Staunton, June 7 – Twenty-two percent of Russians say they would like to move to a foreign country to live and work, up from only 13 percent in 2009, and an indication that the deteriorating political situation in Russia is forcing not only high profile figures like Gari Kasparov but many others as well to think the unthinkable.
According to a Levada Center poll, the results of which were published yesterday, those who say they are most interested in leaving are precisely the people that Russia needs if it is to develop into a modern economy and polity (levada.ru/06-06-2013/mechty-ob-emigratsii and svpressa.ru/society/article/69062/
Forty-five percent of students surveyed, 38 percent of the entrepreneurs, 33 percent of the employees, and 28 percent of the specialists and homemakers, the Levada survey found, say they would like to move abroad, with the highest figures of all being in Moscow and cities with 100,000 to 500,000 residents and among those who voted for Mikhail Prokhorov and Vladimir Zhirinovsky in the last presidential races.
These attitudes do not mean that the exodus among such Russians is likely to swell anytime soon. On the one hand, 73 percent of the sample indicated that they do not want to leave, a figure that is down from 78 percent in 2009. And on the other, only one percent have actually taken the step of filling out the necessary documents to depart.
But the growing sense among many that they would consider moving abroad reflects the fact that 49 percent of those who said they would are dissatisfied with life in Russia, 32 percent think the economic situation there is unstable, and 31 percent fear that they will not be able to provide their children with a reliable future if they stay.
“Svobodnaya pressa” asked two experts, Leonty Byzov of the Moscow Institute of Sociology and Aleksandr Shatilov, dean of the sociology and political science faculty at the Russian capital’s Finance University, to comment on what the Levada Center’s findings mean for Russia now and in the future.
Byzov said that middle class people are exactly the group that one would expect to want to leave. Their expectations are higher, they are more adaptable, and their anger at what is happening in Russia today, combined with a sense that they are not in a position to change it on their own, naturally leads them to think about leaving.
Students as a group resemble them. Moreover, many of them have been abroad for vacations or studying and thus do not view the outside world as being nearly as foreign as do their elders, few of whom have ever been to another country, Byzov says. And they are convinced that they can make their way there rather easily.
Asked to comment on the fact that only one percent of Russians have actually taken steps to emigrate, the sociologist said that emigration is “a quite serious step” and that “one percent is also quite large,” given the obstacles that many would face if they sought to realize their hopes of living abroad.
It is important to recognize, Byzov continued, that ever more people are moving to other countries to life and work. “The world division of labor is an objective reality,” and it is clear that “in many innovation spheres, Russia will not become a leader in the foreseeable future.” Consequently, Russians in those sectors are naturally looking abroad.
Shatilov suggested that there were both objective and subjective causes for these Russian attitudes. Objectively, “the labor market of Russia” has too many specialists who are finding it difficult to get positions in their fields. Not surprisingly, they are considering their alternatives, including those abroad, although the situation there may not be as welcoming as they think.
Subjectively, he continues, many of these people consider the current political regime in Moscow to be hostile to their values and consider that moving to “the liberal democratic West” would allow them to feel more comfortable. Moreover, precisely because they have more income than they did, they not surprisingly want even more from society and polity than these offer.
And the Finance University expert pointed to yet another aspect of this situation, one that also affects other countries as well: Globalization is reducing the significance of borders and also of patriotism. Someone who feels at home anywhere “at times loses his national identity” and thus does not have the same rootedness as did the generations before him.
But “the difficulties which await humanity in the coming decades will lead to national consolidation,” Shatilov says. “One can see this for example in Europe when the illusions of the ‘common European home’ are at the present time being replaced ever more often by the values of national statehood.” The same thing, he suggests, is likely to happen in Russia as well.