According to the World Bank, Tajikistan is more dependent on remittances than any other country in the world. Last year migrant workers sent home the equivalent of 47% of Tajikistan’s GDP. Perhaps half of working-age males are abroad, most in Russia. Kyrgyzstan is third in the World Bank’s rankings, behind Liberia. One-fifth of its workforce are migrant workers.
The economic dependence of these two countries gives their former imperial master great influence. Whenever it is unable to wangle a favourable deal for a military base abroad, or it wants to play up nationalism at home, Russia threatens to introduce visas for Central Asians. And though Russia needs cheap labour, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan need jobs much more. Continue reading