Thursday, June 23, 2022

Political Emigration will Continue but Most Putin Opponents Won’t Leave Unless Repression Gets Much Worse, New Survey Finds

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 4 – In response to Putin’s massive military invasion of Ukraine in February, more than 100,000 Russians decided to emigrate rather than suffer the opprobrium of being residents of an aggressor country. But millions of others equally opposed to the war decided to remain.

            Over time, more Russians will leave but at decreasing rates unless and until repression increases significantly, most because they feel they want to oppose the war from within the country, have personal and professional responsibilities, or feel that they would face enormous difficulties should they emigrate.

            Those are the conclusions of a new online survey conducted by Lyubov Borusyak, a sociologist at Moscow State Pedagogical University, one unrepresentative because most of the participants were from the capitals and educated professionals (

            Those who have emigrated to protest the war have received a great deal of attention, the scholar says; but the number who oppose the war has not even though it is orders of magnitude greater, amounting to approximately 20 percent of the Russian population. “If the number of new emigres amounts to hundreds of thousands, then those who remain is in the millions.”

Unfortunately, it is harder to study them because they are far less free to speak out inside Putin’s Russia then are those who move abroad, Borusyak says; but they are the ones whose attitudes matter more as far as the future direction of Russian society and the Russian state is concerned.

Those who oppose the war but have chosen to remain often say that “this is my home and my country; sometimes with the addition ‘and its not theirs.’ On the one hand, this shows that those opposed constitute a ‘we,’ and on the other, that they have identified clearly a ‘they,’ that is, the powers – and they insist that the two must not be confused.”

According to the sociologist, her figures show that emigration will continue albeit at a slower rate than in the first weeks of the war. After all, people adapt to almost anything. The number of emigres will grow only if repression at home grows. Indeed, many of those she surveyed admitted that they are worried that may be the case and then they will leave.

One thing that they were almost unanimous on, Borusyak says, is that the Putin regime isn’t going to block them from leaving. It would rather have its opponents go abroad so that the Russians who remain will be on its side rather than agitating against what the Kremlin wants to do.

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