Russia’s brain drain shows no signs of abating as a fifth of Russians now want to leave the country. And it’s the bright young things who are packing their bags to lead that charge, with 39 per cent of young people and 29 per cent of highly educated people scanning the flight timetables.
In total 21 per cent want out, 16 per cent up on the figure directly after perestroika, when a flood of Russians headed for the newly opened doors to the west.
Three quarters of the population are loyal to the motherland, however, and intend to remain. A major part of that group comes from the elderly (93 per cent) and poorly educated (85 per cent) and those who don’t use the internet (87 per cent), says a poll from the VTsIOM.
he crisis sharpened people’s appetites for settling abroad and it shows no sign of abating, Valery Fedorov, VTsIOM general director, told Vedomosti.
Mark Urnov, dean of the politics faculty at the Moscow Higher School of Economics, agrees, “Last year we conducted a survey of small and medium sized businesses. Those who engage in any kind of trade, they remain in Russia and successfully fit into the networks of corruption and feel just fine about it.
“But there are those who are engaged in manufacturing and they are all of one mind, get out of this grey zone, get money together and leave,” Urnov told Vedomosti.
“There is one reason, the investment climate in the country is lousy, with a constant semi-governmental racket in action and successful enterprises being seized. People don’t want to live and work like that,” he lamented.
This is particularly serious, Urnov added, because the sector of society which is packing its suitcases is the very same which would most likely take forward the processes of modernization and reform, the lack of which the bright young high fliers are lamenting.
“They just pack their bags and leave. All that’s left are officials, trader and employees of huge state companies,” Urnov bemoaned.
“There is nothing wrong with thinking about leaving, people do that all over the world,” President Medvedev told liberal TV program Dozhd in an interview in Mayi. “The question is why someone wants to leave and do they plan to come back, that’s where our problems lie.”
“The state must work hard to provide our young people, young businessmen and innovators with a favorable environment,” he said. He added that the authorities would not use “Soviet methods” to try to retain young talent by imposing restrictions on travel.
However, not everyone is convinced that the exodus is permanent.
Entertainment magazine Afisha, the bible of Moscow’s hip young things, ran a feature on “The New Migration” this month.
Among interviews with Russians – typically working in creative industries or studying – who had decamped to cities such as Shanghai, Berlin, London and New York it picked out a common sense that this generation did not see themselves as exiles.
Unlike previous migratory waves, the magazine argued, these people were not fleeing war, disaster or political repression.
Instead they were looking to take advantage of the experience and skills they could gain on their travels before returning to settle in their homeland.