Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Russians Moving Abroad Now Unlikely to Return When Putin Era Ends, Inozemtsev Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 13 – Many Russians are concerned about the impact of the departure of hundreds of thousands of talented young Russians and the brain drain their exit means, Vladislav Inozemtsev says; but many comfort themselves with the idea that after Putin, these people will return and help build a modern new Russia.

            The prospects for any mass return, however, are slight, the Russian economist and commentator says; and while it is possible that a few will come back and be able to play the role that some Russians now predict for them, most will not for at least three compelling reasons  (

            First of all, Inozemtsev says, one must keep in mind that “emigration is a difficult choice and that today people make it either for economic or political reasons.” If their reasons are economic, then they will need five to ten years in their new environment to be successful, and by the time they are, they will be “connected to the new society by dozens of threads.”

            To think that such people will give all that up to return to some “’new Russia’” is “quite naïve,” the economist says, all the more so because the economy of Russia at the end of the Putin era will be “decades behind the West” and thus will not be in a position to offer them the kinds of possibilities that staying abroad will.

            According to Inozemtsev, “Russia will not be able to modernize itself on its own; and under the new conditions, it will need Western capital and technology more than individual specialists who earlier left the country.” Some may come back, but they will pay a high price – and there won’t be a mass return.

Second, “people who leave Russia because of disagreement with the regime and as aeither a mark of protest or fearing repression as a rule during the time of their stay beyond the borders of the country are radicalized.”  Their hatred for the current regime in many cases becomes hatred for the country and people as a whole.

The return of emigres and their children to Central European countries and the Baltic states after the end of communism does not contradict this because those people viewed their countries as having been occupied by the Soviet Union and therefore they kept their focus on that rather than developing negative feelings toward their countries or their populations.

But in the case of Russia, emigres thinking about returning would have to confront a society which for two decades has followed a KGB lieutenant colonel back to some of the most horrific features of the past. Thus, for the emigres, the people and the country bear some of the responsibility for what has gone wrong.

And third, Inozemtsev says, one must not forget that there is not and cannot be “any guarantee that the reformers who will seize power from Putin (if they do so) will be prepared to share power and authority with those people who left the country and over the course of many years did not take part in the holy struggle with the regime.”

Unfortunately, there is little reason to think that these three things will suddenly be repealed and allow today’s emigres to be “a cadres reserve” for a new Russia.  History, economics and personal experiences all militate against that possibility.

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