Monday, August 1, 2016

One Russian in Four Wants to Emigrate, Forcing Moscow to Ask If It Can Attract Anyone Back

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 1 – At a time when polls show that a quarter of all Russians would like to move abroad, the Russian Foreign Ministry has ordered research on what Moscow might do to attract back as permanent residence more than the 500,000 of the estimated 20,000,000 “compatriots” now living abroad.

            The Russian foreign ministry, Ekaterina Trifonova reports in today’s “Nezavisimaya gazeta,” has put out for applications a 3.36 million ruble (52,000 US dollar) contract to study how many Russians who now live abroad are prepared to return and under what conditions (

                The study is to focus on “Russian compatriots” currently living in Israel, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, and Armenia and is slated to be completed in two months’ time.  It is the latest example of Moscow’s efforts begun a decade ago when Vladimir Putin issued a decree on the return of compatriots.

            Since than time, some 500,000 of them have returned, including 61,500 since the start of 2012, the “Nezavisimaya gazeta” journalist reports.

            Most experts with whom she spoke were very skeptical about the study and about the return of large numbers of Russians now living abroad.  Yevgeny Bobrov, head of the migration commission of the Presidential Human Rights Council, is among the skeptics saying that some may want to come but won’t because of problems like finding work or housing.

            Vyacheslav Postavnin, former head of the Federal Migration Service and now president of the Migration – 21st Century Foundation, says few will come under any circumstances. An earlier foreign ministry study found that out of 20 million compatriots, only a handful, “somewhere around 600” said they wanted to come back to Russia.

            What the new study is really about, he continues, is public relations, the desire of the Kremlin to create “a beautiful picture” of a situation that is anything but beautiful and thus convince a few more compatriots to come back.  But the study itself is inherently defective and probably won’t even show that.

            Those in Israel have dual citizenship and can come and go as they like, he argues. Meanwhile, in the case of Latvia, those Russians who wanted to come have already done so – and if they want to leave Latvia, they will head toward western European countries rather than to Russia.

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