Russians Flock to Central Asia

Fears of price rises, unemployment and accommodation shortages as hundreds of thousands seek to avoid military service.

Russians Flock to Central Asia

Fears of price rises, unemployment and accommodation shortages as hundreds of thousands seek to avoid military service.

A residential building in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.
A residential building in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. ©
Saturday, 15 October, 2022


The Central Asian Bureau for Analytical Reporting is a project of IWPR

The streets, cafes and restaurants of the Tajik capital Dushanbe seem filled with Russian visitors these days.

In the wake of President Vladimir Putin’s announcement of partial mobilisation, huge numbers have left Russia to avoid military service.

Accommodation in the city is in short supply, with most hotels filled with young Russians who plan to stay for at least a month.

“There are many visitors, and we have no vacant rooms,” said the manager of one Dushanbe hotel. “Many guests have arrived from Russia. There are young people and families among them.”

Rental prices have also increased by around 20 per cent. In September, the minimum cost of a single-room apartment on the outskirts of Dushanbe was 100-200 dollars. It is now 300 dollars or more, whereas the rental price of a central Dushanbe one-room apartment increased from 300 to 800 dollars.

It's a pattern being repeated across Central Asia, as Russians seek a quick visa-free exit to dodge army service.

Most intend to move on to a third country, or plan to return to Russia when the situation is calmer. Nonetheless, there are concerns that in the short term at least, the influx will fuel rising prices, accommodation shortages and unemployment.

In the first days of mobilisation, flights from Moscow to Almaty and Bishkek rose tenfold in price. According to the Aviasales portal, a one-way air ticket cost nearly 3,700 thousand dollars. The price of Ural Airlines tickets from Moscow to Dushanbe increased up to 1,750 dollars. A Moscow-Tashkent flight which used to cost 200-250 dollars maximum reached 130 million sum (over 10,000 dollars), although prices have since returned almost to their previous level.

The Russians also drive up prices in the countries they arrive to.

“The newcomers consume food, household items, and also rent or buy apartments,” said Kyrgyz economist Nurgul Akimova. “There will be more imported goods on the shelves if they are in high demand. If domestic goods are in high demand, more will be sold. Public catering, cafes and restaurants will also be in high demand.”

According to official statistics, in January-July Kyrgyzstan’s retail sales increased by 25.3 per cent against the same period last year, while market services rose by 36.4 per cent.

“Faced with solvent people who can buy everything at expensive prices, retailers can put up prices. It will affect those who buy goods but whose income did not change, so the products they used to consume previously will be less affordable,” Akimova said.

The property market also faces a shortage of rental apartments and hotel rooms.

According to official data, almost 10,500 Russians registered in Kyrgyzstan between September 21 and October 3.

One urban real estate broker, who asked to remain anonymous, said that prices and demand for accommodation had doubled.

“One-room apartments that we used to rent out for 15,000 som (187 dollars) today are promptly leased for 30,000 som (374 dollars). Today it’s almost impossible to find a one-room apartment for a price below 23-25,000 som (287-312 dollars).”

Even nigher numbers of Russians are heading to Kazakstan, the largest country in Central Asia. According to the interior ministry, over 200,000 Russian citizens entered the country since September 21, although nearly 147,000 moved on to neighbouring countries.

“The mass migration of Russians definitely leads to rent increases. It’s not good news for an ordinary Kazakstani who is planning to buy or rent an apartment,” said economist Daniyar Akhmetov.

Tenants report difficulties finding affordable accommodation. Astana resident Ainur Ilautdinova has rented a two-room city centre apartment with a colleague since January 2022. But after the mobilisation in Russia, the owner told them that from November the rent would rise from 190,000 tenge (400 dollars) to 260,000 tenge (550 dollars).

“We cannot legally complain about his actions as we had previously signed the contract for six months only,” she said. “Now we are desperately looking for a new apartment because the rent hits us hard compared to our salaries.”

According to real estate realtor Azat Smagulov, the property market in Kazakstan is in turmoil, with prices surging by almost one-and-a-half times.

“It’s true not only for Astana and Almaty, but also for regional cities at the boundary with Russia. When I tell current prices to my clients from Astana, they say they cannot afford to pay such amounts because their salaries are 180-200,000 (378-420 dollars) on average,” he said.


There is no official data available in Uzbekistan on the number of Russians who arrived after mobilisation was announced. Some economists estimate that there are 170-180,000 Russian newcomers, including those who arrived in the country right after the full-scale invasion of Ukraine began.

Artyom, a Russian citizen, arrived in Uzbekistan with his family in April. They had initially planned to remain for a month and then move on, but subsequently decided to stay.

“I have a remote job, so it makes no difference for me where I work from. The rest is fine with us. The climate is warm, the people are friendly, and the food is delicious. Of course, we want to go home, but circumstances dictate otherwise,” he said.

Hotels and hostels in Tashkent are overcrowded, and prices have soared. Rental fees for apartments and houses have increased several times in the last two weeks.

In summer, a two-room city centre apartment could be rented for 400 dollars; now it costs up to 1,500 dollars, and landlords are demanding two or three months rent in advance.

Anastasia, a Tashkent-based realtor, said rental prices had surged in late September as a direct result of the Russian influx.

“Most of them want to rent a place in the city centre because the infrastructure is always the best here,” she said, adding, “In spring, one could easily find an apartment for 600 dollars, but now it is almost impossible.”

Some fear the effects the massive flow of Russian citizens to Central Asian states could have on employment.

“The influx of ‘new’ citizens soon will cause a problem in the labour market,” said Kazak economist Daniyar Akhmetov. “There will be competition for jobs, and to some degree Russian specialists may be more qualified than local staff. It’s clear that relocation and emigration from the neighbouring country can overheat the labour market.”

Others, however, argue that the Russian newcomers bring business and capital resources with them.

“Today we see that there is an oversupply of labour force in Central Asia,” said Kyrgyzstan-based political analyst Denis Berdakov. “But the paradox is that we have an oversupply of non-qualified resources who don’t have expertise and skills. And it is virtually impossible to find a good welder in Bishkek, or specialist doctors, teachers of exact sciences, linguists, technologists, etc.”

Kazak economist Madi Kusherbayev agreed that the Russian newcomers could contribute to the country’s economy, if successfully integrated into society.

“These are rather educated, active middle-class people,” he said. “The sphere of services will recover with the large influx of money. The massive inflow of Russians will do good to service and management companies.”

Uzbek economist Abdulla Abdukadirov argued that this could in fact lead to regional growth, and argued the new arrivals should be welcomed..

He said, “I see benefits from the influx of the significant number of defectors, who do not want to die for some dubious ideas, or don’t support aggression in any form.”

This publication was prepared under the "Amplify, Verify, Engage (AVE) Project" implemented with the financial support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Norway.

Central Asia
Army, Life, Economy
Frontline Updates
Support local journalists