Russia faces a massive brain drain because those seeking to leave Russia now in ever greater numbers are the most educated and competent, Lev Gudkov says; and they are leaving precisely because of way in which the Putin regime is treating civil society, the decline in incomes, and growing income inequality.
The Levada Center director tells VOA’s Viktor Vladimirov that Russia today is “really observing the fourth wave of outflow and that is is connected first of all with the increasingly tough domestic situation and the strengthening of the authoritarian regime” (golos-ameriki.ru/a/lev-gudkov-on-russian-brain-drain/3980619.html).
Now, the most successful people are fleeing, not necessarily forever but rather to give themselves and their children the opportunity to outlive and outlast the current regime in Moscow. Indeed, many of them retain their homes in Russia, expecting that eventually they may be able to return, Gudkov says.
This makes the current emigration very different from its predecessors, including those of the 1990s when “Jews, Germans and other ethnic communities left in massive numbers.”
Given Moscow’s current policies of militarism, gigantism and isolation, the sociologist continues, there is little chance that the people leaving now will decide to return anytime soon. It simply will take too long for Russia to change back into a country in which they can place their hopes for their futures and those of their children.
Most Russians are still trying to adapt to the current situation and are not thinking about leaving, but while “emigration touches a not very large contingent of the population, [what it does affect] are “extraordinarily important for our society, the most educated, the most active and the most capable part.”
They are the drivers of Russian development, and “without them, the country is not in a position to rise up and consistently develop. And this part of the population feels itself extremely uncomfortable.” Among its numbers are people in mid-sized and small business, technology, and science, all of whom feel under pressure from the regime.
One way or another, Gudkov says, “all the academic scientific milieu is degrading under bureaucratic control and low financing. Also suffering are spheres of culture, education and medicine.” But no society can afford to lose people in these segments in large numbers even if their share of the population at large remains relatively small.
By Paul Goble, Window on Eurasia