Saturday, March 30, 2019

Russia Not Just Losing Highly Skilled People: It’s Replacing Them with Janitors, Komrakov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 28 – Russia is not just experiencing a massive brain drain which is leaving the country without the skilled people it once had, Anatoly Komrakov of Nezavisimaya gazeta says; it is replacing them with janitors, the immigrants that the Kremlin wants to attract to compensate for Russia’s demographic decline.

            That double whammy is a far greater threat to Russia’s future than either part would be on its own, the commentator suggests (

                According to a new study, “about 18 percent of patent applications in Europe and the United States are being submitted by those who have left Russia because they could not find a place for their professional ambitions at home but only in the West,” Komrakov says.  All of these people have higher educations, and that is a clear sign of an enormous brain drain.

            This substitution of poorly educated for highly trained people is “catastrophic,” Vadim Kvachev, an expert with the Russian Trade and Industry Chamber says.  Moreover, “it is already impossible to act as if nothing special is taking place.” Russia has become a supplier of brains to the West and a receiver of migrants from the post-Soviet space.

            The poorly educated immigrants may help the Russian business community to make profits now, but the departure of the educated will preclude that in the future, he and other experts say.

            The flight of expertise is truly tragic and is getting worse.  According to Nadezhda Reingand, head of Patent Hatchery, Russians submitted about 300 patent applications in the US in 2009 but now submit about 900. And she says many of these are among the best submissions: Russian applicants get approval in about half the cases; American ones, only in a third.

            And Komrakov points out that this replacement is not only costing Russia its intellectual future but leading to a rapid rise in xenophobic attitudes toward the new arrivals, making life in Russia that much worse and the attractiveness of moving abroad for Russia’s educated that much greater.

            Typically, the Russian government treats these two trends as separate and distinct; but in fact, the commentator suggests, they are increasingly interrelated and increasingly work against Russia’s longer term interests. 

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