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Russian Exodus
Expats Flee Russia

Foreigners living in Russia are leaving the country in droves, the FT reports:

The numbers from several western countries have plummeted by as much as a third, reflecting Moscow’s estrangement from Europe and the US as a result of the conflict in Ukraine.

The most significant departures are from countries that have long been among the largest foreign investors in Russia. As of January 20, the number of Germans in Russia had fallen to 240,113, the Federal Migration Service said. That represented a 31 per cent drop since January 2014, according to additional FMS figures provided to the Russian news website RosBusinessConsulting.

The number from the US was down by 36 per cent, from the UK 38 per cent and Spain 41 per cent over the period.

And it isn’t just Western expats who are staying away:

Russia is also rapidly losing its appeal among people from countries of the former Soviet Union. According to the FMS data, the number from Uzbekistan, long the biggest source of migrant labour to Russia, fell by more than 100,000 during the past year. According to the Federal Statistics Service, arrivals from countries such as Tajikistan also slowed dramatically in the course of 2014.

Taken together, the expat exodus and the flagging immigration rates from the south suggest that Russia’s economic troubles are even deeper than reported, and that the collapsing Western interest in doing business there is taking a heavy toll.


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  • GS

    I have a serious difficulty understanding anyone who, on one’s own free will, would go there. Since I was born and grew up there [and then, fortunately, I got away], I know what they are only too well.
    About a dozen years ago I was looking for work. Through some idiotic misunderstanding, I came to an interview with a company thinking that I was interviewing for a stateside position, while that company was looking for someone to send to russia, to keep an eye on their affiliate there. As soon as this became clear, I terminated that interview with “no thanks”, and remained happily unemployed. An excellent stateside position turned up soon after that.

    • Felix Keverich

      Are you Jewish by any chance?

      • GS

        Yes, I am. I do not think that it matters, though. The same negative opinion, in various shades, is entertained by the Balts, the Poles, the Ukrainians, the Crimean Tatars, the Chechens, the Volga Germans, and so on. As they used to say in Latin, experto crede.

        • Felix Keverich

          I just knew it! And for the record, I have never encountered a Ukrainian, or Tatar or a Volga German who spoke of Russia like you do.

          • GS

            For the record – my ex-coworker’s mother was a Volga German, she got out of that hellhole in the beginning of WWII. She referred to the russians in zoological terms – as beasts.

  • Felix Keverich

    The decline in migration is easy to explain. Overwhelming majority of immigrants in Russia are temporary “guest-workers”, as opposed to permanent settlers. Tycally a man from Uzbekistan would come to Russia to do construction jobs for a couple of years, while his family remains in Uzbekistan, and lives off the money he sends them. But with rouble losing half of its value since summer, this model of migration is no longer sustainable for many.

    And no, this does not mean that Russia’s economy has ‘collapsed’, just its currency.

    • JR

      Both Russia and China share the same huge vulnerability: they are net importers of food. Any kind of currency collapse has immediate, and very painful, consequences to a regular person, since you can forego an expensive car but it’s impossible to forego food. Putin knows it and he knows he has to act fast. I think he won the war since nobody wants Ukraine quiet as much as he does. For how long? That’s a story for another day.

  • lseltzer

    I bet Edward Snowden’s staying put.

  • Dan Greene

    So the West is putting onerous sanctions on Russia, and foreign expats who have no loyalty to Russia in particular and no interest in facing even the slightest material deprivation are leaving.

    Is that supposed to tell us something we could not have anticipated for ourselves?

    • Dan Greene

      And here is a contrary view that questions the premise of this article:

      “RBC Daily, belonging to the media group of oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov, has just been caught red-handed in a deliberate and blatant fraud on migration statistics. In a media story billed as RBC’sspecial research report the publication proclaims that foreigners are leaving Russia in droves.

      “The storyline is very popular both among the Russian liberal opposition media and the Western mainstream media. Just last fall there was a big drive to announce that Russia is experiencing a brain drain with hordes of people emigrating to the West. Those claims were totally baseless. This time the media has dreamed up a new fantasy: Westerners, fearing for their lives, are fleeing Russia.”

      • Jacksonian_Libertarian

        Uhmmm…contrarian or the Putin government’s propaganda?

        • Dan Greene

          Or anti-Putin propaganda from the Prokhorov group?

  • FriendlyGoat

    People who are in Russia to make money may very well leave because there is not going to be as much opportunity to make money. Some of them may just be getting nervous about feeling out of place as tensions rise. Can’t say as I’d blame them if they did.

  • David Nelson Black

    This FT story is four days old and of secondary interest/importance, no?
    Germany’s foreign minister Steinmeier is saying some pretty interesting things, like that arming Ukraine would be “not just risky but counterproductive”. Meanwhile Kerry is denying there is any split between the US and Germany.
    This seems to be the more central story, as Merkel comes to talk to Obama, calls from European ministers are resoundingly clear in their desire to avoid Washington arming Ukraine because they don’t want to revive Cold War type confrontations.

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