Thursday, January 17, 2019

Moscow Dramatically Understating Number of Russians Emigrating, New Study Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 16 – Moscow’s Project Research Center says that the Russian government is understating the number of Russians emigrating from the country by a factor of six times, a conclusion it has reached by comparing the numbers Rosstat says are leaving the country with the numbers of Russians other countries say are arriving.

            For some countries, the difference is even greater, but the factor of six is the summary figure for the 24 countries Project experts examined. But the overall figure means that far more Russians are in fact moving abroad than the government admits (

                Indeed, if the Project Center’s figures are correct, more than two million Russians are emigrating each year now and not the slightly less than 400,000 Rosstat has reported, a figure that would drive down the Russian population still further now and by taking away many in prime child-bearing cohorts drive it down still further in the future.

                There are several reasons why the figures diverge besides the obvious one that Moscow doesn’t want to acknowledge the number is so large -- especially since a very large share of them is younger and far more educated, a pattern that doesn’t hurt the Kremlin’s resource-export economic agenda but is an embarrassment and further reduces the size of the Russian population.

            First of all, various countries count emigres in various ways, with some including those who may simply be long-term students or visitors and who may eventually return to their own country. Russia doesn’t count such people, but others do. Consequently, Russian figures would be lower. 

            Second, Russia is not the only country that manipulates figures in this area. Some countries like to present themselves as magnets which attract people from other places, while others want to minimize the inflow or alternatively seek more resources for dealing with immigrants. 

            And third, in today’s globalized and interconnected world, emigration has changed its meaning: A century ago, it was almost always unidirectional. Once someone left a country, he or she almost certainly would never return. Now, the flow often is reversed in response to economic and political change.

            But even allowing for those factors, the Project numbers are significant both as an indictment of the Putin regime’s failure to make Russia an attractive place to live even for Russians and as an indication that the problems with Russian statistics are deeper than even recent criticism has suggested. 

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