Staunton, July 13 – The number of genuinely political emigres “who are leaving Russia under threat of repression is not that large,” Igor Eidman says. “Much more numerous are those who haven’t taken part in the protest movement but have decided to leave precisely because of the policy of the Russian powers that be in recent years.”
To understand their motivation, the Russian commentator suggests, one should recall Soviet-era dissident Leonid Borodin’s remarks that he tried to escape communist propaganda to which he was “almost physically alienated” by withdrawing into the taiga. As a Russian nationalist, he didn’t want to leave the country (com/p/1JO64).
But many can’t achieve what they want by retreating to a village: there are no jobs there, and Russian propaganda will reach them anyway. Consequently, ever more of them are leaving not as political emigres but as people who are fleeing from the politics of Vladimir Putin during his third term.
The number who want to leave, especially among the most creative people, is likely far higher than polls suggest, Eidman continues. Many who do may be ashamed or fearful to say so but they are going anyway. As a result, “the typical Russian working in the US is a programmer,” while “the typical gastarbeiter in Russia is a janitor.”
Eidman shares the story of a friend of his who recently turned over his business to his partners, bought a house near Riga and with his family moved to Latvia. “He did not have any personal reasons for being dissatisfied with life in Russia. On the contrary, things were going to all appearances very successfully.”
But “at a certain moment,” the man felt that “the psychological atmosphere in the country had become unbearable for him.” One can turn off the television, he noted, but “the filth” is everywhere – and in any case, he wanted his children to be educated somewhere where they would not be taught to hate enemies and be slavishly obedient to the powers that be.
Russians are “leaving the country also because they feel they have no rights,” that the FSB can take everything they have at any moment for any reason or no reason at all. But perhaps the largest number are leaving because they cannot be creative in a place without freedom. Their departure spells doom for Russia’s future development in a positive direction.
Vladimir Putin is angry that foreign companies and foundations are attracting Russians with higher incomes, but he is losing them to these institutions not because of money but because he cannot offer the creative class what is most important to them – “economic and spiritual freedom.” Until he or his successor can, they will continue to leave.
Indeed, as long as things stay as they are, Russians will leave. It isn’t possible in today’s world to “build a wall” and keep them from going.