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A Brief History of Migration and Remittances in Ukraine

Throughout its history, Ukraine has been caught in the crossfire of clashing civilizations, a phenomenon that has deeply marked the country’s identity. Even its Proto-Slavic name, “Ukraine,” means “borderland.”

At its historical height, Ukraine had become the center of the largest and most powerful European state, Kyvian Rus, which set the foundation for modern-day Ukrainian culture. And although the independent state only lasted from around the year 880 to the early 13th century, Ukraine remains a strategic convergence point in the East.

After fending off those looking to profit from its location, Ukraine declared its independence in 1918, but was absorbed by the Soviet Union shortly thereafter. At last, with the fall of Soviet Russia, Ukraine gained its permanent independence on August 24, 1991.

To honor Ukraine’s 28th birthday, let’s take a look at the country’s relationship with migration and remittances.

Ukrainian migration

Although the most recent statisticsreport 5.9 million Ukrainians living abroad, there is reason to believe the number is much higher.

For instance, despite a heavy inflow of immigrants, Ukraine’s population has decreased from 51,838,500 to 42,153,200 in the past 30 years.

In 2017, the World Bank observed a 22% jump in remittances from US$9.47 billion in 2016 to US$12 billion, suggesting a parallel increase in Ukrainian expatriates.

Historically, the most popular destinations for Ukrainians have been the Russian Federation (nearly 3 million), the United States (376,000) and Kazakhstan (245,000). However, following a simplification of visa issuing procedures, Poland and Czech Republic are becoming prominent locations for Ukrainian migrants. The most compelling evidence is from 2017,when 81.7% of work visas issued in Poland were granted to Ukrainian nationals.

At the same time, an estimate of 5 million immigrants are currently residing in Ukraine, the majority hailing from the Russian Federation (nearly 3.5 million), Belarus (258,000) and Kazakhstan (234,000).

According to the Migration Data Portal, Ukraine has a fair migration governance system. While there is still room for growth regarding crisis-related displacement and university fees for internationals, there are many laws already put in place that preserve the integrity of immigrants from access to social security to affordable primary and secondary education.

The impact of remittances in Ukraine

Ukraine received $14.4 billion in remittances last year, equating to 11.4% of the country’s GDP, according to the World Bank. Unsurprisingly, most of these remittances originated in the Russian Federation (over US$4 billion), followed by the United States (US$629 million) and Germany (US$369 million).

However, Ukraine is also an important source of remittances for countries like Moldova (US$249 million), Georgia (US$145 million) and Belarus (US$184 million). On top of that, Ukraine residents also manage to send back US$2.5 billion to the Russian Federation and US$259 million to Germany.

This shows a symbiotic relationship between sending and receiving destinations, which in turn could indicate a larger convergence between Eastern Europeans than the region's history would have us believe.


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