Sunday, November 26, 2017

200,000 People Leaving Russia Every Year, Sobyanin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 25 – The Russian media have reported about the emigration of various high-profile individuals in recent years, but the Russian government has avoided giving any overall statistics about this trend. Now, however, Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin has broken this official silence.

            During a discussion yesterday with former finance minister Aleksey Kudrin at the All-Russian Civic Forum, Sobyanin said that some 200,000 Russians are leaving the country permanently each year, an enormous embarrassment to the regime (

            The Moscow mayor’s comment came in response to Kudrin’s suggestion that Moscow now “competes only with foreign megalopolises but not with Russian regions,” given the enormous difference in incomes between the capital and the rest of the country, whose residents are an order of magnitude poorer or “worse.”

            Sobyanin replied that “Moscow has not goal of competing with other cities of Russia” and that in fact, “the capital is stopping emigration from Russia.”  It was in this context that the mayor unexpectedly released the 200,000 figure. Novyye izvestiya has published the full text of the exchange between the two.

            Kudrin suggested that Moscow and its leadership focus on other world cities and ignore Russian cities and villages, an approach that is hurting the latter ever more and will continue to do so for at least the next 40 years. Sobyanin’s response showed that Kudrin’s criticism was anything but unjust.

            “My friends,” he said, “do you know how many people leave Russia each year for other countries? We don’t have an iron curtain. 200,000. And how many come to Moscow? In recent times, this figure has fallen to 10,000. The Problem is not that they come to Moscow; the problem is that they leave for abroad.”; r

            “Moscow is,” Sobyanin continued, “essentially an advanced defense post which seeks to stop at least part of this flow. We are the defenders of Russia in this regard and seek to have people remain in Russia, in Moscow. We are not fighting with Kazan. We are fighting with those cities about which you spoke, with New York and Paris.”

            “We have no borders; the world has become open; and therefore we must compete.”

            Sobyanin continued: “from Moscow each year leave approximately 3000 to 4000 people, but from Russia 200,000. Therefore, Moscow is not a transfer point. Instead, it is where people are absorbed and so they remain here.  The 3000 to 4000 who do leave are simply businessmen” whose jobs take them elsewhere.

            Thus, the Moscow mayor said, “to accuse Moscow that it is trying to create the maximum conditions in order that people will remain here is senseless.” But as Novyye izvestiya notes, the discussion showed that it was anything but and that Sobyanin, not Kudrin, is the one who is out of touch with Russian realities.

            Kudrin responded to Sobyanin by pointing out that the level of poverty and income inequality in a country with Russia’s GDP are “shameful.”  But Sobyanin insisted that Muscovites deserve what they get because they are 2.5 times more productive than other Russians but 7.5 times more productive than people in the villages.

            Indeed, and in the most horrific words of all, the Moscow mayor said that there are approximately 15 million people in the villages who are “superfluous” because they are incapable of making use of technology even when it is available. And he implied that number is growing.

            The implications of Sobyanin’s words are obvious, the Moscow paper said. What he and those supporting him appear to want is to “’shut down’” the villages and small cities and move everyone to 15 megalopolises, leaving the rest of the country to those who want to work it, including quite possibly the Chinese.

            But as Novyye izvestiya noted, there was no chance for any debate about this: Sobyanin’s panel was the only one at the conference during which no questions from the audience were permitted.

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