University students from Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan can return to Russia to continue their studies, but their Tajik, Turkmen, and Uzbek counterparts cannot yet.
Russia’s Ministry of Science and Higher Education issued a statement last week that citizens of “epidemiologically safe countries” as determined by Rospotrebnadzor, the Federal Service for Surveillance on Consumer Rights Protection and Human Wellbeing, would be able to enter Russia and resume their studies.
The list as of March 20 included: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Cuba, Egypt, Ethiopia, Finland, Greece, India, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, the Maldives, Qatar, Serbia, the Seychelles, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland, Tanzania, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Vietnam, and the disputed territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia (which most countries recognize as occupied parts of Georgia, but which Russia views as independent states).
In 2019, there were nearly 300,000 foreign students studying in Russian universities. As the coronavirus pandemic engulfed 2020, many returned to their home countries but were unable to re-enter Russia to resume their studies in-person.
In February 2021, as Russian universities resumed in-person instruction The Moscow Times reported that authorities would be allowing international students to enter the country again, provided they could show two negative COVID-19 tests and flew from countries with with air traffic had resumed. The ICEF Monitor listed the most important source countries of foreign students as “Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, China, Tajikistan, Ukraine, India, Belarus, Azerbaijan, and Kyrgyzstan.”
As of 2018, a third of foreign students in Russia were from Kazakhstan and around a quarter from China. India, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan were also among the top countries.
The list of approved countries has expanded to 25 now, following earlier lists and earlier statements that students would be allowed to return.
Students from Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan remain unable to return to their studies in Russia. The decisions appear based on two items: the resumption of regular bilateral air traffic and Rospotrebnadzor’s determination that a country is “epidemiologically safe.”
According to RFE/RL’s Tajik Service there are around 26,000 Tajik students enrolled at Russian universities. Representatives from the Ministry of Science and Higher Education in Tajikistan to visit Russian universities with campuses in the country told reporters in Dushanbe that the list has “nothing to do with good neighborly relations.” Rospotrebnadzor reportedly sent a delegation to Tajikistan earlier this month and Dushanbe is awaiting its final report, which may pave the way for Tajik students to return to in-person studies.
Online school has proven difficult for many in Central Asia, especially in Tajikistan where internet costs are high and connection quality low.
Tajikistan, which had been late in admitting the presence of the coronavirus in the country last spring, is among the few countries now claiming to have conquered the pandemic. In late January, President Emomali Rahmon declared that Tajikistan was COVID-free. The country has not reported a new case since early January. Turkmenistan, meanwhile, never came around to admitting the virus had penetrated its borders.