An important advantage of Kazakhstan is that Russians could come without a visa and even just with their internal passport. True, entry with a foreign passport is useful in various interactions with government agencies and banks, as a passport stamp serves as confirmation of legal entry.
Russian citizens can stay in Kazakhstan without special permission for 90 days, and since Kazakhstan is a member of the Eurasian Economic Union, it is easy for a Russian to get a job or open a business here and then receive a temporary residence permit for a year, which can then be extended indefinitely. The permit can be turned into the equivalent of a green card for a period of 10 years, though the foreign citizen must demonstrate his financial security. The amount is about $9,000 – much less than in many other countries.
Obtaining citizenship is more difficult, and dual citizenship is not allowed – to become a citizen of Kazakhstan, you must give up other passports. The legal framework for emigration, coupled with a relatively high level of economic and urban development (at least in the large cities) and the prevalence of the Russian language, should have made Kazakhstan the main destination for Russians who hastily left the country, especially those with fairly high qualifications. But Kazakhstan was chosen by only a few: people who had business or family connections to the country and people who understood the advantages of working in Kazakhstan – in particular, due to the so-called Astana International Financial Center, a special jurisdiction based on British law that offers concessions to financial-sector businesses, as well as the Astana Hub, which supports IT businesses.
Based on conversations with Russians who left for various countries during the spring wave, it can be said that they knew little about Kazakhstan – except for the vague idea that Central Asia as a whole is underdeveloped and extremely undemocratic. Unlike Kazakhstan, the South Caucasian countries and Turkey, where many Russians are used to spending holidays, are seen as comfortable and hospitable countries.
The only fresh memory of Kazakhstan was the January riots, which were fairly well publicized in Russia and added, on top of the vague idea of Kazakhstan being an undemocratic regime, a sense that the country was not a safe place.Second wave
After the “partial mobilization” was announced in Russia, a stream of Russians seeking to dodge the draft poured into Kazakhstan. An immigration official estimated
that between September 21 and October 19, 420,000 Russians entered Kazakhstan, with 310,000 leaving for other countries. By mid-November, according to various estimates, slightly less than 100,000 remained in Kazakhstan. Unlike the spring-summer emigrants, whose move more resembled a relocation – they had the opportunity to at least partially think through how to arrange their life in a new country – for those fleeing from the mobilization, the main thing was getting out of Russia, while the importance of other questions faded.
There was no choice for these Russians: tickets to countries where they could go were instantly sold out, and the few remaining tickets cost an arm and a leg. Thus, the move to Kazakhstan was determined by the long land border with road and rail links and the possibility of entry without a foreign passport.
However, the infrastructure of the border crossings wasn’t designed for such flows, and many had to queue for several days without any conveniences. In addition, the waiting was often accompanied by conflicts with local residents on both sides of the border, as for them, like freight carriers, the huge cluster of people and cars at the border was an unpleasant surprise.
Once in Kazakhstan, many Russians tried to stay for a while in small towns near the border like Aktobe, Kostanay, Uralsk and Petropavlovsk, among other smaller ones. The capacity of these places to shelter them was quickly exhausted: hotels and rented apartments were booked up.