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Emigrationism is a type of social movement favoring migration as a political tool. Typically, political migration is in one of two classes, private or government, depending on who encourages the migration.

Political migrations differs from other migrations by attempting to change aspects of a political system. These changes are accomplished by modifying the demographics of a specific region. The focus on demographics necessitates an emphasis on migration towards low-population regions or artificially creating high-population regions.

Private political migrations[edit]

Private political migration includes efforts by individuals or organizations to migrate to a specified location. Although the detailed goals of these migrations vary widely, the trend is migration towards greater private liberty and flight from state persecution, most often in the face of crackdowns or after failed uprisings.


United States[edit]

During the 17th and 18th centuries, Europeans migrated to the United States to obtain greater political and religious freedom. Contemporary European laws strongly favored official state religions. Members of non-sanctioned religious sects became victims of persecution and sought escape in the New World. Early Puritans at Massachusetts Bay repeated this pattern, expelling Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson, who founded colonies in what was to become Rhode Island.

After US independence, political migration would be a central feature of American civic life, generally occurring in waves - first after failed revolutions (1848, 1905) and later after successful ones (Russia, Cuba, Vietnam, others).

The western frontiers of the United States continued to draw persons seeking greater religious and political liberty. The westward migration of the Latter-day Saints is the most prominent example in U.S. history.

Other migrations have sought broader rights for ethnic minorities. For example, in the 1880s, Edward P. McCabe promoted a movement to establish a majority-black state in Oklahoma. The movement was met with racism and the establishment of Jim Crow laws in that state.

The US was the single biggest beneficiary of emigration in the face of increasingly severe, violent, and state-sanctioned anti-Semitism in the 19th and early 20th centuries, as well as flight by survivors of the Holocaust.


In the aftermath of the American Civil War, approximately 20,000 former supporters of the Confederate cause emigrated to Brazil, where at the time slavery was still legal. While some of the emigrees returned to the United States, others became Brazilian citizens. Their descendants are known as Confederados.

Central and Eastern Europe[edit]

After World War II, Central and Eastern Europe was under the influence of the Soviet Union, and authoritarian culture and economic stagnation would become the rule. Economic and political motivation existed to flee the Eastern Bloc for the West, and millions did so.

The situation in East Germany provides a microcosm of the greater phenomenon. Between 1949 and 1961, approximately 2.2 million people (more than 10% of the population) migrated from East Germany to West Germany. In response to this private political migration, the East German government constructed the Berlin Wall and a border system to prevent outward migration. These systems effectively stemmed the private westward migration (though several thousands a year did still find their way across the border) until August 1989 when Hungary removed its border restrictions with Austria providing a viable route for the private political migration of East Germans. Soon thereafter, the East German border was reopened and the Berlin Wall destroyed.

While the reciprocal phenomenon was mainly limited to spies and radicals postwar, in the pre-World War II period flight to the Soviet Union was reasonably common among revolutionary communists and other leftists, as well as members of smaller, subnational groups with little hope of revolutionary success at home, the most noteworthy of which being African-Americans.

It is because of this tendency that Kim Jong-Il was born in the USSR.

Freedom projects[edit]

The foundation of modern freedom projects is the recognition that democratic political systems may be influenced by concentrated, unified voters. If persons with similar political ideology migrate enough people to a specific region they will obtain political influence in the region, thus enabling them to enact their political goals.

Such projects differ in the geographic scale of the target region: town, county, state, nation. However, they tend to focus on regions with low populations, low voter registration, low voter turnout and high sympathy for the project's goals. All four criteria lower the number of migrants the project must rally in order to obtain "success" - a vital requirement, as freedom projects have been most attractive to organizations with extreme political goals and small memberships, e.g., the Libertarian Party and Christian dominionists.

Government political migrations[edit]

See also: Colonization

Government political migration includes efforts by government entities to relocate persons to geographic regions favored by a government. The motivation for such relocations generally comes from internal political pressures and the migrations are hoped to relieve the causes of those pressures. The goals may include:

  • establishing power in a disputed territory
  • encouraging economic development
  • relieving urban pressures



In addition to state migration policies by Germany, the Russian Empire - most actively under Peter I and Catherine the Great - encouraged German settlement within its borders for various reasons, with the two tsars mentioned playing respectively an accessory role in the settlement of Baltic Germans and a primary role in the settlement of Volga Germans. Both settlements more or less ended after the fall of Nazi Germany.

The formation of the German Empire increased dramatically the amount of human and financial capital available to the Berlin government; while the Kingdom of Prussia had generally encouraged settlement in East Prussia, settlement there and more generally in Prussia's Slavic eastern marches was greatly encouraged by the Empire and represented a core element of Imperial policy. After the German Revolution, the Weimar government's conservative parties demanded with varying urgency new settlement in and aid for existing landholders in East Prussia, a policy known as osthilfe.

Following the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 Germany lost approximately one sixth of its arable land to surrounding nations. That loss combined with losing its overseas territories made the population density of post-WWI Germany (including its colonies) 97 per square kilometer. In contrast the population density of England (including its colonies) was less than 1 per square kilometer (however, the disparity in population density excluding the colonies was much less).

This population disparity gave rise to the Nazi policy of Lebensraum ("living space") which demanded that Germany obtain land for the settlement of German peoples. The long-term goals of the lebensraum policy were a type of government political migration focused on moving Germans from the heart of Germany to other regions.

An intermediate step in the implementation of lebensraum was a forced government political migration of Jews from rural areas to concentrated urban centers (ghettos) thus preparing the countryside for the future migration of Germans. These ghettos, along with Nazi ideas about "racial hygiene," lead to the genocide of Jews and others in concentration camps.


The political pressure inspiring Indonesia's Transmigration Program was the disparity in population distribution between the nation's 17,000 islands. The island of Java encompasses only 6.8% of Indonesia's land area, yet 48.5% of its population.

Beginning with the Dutch in the early 20th century and continuing until August 2000, the Transmigration Program migrated over six million people from Java to other islands in the country. The migration did not significantly reduce the population density of Java. For example, if Java were an independent nation, it would be the eighth most densely populated nation in the world at 863 people per square kilometer. Removing 6 million people from the island (using 2003 population figures) would not change its world ranking.

United States[edit]

The policy of the United States towards the American Indians is another example of government-sponsored migration because of population density concerns and the availability of arable land. During the 19th century, the population of the United States moved westward in pursuit of Manifest Destiny thereby increasing conflict between new settlers and the existing American Indian populations. These conflicts created a perception among settlers — and the United States generally — that there was a shortage of arable land conveniently available for settlement.

To assuage these concerns, many politicians supported Indian removal, causing incidents such as the Trail of Tears and the Long Walk. Indian Removal involved forcing Indians from their homes, confiscating their property and relocating them to designated territories such as the Indian territory and later Indian reservations.

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