Monday, October 29, 2012

Window on Eurasia: Ever More Members of Russia’s ‘Creative Class’ Leaving the Country

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 29 – The emigration of members of Russia’s “creative class,” after declining slightly during the upsurge in social and political activism at the end of 2011, is growing again because these people on whom the future of the country depends feel that the current regime has put too many obstacles in their path.

            In “Nezavisimaya gazeta” last Friday, Aleksandr Samarina says that Russian sociologists have found that feeling unneeded in Russia, “the emigration of the creative class is growing, and what is important, the number of people who are considering this option for themselves is increasing as well” (

            According to surveys by the Public Opinion Foundation, 17 percent of Russians would like to move abroad, a figure two percent higher than last year, and three percent higher than in 2007.  Among those aged 18 to 30, one in three would like to move abroad to find work in their fields.

            Aleksandr Oslon, the Foundation’s director says, that ever more Russians view such emigration quite calmly and “the majority of people are certain that emigration will increase.”  He notes that more than half of those thinking about leaving are ready to remain “if they see that Russia needs them,” something they do not see now.

            The unfortunate reality, Oslon says, is that “the active part of society lives in a zone of unfavorable human ecology.”  These people “want to develop; they need dynamism and success. But before them arise too many obstacles and too many people who can interfere” with their chances of moving forward.

            “In December of last year,” the sociologist continues, it was “precisely these people who went into the squares to demonstrate.”  Dishonest elections were the proximate cause, but underlying that was the sense that they faced an “unfavorable ecology for their lives” and lived in a place where too many officials “have the right to interfere in their lives.”

            Lev Gudkov, the director of the Levada Center, agrees.  According to his surveys, “half of the middle class” in Russia has thought about leaving the country, although only “about four to six percent” have taken steps to do so.  In the spring of 2011, that number went up to 22 percent, then declined “during the fall demonstrations,” but now is “again growing.”

            Over the last decade, Gudkov says, approximately 1.5 million representatives of the Russian middle class have left the country, “the most educated, the most successful, and the most entrepreneurial people” Russia had.  They left, he says, because they knew that they had few paths to success at home and could not defend their earnings or families if they achieved it.

            And Mikhail Delyagin, a commentator who heads the Moscow Institute of the Problems of Globalization, provides an additional detail on this emigration: “The most active people who are seeking to get out of Russia are going not only to the West, the fashionable countries, but ever more often to China which by the way in recent years has shown an enormous willingness to take in refugees from the Russian Federation.”

            According to Delyagin, Moscow could change this situation, but it doesn’t appear ready to do so.  “It is a good thing that the financing of the socially dependent part of the population remains stable. This is what secures the high ratings of the leadership of the country” at the present time.

            But the Moscow commentator notes, “the future of Russia, including the financial well-being of those who are provided with such funds to a great degree depends on those who are capable of pushing its economy forward.  These people don’t protest loudly in the streets. They [simply and] quietly leave.”

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