Debunking the liberal myth of “Putin’s emigres”


October 21, 2015 – 

Ruslan Ostashko, PolitRussia

Translated for Fort Russ by J. Arnoldski

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“Myths of the “Putin” emigration”

Today I want to talk about the so-called new wave of emigrants from Russia. Our Westerners are actively hyping up the theses that the most creative, the best, and the most freedom-loving citizens are tired of Putin’s tyranny and are fleeing Russia. Last week, the US State Department aided them in announcing a record number of people wishing to obtain a US visa. 

I’ll quote them:

“The State Department notes that over the past 10 years the number of Russians who received temporary work and study visas has doubled, amounting in 2014 to 245,638 people. In addition, 3,622 Russians received permission for permanent residence, and 56 of them by means of investment immigration, that is, by investing at least 500,000 dollars in the American economy.”

I love trying to crack various liberal myths. For example, there is the very popular opinion among our Westerners that most businessmen or overqualified professionals are going to the West for professional fulfillment or high wages. Let’s check that opinion against numbers, and (attention!) I will take numbers from the ultra-liberal Higher School of Economics. And so, only 15% of those going to the US are leaving for work. Those leaving to relatives, direct and distant, make up 60%. Another 15%, those who couldn’t obtain a green card in a normal fashion, win the green card lottery. And almost 9% are refugees. 

I have a question for our dear liberal-Westerners: why are professionals going for work only 15% of the emigrants to the US? How does this fit with their statements that the best and brightest are leaving?

We are often told that things will be very bad without those who have already left or are leaving. Let’s do an experiment. I wonder if there aren’t enough of these political emigrants. Is the creator of the “Medusa” site, who left Russia, not enough? Is Artem Trotsky, who left to Estonia, not enough for you? Maybe you can’t live without Garry Kasparov, the economist Sergey Guriev, or the journalist Evgeny Kiselev? 

I think it’s necessary to explain why I am rather skeptical about the statements of our fellow Westerners about the mass exodus of educated and creative people from Russia. Last year, there was quite a funny incident, when the liberal media massively wrote about the record level of migration from Russia.

For example, wrote the following:

“It is time for Russia to start accounting for the new wave of emigration. In the first eight months of 2014, more people left the country than in any full year during the reign of Vladimir Putin. Everyone is leaving, but first and foremost qualified specialists who can easily get employment abroad. This means that one of the main structural problems of the Russian economy – the shortage of experienced technical, scientific, and managerial personnel – will not be resolved soon…In January-August, 2014, 203,659 people emigrated from the Russian Federation. As a comparison, over the same period in 2013, 120,756 citizens left the country for permanent residence [elsewhere].”

Then, when the breakdown by country of the same data from Rosstat was analyzed, it was revealed that the main direction of departure was to CIS countries, and most of the “qualified” experts left to Uzbekistan. It turns out that liberal journalists simply don’t bother to read up on the data out of which they make such a sensation.

I would like to compare today with the ’90’s. In the ’90’s, there was a real feeling that many are leaving to the West, and this “suitcase attitude” was especially felt in the big cities together with the depression. But now you feel itchy feet and the desire to escape from Russia in society?

Honestly speaking, it seems to be a rather strange tendency to evaluate the quality of life in a country or the efficiency of a government by the percentage of those wishing to leave the country. It is clear that if every second person wants to leave, the country has real, serious problems, but if the percentage of potential emigrants is lower than 30%, then it’s far from so definite. 

According to fresh data from VTsIOM, 13% of respondents are ready to leave Russia forever.

Let’s take the data of the authoritative American company “Gallop,” which regularly conducts surveys on this subject in different countries of the world. I have the data from the global survey on migration (2008), and it’s interesting.

In 2008, 27% of respondents wanted to leave Germany. The result is similar with Great Britain, where 27% also wanted to emigrate. 18% of respondents wanted to leave wealthy France. I’ll remind everyone, that this is not the data of “Russia Today,” but the data of Gallop. They indicate that 13% of Russians are potential migrants, and in my opinion this is a normal amount, and it is even lower than in many developed countries. It is not necessary to instigate hysterics in the mass-media over the so-called “Putin wave of emigration.” 

But let’s try to understand how attractive Russia is to migrants, not even for guest-workers, but for the most creative, well-paid, and highly-educated specialists about which the liberal press loves to write. For this, I will use the survey conducted by the British Bank HSBC among its clients. A few words about the bank. According to its rating in Forbes magazine in 2011, HSBC is the largest (in terms of market capitalization) company in Europe and second in the world. The bank conducted a survey of 2000 of its clients who work in transnational corporations or are heading their own international business. The purpose of the survey was to rank the countries in which it was best to live and work as such a highly-educated and highly-paid professional. The results ranked countries, and Russia took 15th place.

Here are the first five countries in the rating:


New Zealand




It’s interesting who we are ahead of in this rating. So, with Russia in 15th place, there’s the USA in 16th (!), Czech Republic in 18th, Great Britain in 23rd, France in 29th, and Italy in 38th. If we look at the specific criteria, here’s what’s interesting: there are several parameters in which Russia occupies first place in the rankings. For example, in the category “opportunity to make friends,” Russia took first place, and in the category “opportunity to enjoy fulfilling social life outside of work,” second place. Clients of HSBC also praised Russia for quality education for children and opportunity for quick career advancement. 

Examining our country through the eyes of foreigners, it’s possible to come to the conclusion that not everything is so bad with us. Highly-paid and highly-educated foreigners like our “Mordor,” and they especially like the opportunity to make friends with its residents.

I’ve noticed that attitudes towards immigrants have changed dramatically in recent years. The attitude towards political emigrants has especially changed strongly. In the case of those who are leaving for big money, in general there’s the saying: “A fish searches where it’s deeper, and a person where it’s better.” Quite another thing is said about the so-called political emigrants. Society is tired of tolerating their spitting, and when those who systematically split with society suddenly declare that they are ready to leave this damn country, the public reaction is perfectly clear: some say “good riddance” and others even offer to chip in for a ticket to San Francisco. I haven’t seen anyone upset…It’s good and correct that those leaving are people for whom spitting on Russia, Russian history, and the Russian people has become a lucrative business in the past several decades. It’s good that this business in Russia is going down the drain.

It’s sad that some scholars are leaving, but this is a problem of all developing countries, including China. We will return those who we can by offering good conditions. This is already happening. Slower than one wants it to, but the process is ongoing. 

Businessmen who are faced with Western marginal tax rates at 40% of profitability, which can be seen under a microscope, often themselves come back. The businessmen who escaped abroad after being accused of stealing several billion dollars, such as the banker Pugachev, will be returned by the police. 

But no one will return those creative specialists who spat on Russia. There remains hope that they themselves will never return here. 

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