The article analyzes the evolution of Russian migration policy vis-à-vis national security thinking in a historical perspective. The idea put forward is that Russian migration policy is built on the early Soviet experiences of population control, in which ‘national security’ was an essential component of policy developments. In today’s conditions, the interconnectedness of transnational security challenges, such as large-scale migration, is an important factor that officially motivates Russia to emphasize pragmatic institutional choices. Russia has followed the global trend of securitization of legislation and administrative policies underlying the re-emergence of national security as an important policy framework. This ambitious framework is constrained by unfinished institutional changes and legacies rooted in the Soviet past. Migration continues to be an arena of policy-making where different interests override each other. Russian migration policy can best be described as an attempt to find a balance between economic incentives and security concerns, or between institutional pathologies and recycled dysfunctions and the need for modernization.