Emigration on the Rise in Russia
The emigration of Russia’s professional class is on the rise. Social scientists are sounding the alarm, and cite a lack of demand for middle-class professionals. An unfavorable trend is resurfacing in Russia. According to the Public Opinion Foundation (FOM), in 2012, 17 percent of the population would like to emigrate. A year earlier, this figure was 15 percent. In 2007, it was 14 percent. Most of these people (33 percent) are 18 to 30 years old.
FOM head Alexander Oslon cites a curious detail in a recent FOM poll on the subject – that is, of the 17 percent of those who think of leaving, 5 percent believe they will actually do so, but 9 percent admit that they might not leave Russia for good. These 9 percent would be willing to stay if they see that they are needed here.
The most productive part of the population does not have much political protection. Oslon said that the population’s change of mood occurred around September 24, 2011, when it became clear that Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev had merely switched places.
Lev Gudkov, Director of the Levada Center, agrees with Oslon. Levada Center surveys show that half of the middle class have thoughts of leaving, and about 4 percent-6 percent of them have already taken specific steps to this end by researching resettlement opportunities, writing to a future employer abroad and/or applying for a visa.
Emigration jumped 22 percent in the spring of 2011, mainly fuelled by educated youth. Gudkov said that over the past decade, Russia has lost about a million and a half people from the middle class.
“These are the most educated, the most successful, the most enterprising people,” said Gudkov. “They did not leave the country because of insecurity or economic problems, but because of a lack of political possibilities. Those who have been successful in Russia understand that under current conditions, they may not be able to protect their assets or loved ones in the absence of political protection, especially judicial protection.”
However, Mikhail Delyagin, Director of the Institute of Globalization Problems, points to a different approach among many recent emigrants.
“The most productive people are trying to get out of Russia, and not only to fashionable countries in the West, but increasingly to China, which, by the way, in recent years has been welcoming refugees from Russia – because they need brainpower, in contrast to our country,” Delyagin said.
What could counter this increasing trend in emigration? The state could find an approach that would seem to offer more support for various sections of the population. The socially dependent part of the population is stably funded, a group that gives the Russian government a high approval rating. However, the future of Russia, including the financial well-being of the people, depends to a large extent on those who are able to advance its economy. These people are not protesting loudly in the squares; they are simply leaving.
Putin Meets with Valdai Discussion Club
Russia’s dependence on oil and gas to earn its revenue will decline over the coming years, President Vladimir Putin said at the annual meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club.
“Fifty percent of our budget revenue comes from oil and gas sales. But if we take it as a percentage of our overall GDP, the oil-and-gas sector revenue is declining. And we plan for this revenue to drop even further against GDP,” he told the Russian and international experts who asked him to discuss three cornerstones of Russia’s economic development – what is happening, who is to blame and what needs to be done.
“In Russia, no one is ever to blame,” he joked.
He refrained from advising European governments on ways out of the crisis there, but said he did approve of the German government’s pragmatic approach to dealing with system-wide problems before injecting cash, which is “only a temporary kick in the butt.”
While admitting that Russia’s accession to the EU is impossible even hypothetically, Putin said he supported rapprochement policies and regretted the occasional lack of reciprocity.
“We have made no progress towards introducing visa-free travel. Really, this is just laughable. Europe has visa-free travel with some Latin American countries. Is the crime situation there really any better than in Russia? Of course not. This is all quite absurd, you understand. I am at a loss really to understand our colleagues’ motivations here,” he said.
Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus are carefully studying Europe’s experience and trying to take into account the EU’s mistakes while implementing their own integration project, he said. “Start discussing anything in the EU and the 27 countries with their 27 languages all make for such a bureaucratic nightmare that you feel like you’re never going to make it alive to actually getting to the point of what the various speakers are saying,” he said.
Following the meeting, the Valdai experts complained that the discussion was not as serious as they had expected, probably due to a change in format: only three moderators were selected to ask Putin generalized questions.
“This was the dullest meeting with Putin ever,” said Nikolai Zlobin, director of Russian and Asian programs at World Security Institute in Washington. “No one argued or forced him to take the defensive. As we say, that's two hours I'll never get back.”
No one asked political questions. The Pussy Riot issue came up at the very end when no-one heard it. According to Alexander Rahr, сonsultant for the President of the German-Russian Chamber of Foreign Commerce, Putin simply repeated what he said before: the young women insulted believers’ feelings.
“Putin suggested that our US and European friends should be more objective, reminding the audience that the author of ‘Innocence of Muslims’ is also serving a prison sentence, and no one seems concerned,” Rahr said.
“He is also confident that the ruling party’s popularity rating is high, while opposition groups first need to prove their worth,” he added.
Italian Space Official Claims Russia “Forgot” Astronaut in Orbit
Russia argues that Cosmonaut Valery Polyakov’s extended mission was a planned achievement.
The president of the Italian Space Agency, Enrico Saggese, said last week at the first Eurasian forum on innovation and international integration in Verona, Italy, that in 1994 Russia forgot Valery Polyakov in the Mir orbital station, where he spent 438 days. While admitting that a world record was set, the Italian claimed that Polyakov’s health was damaged beyond repair.
This is nonsense, said Yury Koptev, who headed the Russian Space Agency in the 1990s.
“Polyakov’s extended mission on the Mir station was planned and carried out successfully,” he said. “It is impossible to ‘forget’ someone in orbit.”
Valery Polyakov told Izvestia that his health was not affected by his long stay in space.
“I’m sure that space flights, including missions to other planets, can last for a long time. My objective was to study the medical and biological effects on the human body during super-long flights, comparable in length to a Mars mission,” he said.
Polyakov said that he got the idea of a record-long flight during a space research conference in Moscow in 1992.
“We met with U.S. astronauts, who said they were planning a 13-month flight,” which would be one month longer than the Russian record, Polyakov said. “I proposed staying in orbit for 18 to 24 months. I had spent eight months on the station before that. The board of the Russian space agency supported the idea.”
Academician Yury Semyonov, who headed the Energia Corporation that was responsible for manned flights in the 1990s, said that one more record was set during that mission.
“NASA astronaut Shannon Lucid set a record for the most hours in orbit for a woman by chance. She spent 188 days on the Mir station because the Americans couldn’t send the scheduled shuttle to pick her up,” Semyonov said. “The flight by Polyakov, who worked as both an astronaut and a doctor, was planned to last that long.”
Researchers from the Institute of Biomedical Problems of the Russian Academy of Sciences monitored Polyakov’s flight from day one.
“I sent blood tests, cardiograms and other medical data back to Earth,” Polyakov recalled. “I felt fine, but sometimes longed for home.”
Deputy Director of the Institute Mark Belakovsky said that Polyakov’s mission was a research achievement on a global scale.
“We should be proud. Polyakov’s flight was part of the preparations for a mission to Mars. We proved that humans can do it,” he said.
Valery Polyakov’s record is unlikely to be broken anytime soon. Currently, astronauts spend six months on the International Space Station. There are plans to send a Russian and a NASA astronaut to the ISS for 12 months in 2015.
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