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The Pedagogical Institute pro-
vided training not only for educators, but also for city
law-enforcement agencies. Because of the TOGPI
closure, the opportunities to obtain higher educa-
tion dropped dramatically for all Angren residents.
A branch of the Navoi Mining and Metallurgical
Institute operates in Almalyq, forty-five kilometers
Overall, higher education in Uzbekistan is grad-
ually becoming elitist, as the system of stipends acts
on a case-by-case basis and the majority of students
enroll on a contract basis, with a high tuition fee. In
this system, only those who can afford to pay tuition
get education and most of the Russian-speaking pop-
ulation of Angren— industrial workers, teachers,
drivers, etc.—miss out on such opportunities. It must
be noted that it is this ‘closed’ system of higher edu-
cation that acts as a major factor pushing the mid-
dle-aged Russian-speaking residents to participate in
the repatriation program in Russia, where access to
higher education is significantly easier.
During twenty-three years of independence,
dramatic changes have occurred in Angren’s urban
space, including shifting ethnic composition and
transformation of the industrial and manufactur-
ing sector, but the use of Russian in the public space
seems largely unchanged. This phenomenon can be
explained by the functional stability of the Russian
language in industrial production.
This is confirmed by three interviews recorded
with the employees of Angren’s leading industrial en-
terprises. A driver for a local logistics company con-
firmed that internal documentation is kept entirely
An electrician from one of Angren’s
gold-processing plants also confirmed that all inter-
nal documentation is compiled in Russian, and that
company regulations are also maintained in Russian:
“For example, I worked in energy management. All
negotiations there between the controllers had been
led in Russian. Because a dispatcher does not know
many electrical terms in Uzbek, while he, for exam-
ple, must pass the instruction to disable or enable
any line, his colleague may not perceive the Uzbek
properly, can make a mess and may bring the peo-
ple under death, so everybody is forced to speak in
Elsewhere in that interview the following
exchange took place:
A: “My whole shift must be fixed in the log.”
Yu.Ts.: “In Russian?”
A.: “In Russian, yes, and Uzbek shift, who work with me,
they also write in Russian. Firstly, nothing is recorded in
Uzbek. Secondly, we have two Russians, one Tatar, and
three Uzbeks. They write in bad Russian, but this is Russian.
They usually can write everything in Russian. He writes in
bad language and it is funny to read, of course, when you
take the shift, but this is clearer than their Uzbek.”
The third example is related to the activities of an em-
ployee from an Angren coal mine. He too confirms
that the managers give all commands to load and un-
load the coal in Russian and that the technical docu-
mentation is compiled entirely in Russian.
Therefore, since Angren retains its industri-
al status, employees of big enterprises, including
Uzbeks and Tajiks, must be bilingual. With the on-
going modernization of local industries, the demand
for Russian will probably increase as the Russian lan-
guage remains the language of the industrial world.
In this regard, it would be useful to further investi-
gate the issues surrounding new businesses built in
the Angren industrial zone after 2012. In what lan-
guage would production be directed in the new fa-
cilities? For example, a cardboard factory purchased
a huge workshop and new equipment, but while
the project was supervised by Czech entrepreneurs,
the head engineers were invited from Novosibirsk,
To conclude, it is worth noting that, despite the
Uzbekification of all spheres of public life and the
introduction of the Uzbek language in the official
documentation, Russian retained its central position
in the public space of Angren. William Fierman sug-
gests that the Russian language in Central Asia plays
a much more important role than in the Baltic states
or even the South Caucasus, where the Russian pop-
22 M. Muhamedov, “Kuda teper’ podat’sya abiturientam? Nakanune vstupitelnykh ekzamenov zakryt Tashkentskiy oblastnoy gosudarstvennyy peda-
gogicheskiy institut,” Centralasia.ru, July 12, 2011, http://www.centrasia.ru/newsA.php?st= 1310494980.
23 Author’s field materials. Angren, March 28, 2013.
24 Author’s field materials. Angren, March 25, 2013.
25 Author’s field materials. Angren, August 9, 2013.
Evolution of Russian Language in the Urban Space of Tashkent Region
ulation is small.
Tightening immigration legislation
in Russia, in particular a requirement demanding
Russian-language proficiency for migrant work-
ers, will further consolidate the perception that is
still valuable to learn Russian. These changes entail
shifts in values and priorities, as a choice for the fu-
ture becomes associated with obtaining education in
Russian. As a result, the cities of the Tashkent region
may preserve a Russian information and communi-
cation environment even in the context of a ‘nation-
26 W. Fierman, “Russian in Post-Soviet Central Asia: A Comparison with the States of the Baltic and South Caucasus,” Europe-Asia Studies 64, no. 6
Emigration of “crème de la crème “ in Uzbekistan.
A gender Perspective
International migration displays two interesting
tendencies: the increasing migration of the highly
skilled workforce and the growing feminization of
This type of human capital flight
mostly affects developing and low-income coun-
It is also an important challenge faced by
Central Asian states. The World Bank estimates that
the total number of emigrants from Uzbekistan since
1991 is 2 million people.
However, exact statistics
are not available, and there is speculation that the
real number of migrants is closer to 6 million. Data
for the level of education of emigrants is similarly
unreliable. The World Bank has estimated that one
in three Uzbeks living abroad has a tertiary educa-
tion degree. This would mean that around 1 million
Uzbeks with higher education live outside the coun-
That said, Docquier and Rapoport
between 1990 and 2000 the highly skilled emigration
rate more than doubled in eight post-Soviet coun-
tries, with Uzbekistan displaying one of the highest
rates (59.5%), of highly skilled emigrants of the total
The gender aspect of highly skilled emigration
has only recently started to receive attention.
the 1990s, experts have witnessed a steady increase
of women emigrating. The literature explains this in
terms of the transformation of labor, changing gen-
der roles, including increased gender equality.
said, the study of highly skilled female migration is
complicated because of the lack of reliable statistics
and harmonized gender-disaggregated data on emi-
grants’ educational background.
This paper examines the consequences of the em-
igration of the “crème de la crème” from Uzbekistan.
I use the “brain drain/brain gain” debate as my analyti-
cal framework. The first section of this paper describes
the methodology of my study. The second section ex-
plains why it is important to examine highly skilled
female emigration in Uzbekistan. Drawing on the
empirical data, I collected through a series of in-depth
interviews, I examine both negative and positive con-
sequences of the emigration of highly skilled profes-
sionals. The final section concludes with recommen-
dations on how to turn “brain drain” into “brain gain.”
1 Marina Kayumova (Uzbekistan) has considerable international work experience, during which she was exposed to a variety of projects within
public and private sectors. Her previous assignments include work in GSM Association, European Parliament and Patent Office. She has also
worked as a strategy consultant for SMEs. Marina holds MPhil degree in Innovation, Strategy and Organization from the University of Cambridge
and BA from the University of Westminster. She also received Masters in International Relations from the European Institute, where she explored
EU-Russia and Central Asia relations in the domain of energy cooperation.
2 J. Dumont, J. Martin, and G. Spielvogel, “Women on the Move: The Neglected Gender Dimension of the Brain Drain,” IZA Discussion Paper
No. 2920. Institute for the Study of Labour (IZA), Bonn, 2007.
3 Y. Kuznetsov and C. Sabel, “International Migration of Talent, Diaspora Networks, and Development: Overview of Main Issues,” in Y. Kuznetsov,
ed., Diaspora Networks and the International Migration of Skills, How Countries can Draw on Their Talent Abroad (Washington, D.C.: The
International Bank for Reconstruction and Development/The World Bank, 2006), 3–19; F. Docquier and H. Rapoport, “Quantifying the Impact of
Highly Skilled Emigration on Developing Countries,” in T. Boeri, H. Brucker, F. Docquier, and H. Rapoport, eds., Brain Drain and Brain Gain: The
Global Competition to Attract High-Skilled Migrants (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), 209–302.
4 “Country Partnership Strategy for the Republic of Uzbekistan,” Report No. 65028-UZ. World Bank, Washington, D.C., 2011.
5 “Uzbekistan. Modernizing Tertiary Education,” Report No. 88606-UZ. World Bank, Washington, D.C., 2014.
6 Docquier and Rapoport, “Quantifying the Impact of Highly Skilled Emigration on Developing Countries.”
7 F. Docquier and A. Marfouk, “International Migration by Educational Attainment, 1990-2000,” in Ç. Özden and M. Schiff, eds., International
Migration, Remittances and the Brain Drain (Washington, D.C.: World Bank and Palgrave Macmillan, 2006), 151–99.
8 N. M. Nejad and A. T. Young, “Female Brain Drains and Women’s Rights Gaps: A Gravity Model Analysis of Bilateral Migration Flows,” IZA
Discussion Paper No. 8067. Institute for the Study of Labour (IZA), Bonn, March 2014, http://ftp.iza.org/dp8067.pdf.
9 L. Beneria, C. Deere and N. Kabeer, “Gender and International Migration: Globalization, Development and Governance,” in L. Oso and N. Ribas-
Mateos, eds., The International Handbook on Gender, Migration and Transnationalism: Global and Development Perspectives (Cheltenham, UK;
Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar Publishing Limited, 2013), 45–66.
10 J. Dumont, J. Martin, and G. Spielvogel, “Women on the Move: The Neglected Gender Dimension of the Brain Drain,” IZA Discussion Paper No.
2920. Institute for the Study of Labour (IZA), Bonn, 2007; Beneria, Deere, and Kabeer, “Gender and International Migration”; Docquier and
Marfouk, “International Migration by Educational Attainment.”
Emigration of “Crème de la Crème “ in Uzbekistan. A Gender Perspective
This study is based on 18 in-depth interviews with
emigrants from Uzbekistan holding PhD degrees in
natural (physics, chemistry, biology), social (eco-
nomics, education, law, political science) and ap-
plied sciences (medicine, engineering, computer sci-
The pool of respondents have the following
• They have resided outside of Uzbekistan for
4 to 19 years.
• The majority of them left Uzbekistan, on their
own, without their family members.
• All of them still have family members in
• Most of the respondents got their under-
graduate education in Uzbekistan and their
Master and PhD degrees abroad.
• Most of the respondents’ current occupation
is directly relevant to the areas of expertise
obtained in the course of their studies.
The respondents were selected through the use of strat-
ified snowball sampling and through the online net-
work of Uzbek professionals abroad. First contacts were
made through personal networks within immigrant
communities in the UK, Belgium, Germany, France,
Switzerland, the United States, Canada, and Japan.
To control for gender differences, the sample
was composed of an equal number of female and
male respondents. The interviews lasted on aver-
age for about one hour. Although interviews fol-
lowed a semi-structured guide with predetermined
themes that uncovered the behavior and intentions
of the emigrants, we also allowed for a free-flowing
discussion. In order to minimize gender biases, we
initially did not tell the respondents that we focused
on the question of highly skilled female migration in
Uzbekistan. Respondents were informed only at the
very end of the interview. In the interviews we asked
female respondents to reflect on their gender roles.
Our male respondents were also asked to reflect on
their gender roles. In addition, we asked whether if
they had been a woman their situation and motiva-
tions would have been different. This study is to be
seen as a probe that offers some promising avenues
for more in-depth research.
feminization of highly Skilled migration
The increasing number of women emigrating, includ-
ing highly skilled women, has generated a growing in-
terest by scholars and policymakers in the gender di-
mension of migration flows. According to the United
Nations, between 1960 and 2005, the share of women
in international migration increased from 46.8% to
49.6% and outnumbered the number of male emi-
grants from developing countries.
This trend is par-
ticularly noticeable for highly skilled women from de-
found that the average
emigration rate of tertiary-educated women from non-
OECD countries exceeded that of men by 4.5%, where-
as there was no gender gap in emigration rates of men
and women with primary and secondary education.
Those worldwide tendencies also hold true for the
post-Soviet space. The proportion of women emigrants
from the former Soviet Union increased dramatically
over the past 25 years.
Docquier et al.
in 2000 the share of skilled female emigrants from
Central Asia stood at 50.2% as opposed to 46.5% for
their male counterparts. In Central Asia, the increase
of the rate of skilled women emigrating as compared
to the number of skilled men emigrating or the total
number of women emigrating is particulary high.
11 Because of the lack of reliable and comprehensive statistics on the share of female and male emigrants with tertiary degrees, the present study is
based on in-depth interviews.
12 See: Nejad and Young, “Female Brain Drains and Women’s Rights Gaps”; C. Spadavecchia, “Migration of Women from Sub-Saharan Africa to
Europe: The Role of Highly Skilled Women,” Sociología y tecnociencia/Sociology and Technoscience 3, no. 3 (2013): 96–116; J. Bang and A. Mitra,
“Gender bias and the female brain drain,” Applied Economics Letters 18, no. 9 (2011): 829–33; Ç. Özden and I. Neagu, “Immigrant Women’s
Participation and Performance in the US Labor Market,” in A. Morrison, M. Schiff, and M. Sjoblom, eds., The International Migration of Women
(Washington, D.C.: World Bank and Palgrave Macmillan, 2008), 153–83; F. Docquier, A. Marfouk, S. Salomone and K. Sekkat, “Are skilled women
more migratory than skilled men?!,” World Development 40, no. 2 (2010): 251–265.
13 Docquier, Marfouk, Salomone, and Sekkat, “Are skilled women more migratory than skilled men?!”.
14 Dumont, Martin, and Spielvogel, “Women on the Move: The Neglected Gender Dimension of the Brain Drain.”
15 Beneria, Deere, and Kabeer, “Gender and International Migration: Globalization, Development and Governance.”
16 A. Morrison, M. Schiff, and M. Sjoblom, “Overview,” in A. Morrison, M. Schiff, and M. Sjoblom, eds., The International Migration of Women
(Washington, D.C.: World Bank and Palgrave Macmillan, 2008), 1–10.
17 Docquier, Marfouk, Salomone, and Sekkat, “Are skilled women more migratory than skilled men?!”.
18 F. Docquier, L. Lowell, and A. Marfouk, “A Gendered Assessment of the Brain Drain,” IZA Discussion Paper No. 3235. Institute for the Study of
Labour (IZA), Bonn, 2007.
Based on the data of Brücker, Capuano, and
Marfouk I constructed a graph depicting the emigra-
tion of highly skilled labour as a percentage of total
emigrants of Uzbekistan.
The graph clearly depicts the growing number
of women emigrating and the widening gap be-
tween highly skilled female and male emigrants from
Uzbekistan. These statistics suggest the need for an
in-depth analysis of the gendered aspects of highly
skilled emigration in Uzbekistan.
The literature points to two major motivations
for highly skilled women to emigrate:
• Traditional and conservative gender roles,
• The lack of professional opportunities result-
ing from gender inequalities.
Gender differences in migration patterns are most
likely to emerge from gender discrimination in the
country of origin.
Uzbekistan is a country and soci-
ety with very traditional gender roles. Such tradition-
al gender roles are also part of a new “nationalistic”
narrative and a response to “westernization” be it in
a Russian or global variant.
migration is not encouraged and is not in tune with
the image of a “traditional woman.”
respondents who took part in this study, while be-
ing supported by their families in their decision to
independently move away from Uzbekistan, were
also subject to many negative reactions from distant
relatives, friends and acquaintances. To quote one
female participant of the study: “They were trying to
convince me that for a girl from Uzbekistan it is very
important to get married and give birth to a child. If
I left the country, the chances of me getting married
would decrease.” Similarly, another woman explained:
“Some of my relatives were telling my parents: “How
come? You went crazy... How can you allow your un-
19 Ibid., p.15.
20 In 2013, Brücker, Capuano, and Marfouk constructed a dataset of international emigration by origin, gender and education level for the years
1980–2010. The data was compiled through harmonizing national censuses and population registers statistics from 20 OECD receiving countries.
Pre-1991 data for Uzbekistan was derived from the estimation of the immigrant stock from each origin by multiplying the total migration stock
of the Soviet Republic by the gender and skill-specific share of the independent country population over the total Soviet country migration stock.
The database covers only adults over 25 to exclude students.
21 Nejad and Young, “Female Brain Drains and Women’s Rights Gaps.”
22 E. Fayzullaeva, “Labor Migration in Central Asia: Gender Challenges,” in L. Racioppi and K. O. See, Gender Politics in Post-communist Eurasia
(East Lansing, MI: Michigan State University Press, 2009), 237–61; M. Tlostanova, Gender Epistemologies and Eurasian Borderlands (NY: Palgrave
23 A. Cieslik, “Transnational Mobility and Family-Building Decisions: A Case Study of Skilled Polish Migrant Women in the UK,” in Oso and Ribas-
Mateos, eds., The International Handbook on Gender, Migration and Transnationalism, 453–68.
Figure 1. Annual Average Growth Rate of Total/Skilled Stock of Emigrants. Data by Region (1990-2000)
str + N
Women total emig.
Women skilled emig.
Men skilled emig.
Source: Adapted from Docquier et al.
Emigration of “Crème de la Crème “ in Uzbekistan. A Gender Perspective
married daughter to go somewhere abroad to study?”
“If she goes abroad’ she may fall in love, she may nev-
er return, when she comes back to Uzbekistan, it will
be difficult to arrange her marriage because a groom’s
family would not want a bride who is much more edu-
cated than their son.” Even married women were sub-
ject to such opprobrium: “There were too many ac-
cusing remarks when I was leaving... According to our
traditional cultural belief system, a daughter does not
abandon her mother and a wife does not abandon her
husband; it was against the flow. My mother in law is
very traditional they simply do not understand...And I
know what people are saying about me in Uzbekistan.”
In sum, there are strong cultural pressures on
women in Uzbek society to stay put. For many highly
educated women the decision to emigrate is moti-
vated by a desire to escape those conservative social
norms. These norms dictate that women have chil-
dren soon after marriage and that the dominance of
husbands in a household is a given.
In addition, in Uzbekistan, like in many oth-
er post-Soviet Central Asian states, we also see a
return to very traditional, and conservative views
with regard to the roles of men and women in so-
ciety. One female participant of the study explained:
“Life in Uzbekistan is satisfactory for men, because
the whole society is created for men... For many men,
here I should say traditional Uzbek men, it is difficult
to accept knowledgeable women or independent wom-
en. Such a woman can be an intimidating factor for a
man. The space for women is restrictive and that’s why
women leave the country.”
Another woman told us: “In life there are always
gender dynamics. Even in more liberal thinking groups
life is constrained; a woman can’t do this and that
because people will think this and that...people were
asking how my husband was reacting to my career de-
velopment...So my husband became a frame of refer-
ence, they were nurturing a sense of guilt: But it is not
a choice of either career or family−my children never
suffered. I think they win when they see both parents
working. I do not see that they suffer.”
These traditional and unequal cultural gender
norms also translate into unequal economic gender
norms. Indeed, another major reason why highly
qualified women decide to emigrate is the lack of
professional opportunities. The literature shows that
developing countries, including countries with high-
er levels of gender inequalities, are more affected by
highly skilled female emigration. Such countries have
fewer professional opportunities for educated wom-
Studies also show that countries with high fer-
tility rates, restricted access to education for women,
and strong labor market bias towards women face
higher rates of female highly skilled emigration.
Many Uzbek female participants of the study are
convinced that a woman can succeed in Uzbekistan
professionally, but they also agree that she faces many
24 H. Brücker, S. Capuano, and A. Marfouk, “Education, Gender and International Migration: Insights from a Panel-Dataset 1980–2010,” mimeo,
IAB, Nuremberg, 2013.
26 Dumont, Martin, and Spielvogel, “Women on the Move.”
27 Bang and Mitra, “Gender bias and the female brain drain.”
Figure 2. Emigration of Highly-Skilled Labor as a Percentage of Total Emigration Stock for Uzbekistan
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