Emma Rimpiläinen is a Dphil student at the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology. Her research focuses on mass displacement caused by the war in Donbas, Eastern Ukraine, and examines how the people displaced by the violence there navigate the landscapes of legal ambiguity in Russia and Ukraine. Mass displacement in this case is particularly interesting, since Eastern Ukraine is a region where the international border has thus far been relatively insignificant to local economies, people, and their understanding of their rights to movement. Among the forced migrants who ended up in Russia following the outbreak of violence, there is a sense that their movement is legitimate regardless of migration law stipulating maximum 90 days’ stay within 180 days: documents should be made to match the person’s movements, and not the other way around. In Ukraine, a propiska (registration stamp) from the Donbas region sometimes serves as reason to deny internally displaced people employment or housing, especially in the capital Kyiv. In both countries, there is a clear intertwining of forced migration and labour migration: people having to flee Donbas because of war often gravitate towards St Petersburg, Moscow, and Kyiv, where there are more employment opportunities.
Some research questions these observations evoke include: How do forced migrants from Donbas navigate legal ambiguities in Ukraine and Russia? How do they make sense of their own movement? What are forced migrants’ typical routes inside or between Ukraine and Russia, if such exist? How do the states of Russia and Ukraine relate to migration from Donbas, and what might their attitudes mean for our understanding of migration regimes, borders, and states in the post-socialist space?