Staunton, August 5 – New government statistics and studies show that ever fewer students from CIS countries are choosing to study in the US, Europe, China and Japan rather than in Russia, a trend that many in Moscow means that these countries will play an increasing role in CIS countries in the coming decades while Russia will see its influence much reduced.
Nelli Semyonova of Moscow’s Institute of Oriental Studies says that “Russia’s ‘soft force’ in the former Soviet republics has been weakening. Ever fewer young people from the near abroad know Russian and Russian culture,” and Moscow is not offering the kind of support to attract them to Russian universities (vz.ru/society/2021/8/5/1109162.html).
“Conferences, meetings, and the popularization of language” which Moscow does promote “are all well and good, but they are insufficient and do not change the situation substantially. Everything reflects financing: there need to be more scholarships, inexpensive housing and so on,” she continues.
Russia is suffering in particular, Semyonova says, because “in the West, all this is well understood and special programs to attract students,” including from Russia’s near abroad, have been put in place. The West knows that graduates of its universities will return home and help make these countries “satellites of the West.”
Her comments come following the release of government data showing a decline in the number of students from the former Soviet republics studying in Russia and an analysis of this process region by region offered by the Gromyko Association for Foreign Policy Research (vz.ru/news/2021/8/4/1112251.html and gromyko.ru/upload/analiticheskij_doklad_2021.pdf).
These figures show declines in the number of students from CIS countries in Russian universities even when one takes into consideration branches of those higher educational institutions which have opened in some of these former Soviet republics. They also show that students are attracted not just to the West but to a variety of countries.
Students in Belarus are increasingly studying in Poland, where there is a massive support system for them. Students from Central Asia are headed to China, except for Kazakhstan where Japan is rapidly becoming the educational destination of choice. And those from Ukraine and the Caucasus are also turning away, a further move toward the end of “the post-Soviet space.”