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Russians show no wish to leave elsewhere for good

April 06, 2015, 21:17 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila
© ITAR-TASS/ Artyom Geodakyan

MOSCOW, April 6. /TASS/. Contrary to a widely spread western delusion an overwhelming majority of Russians show little or no wish to leave their home country for good to settle elsewhere. According to a March poll by the Levada Center, as many as 83% of Russians have no plans for resettling to other countries (57% of the respondents replied with a firm "NO" and another 26% said "rather NO than YES"). This is the highest-ever level during the whole history of observations since 1990. Only 12% of Russians would like to seek residence permits in other countries with no intention to return.

Levada Center attributes this to the crisis, as well as growing popular support for the authorities in this context. Opinion poll statistics are not enough to identify one main cause of anti-emigration sentiment, Kommersant Dengi (Kommersant Money) magazine quotes the pollster’s director, Lev Gudkov, as saying. In his opinion politics and the upsurge of patriotism are very important: at a certain point 20% to 25% of the population were rather critical of the regime, but after Crimea’s reunification with Russia their opinion changed drastically. In defiance of the economic problems their feeling of self-esteem has grown. These are rather well-off people who hope that the crisis will not last."

Whereas 12% percent said they would like to go, no more than 1% have been taking steps to translate this wish into reality, and still less actually go. Feeling like taking to the road and having an opportunity to do so are very different things, Bolshoi Gorod (Big City) magazine quotes the director of the Institute of Demography at the Higher School of Economics, Mikhail Denisenko, as saying. "Real emigration requires human and financial resources that will be in demand in another country."

Many have given up their resettlement plans for purely economic reasons, because their ruble assets have lost much of their original value of late. According to Sergey Kuznetsov, the organizer of the Facebook project "Suitcase, Train Station, Where to?", which provides advice to those eager to seek a better fortune away from home, some of the emigrants mention political reasons, and others, economic ones. Nevertheless, very few leave forever, contrary to what former Soviet citizens did in the 1970s. "Many say: ‘We shall take a look at what life there is like. Possibly, we’ll be back,’" he said.

Senior research fellow at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Psychology, Timofey Nestik, attributes this trend to several causes. "Even in the past the group of people who thought they would be in great demand outside Russia was extremely small. After the crisis and the rouble’s slump it is still smaller," he told TASS. Also, there is the psychological reason — the so-called "besieged fortress syndrome."

"In the current political situation the very instance of declaring an intention to leave may be interpreted to the detriment of one’s self-esteem and positive self-evaluation," he said.

The expert believes that a certain role has been played by a decline in Russians’ foreign contacts. With the rouble’s devaluation far fewer Russians go abroad on vacation and have lost the chance to compare.

"Russians’ level of social mobility is very low. Many have never visited even the neighboring town, let alone Moscow," the chief of the Comprehensive Social Studies Centre at the RAS Institute of Sociology, Vladimir Petukhov, has told TASS. "The wish to leave and the actual departure are two different things."

"Many of those who are leaving are young and relatively wealthy people with good education. And such people often ask themselves: "What will I be doing there?’ A friend of mine, a former chief of a cardiology department at a Moscow hospital had to work as a nurse for ten years after emigrating to the United States. And now there has developed one more fear: the attitude towards Russians in the West has worsened, so I will have one more trouble on the list of my problems."

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