bulgaria and about 40% in Greece.

The highest percentage of these, who consider themselves as German citizens are the children (in their parents opinion) 34%. The number of children who consider themselves as nationals of the respective country of residence is much higher in Bulgaria (74%) and Greece (63%.). The children of the respondents, who consider themselves as Russians, account for 19% in Germany, 15% in Greece and 14% in Bulgaria. The awareness of being a national of the country of immigration rather than of the native country applies to all other countries. Such tendency is observed although some 70% of the respondents in Bulgaria and Greece and 57% in all countries on the average want to preserve their national and ethnic traditions and hand them down to their children. The percentage of these people is somewhat lower in Germany. There, most of the respondents believe that the national awareness and the observation of the traditions are problems of the children. It is obvious that the parents consider it incorrect to impose their opinion on the children and believe that they should rely on their own perception of the world and understanding of the situation.

The majority of the respondents consider that the immigrants themselves should make more efforts for their adaptation in the country. The number of people holding this opinion is the highest in Greece 93% but lower in Germany 66%. About 70% in all survey-covered countries believe that the local population should be more active in this process as well. Therefore, the representatives of the Russian-speaking community consider their own efforts and the efforts of the receiving country (local population, local and central government) as the most important factors for the success of the integration process.

The respondents in Germany have a highly positive attitude towards the Germans and consider them organized, fair, honest, precise, responsible, friendly, intelligent, educated, well-mannered, communicative and industrious. The Germany population has an expressly tolerant attitude towards immigrants. Only an inconsiderable part of the respondents consider that gluttony and greediness is characteristic only of separate people.

At the same time, the opinion of the Germans about the Russian-speaking immigrants (in their own opinion) is rather unfavourable. They attribute to them mostly negative characteristics: ill-mannered, malicious, hot-tempered, irresponsible, imprecise, impartial and indifferent. Yet, the respondents say that the local population finds some positive characteristics of the Russian immigrants as well: they consider them intelligent, educated, friendly, industrious and cordial.

The conducted survey allows drawing the following conclusions about the elderly part of the Russian-speaking community in Germany:

  • It is predominantly female and of older age compared to the Russian-speaking communities in the other countries. It consists mostly of ethnic Germans or Jews, who immigrated in the post-socialist period.
  • It is multi-national and ethnically incoherent as it does not consist only of citizens of the Russian Federation.
  • Most of its representatives have families with two children; the number of single and divorced is lower compared to the other countries.
  • It includes representatives with higher education but is rather passive economically (obviously, due to the age of the respondents). The majority of the interviewed are pensioners relying on social benefits as a source of subsistence.
  • Unlike the other countries, the expectation about better social conditions has been the main reason for the immigration. The better political situation and better prospects for the children are pointed out as other important reasons.
  • Its representatives are happy with their place of residence and living conditions but - particularly and to a higher extent compared to the other countries by the services in the areas of healthcare and social insurance.
  • Intolerant attitude in any sphere is encountered on fewer occasions compared to the other countries. If this has happened, it has been most often upon receiving medical services and services, related to the social insurance. However, this is without prejudice to their satisfaction with these services.
  • It is politically less active compared to the communities in the other countries.
  • Its representatives have not been faced with particularly serious problems upon immigration. However, the social and psychological and the communication ones are the most serious of those encountered. According to the interviewed, the training of the immigrants should focus namely on overcoming the language barrier and, thence, the communication problems. Unlike the other countries, legal knowledge is considered as the smallest problem in Germany. Obviously, this is a result of the good organization of the work with the immigrants in the country at all levels.
  • It is familiarized with the European integration policy to a higher extent compared to the other countries. There is a clear understanding of the need of joint actions on the part of the immigrants, on the one hand, and, on the other, the local population and the government for successful integration in the new country of residence.
  • There is a definite positive attitude towards the local population in Germany. At the same time, the representatives of the community are rather critical towards themselves assuming that the receiving country does not have a very favourable opinion of them.
  • The possibility to travel and to ensure better education for their children are considered as main advantages of the EU membership by our compatriots in all countries, covered by the survey. This answer is pointed out both by the immigrants in the new and the old member-states, as well as the ones in the founder-countries of the Union.
  • Although Russian is spoken most frequently in the families in Germany, the number of immigrants residing there, who whish to preserve and hand down their national and ethnic traditions is the lowest. As a result, the descendants lose their Russian identity. There is a tendency of transition to a trans-national community.

Contact details:

Email : rasb@mail.ru

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Address: 1113, 12, Nikolai Haitov Str.,

Sofia, Bulgaria