Staunton, June 22 – Data from a variety of surveys show that fewer Russians say they are interested in emigrating than did only a few years ago, even though the economic situation in their homeland has deteriorated, something that usually provokes exactly the opposite trend in most countries.
According to a survey in today’s “Nezavisimaya gazeta,” Moscow experts are offering a variety of explanations ranging from the idea that those who want to leave already have, that anti-Western propaganda has made emigration a less attractive option, and that sanctions have increased solidarity among Russians (ng.ru/economics/2015-06-22/1_crisis.html).
What the two journalists, Alina Terekhova and Anastasiya Bashkatova, do not consider is that an increasing number of Russians may have concluded that if they leave now, they will find it difficult if not impossible to return, or that if they do return, they will be viewed skeptically by the increasingly isolationist and authoritarian Russian authorities.
The two write that “in 2015, citizens of the Russian Federation suddenly ceased to dream about emigration,” with the share of “potential emigrants contracting by several times.” Some Russian sociologists suggest that Russia’s economic problems have led Russians to unite while others offer a simpler explanation: “all who wanted to leave have already left.”
In most countries, “the reduction of incomes, threat of firings, inflation, inability to get medical care, and uncertain pension prospects” lead even more people to think about emigrating to improve their situation, the journalists say. But in the case of Russia, exactly the opposite trend has occurred.
The ROMIR polling agency reports that over the last three years, the share of Russians thinking about leaving has declined almost by a factor of four – “from 31 percent in September 2012 to eight percent in April 2015.” Earlier, its analysts said that interest in emigrating would rise if the economy got worse; now, they say that just the reverse has happened.
Other surveys have found a similar trend. A survey conducted by the Russian Academy of Economics and State Service found that the share of Russians thining about moving abroad permanently had fallen by half between 2013 and 2014. The academy’s analysts suggested that this reflected a growth in solidarity among Russians as a result of the crisis.
The Levada Center also finds that interest in emigration has declined, but they suggest different reasons for that pattern, Terekhova and Bashkatova say. On the one hand, anti-Western propaganda has had an impact. And on the other, many Russians are taking a wait-and-see position, uncertain of what will happen anywhere, and thus may be more interested in leaving than they currently are willing to suggest.
Until this year, the Institute of Sociology says, “talk about emigration efforts were commonplace” in Russia, but now such conversations are less frequent – a pattern that may reflect concerns among Russians about how officials would view such talk and thus affect the declarations Russians make to those conducting surveys.