Friday, July 15, 2022

New Emigration Hitting Russia Harder than Earlier Waves Because Country Lacks ‘Hidden Reserves of Human Capital’ It had Earlier, Sonin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 23 – The current emigration of Russians is hitting the country they have left harder than earlier waves even though it is smaller in number because “in the 21st century, Russia no longer has any hidden reserves of human capital” to replace those departing, according to Konstantin Sonin.

            The Russian scholar who works at the University of Chicago says that the number of those who have departed since Putin’s war in Ukraine began only partially captures just how large this wave is. Many Russians had left before that happened, and they should be added to the 200,000 plus who have left since February 24 (

            This spring, Sonin continues, the Russians leaving are not those who had intended to leave for a long time but those who for the last several years had made the conscious decision to remain.” That they have now left and continue to leave is one of the things that sets this Russian emigration wave apart.

            Another is that Russians seeking to emigrate have never had an easier time of it. In many cases, they don’t need to learn a new language as they already have; they don’t have to assimilate quickly as there are pre-existing Russian communities within which they can live; and they can leave now with the possibility of returning later if the situation changes.

            And this departure is “not simply flight. Armenia, Georgia, Montenegro, Kazakhstan and other countries where people are moving from Russia have a unique, once in a century or perhaps even once in history, chance.” Israel benefited from a similar arrival of Russian Jews in the 1990s. Now, Sonin argues, these other countries may as well.

            The 2022 emigration, he says, has an additional advantage in that it includes not only programmers, financial and other technical specialists but also teachers, psychologists, and fitness trainers. Others who arrive thus have a base of people who can provide them with the services they are familiar with.

            The departure of these people is leaving a huge hole in Russia. Indeed, Sonin says, “the main distinction between 2022 and 1922 is that there is no reserve of unused capital in Russia. Instead, in place of each who has left, there is coming someone less well prepared, less educated, and less talented.” That cannot fail to harm Russia’s future.

            According to the US-based Russian expert, “the main flow of emigration arising from the Russian-Ukrainian war of 2022 is still ahead. Up to now, only those who highly evaluated their own risks and especially feel responsible for aggression and the crimes of the Russian military have left.” Many more will follow.

            Sonin concludes that “the majority of future emigres will quietly seek work and residence abroad even before leaving.” The Kremlin undoubtedly will try to stop this process, but its actions are likely to provoke even more now abroad not to return and even more at home to plan to leave.


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