Russia: Leave the country forever or return back home? Steve Jackson
Child inside the Moscow airport looking out

In Russia, “leaving the country” is a popular subject which you can read about just by looking through some Russian blogs and liberal newspapers. A curious post was published in the Russian digital edition of the magazine Snob: “Thanks granfa for the victory, but I will leave: 20 main films about emigration”. One of them is a Russian movie filmed by Grigori Ryabushev “All whom I love I will take with me”. This movie, based on real events in Russia, is about people who decided to leave their home. It tells the story of their last 3 days in their home country. The producer Grigory Ryabushev said about his work: “It seemed to me that I was shooting a film about those who leave, but I filmed about those who remain”. Statistical data shows that every year more Russians would like to leave their country, but is this really true? Many people might answer “yes” during the survey, but might not have any real expectations to settle down in another country or in general are returning home even after a “one-way ticket”.

According to information from the Federal State Statistics Service the number of Russians who have officially emigrated per year has been fluctuating between 32.000 and 34.000 during the last 3-4 years. According to a recent poll conducted by the independent Levada Center 22% of Russians would like to leave their country. The percentage of Russians who are eager to live abroad has increased by 9% compared to 2009.

It seems like especially students and pupils intent to leave Russia (45%). Also, Muscovites and inhabitants of big cities in general have a strong tendency to emigrate. However, the director of the Levada Center Lev Gudkov said “only between 1% and 1,5% express full readiness to leave Russia. Of course, highly qualified people from big cities are especially likely to leave the country”.

The Russian website, a popular portal for students and young specialists, released a survey (carried out on their site in August-September 2012) stating that 20% of students are planning to leave Russia after their graduation. Most survey respondents said that life abroad is better than at home, others think that it is easier to find a job there. Every fifth is attracted by the opportunity to live abroad, and only a small part wants to leave their country for a better ecology. Europe is considered to be the most popular destinations - 48% of students want to move there, especially to Germany and Great Britain. Other popular destinations are the USA (15%) and Canada (7%). Those students who do not want to part with their country refer to patriotic considerations, great affection towards family and friends or the lack of any knowledge of a foreign language.

Many students and recent graduates are not going to leave Russia forever; most of them try to get a better education or to enlarge their professional skills by brushing up their knowledge of foreign languages. They hope to stand a better chance with these skills in Russia’s highly competitive job market for high-skilled workers. Educational migration began to become more common in Russia since the 90s. That is why more and more students every year are thinking of leaving the country for a period of time, striving to follow the example of their successful compatriots abroad. Others simply invest money or some years of their life for a better education abroad and as a result have better perspectives in their career in Russia. According to information from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics  47.000 Russians entered foreign universities in 2011. Russia is considered to be in the top ten of countries whose students are studying abroad.

One former Russian student that has studied 2 years in the USA in Harvard is Mariya Gaidar. She is the now councilor of the vice-mayor of Moscow for the social development and a famous public figure in Russia. Even though she has spent some time abroad she said in her interview for “Rossiyskaya gazeta” that she is not going to leave her country and she doesn’t suggest others to do so. She warned Russians to not confuse pleasant holiday experience abroad with moving to another country which can lead to a lot of problems: “When you begin to live abroad, it turns out that there are high taxes, expensive housing, bad Internet, the same bureaucracy and you have to work either too much or drive too far”.

Still, many Russian students would like to travel more, but financial problems and visa issues often hinder them to fulfill their travel wishes. International programs for studying or working abroad become more and more popular among Russian students. In 2009 Russia became a world leader in the number of students who participated in the Work and Travel program of the USA. 30.000 participants made use of this program in addition to a lot of eager students who requested a visa and were rejected. The International College of Economics and Finance (ICEF) mentioned 2012 that Russia announced an ambitious new grant program that will cost US$165 million and is supposed to last three years. The program “Global education” from the Russian government is meant to pay for up to 2,000 students per year studying abroad in all fields of science, technology, medicine, social science and business. The idea of sending young Russian specialists overseas to study is a good one; similar programs are applied in many other countries.

Returning to the recent poll by the Levada Center, vice-chairmen of the State Duma Sergey Neverov said in the interview at Kommersant FM  “Of course, even if only a small part is planning or thinking to leave the country, we should try to understand their motives. It seems to me that it is difficult to trust this data because 20% - that would stand for more than 20 million people if we compare it with the whole population of the country. I think that this certainly doesn’t seem to correspond to the facts”.

Written by: Natalia Ghincul
Edited by: Marcel Wiechmann

Photo Credits: Inside Moscow Airport looking out by Steve Jackson via flickr