In happier times Russian university students could expect a bright future as part of the country’s elite. Instead the country is experiencing a serious brain drain as graduates head abroad, and many other young people dream of doing so: 40 percent, according to one survey.
It is of serious concern to the authorities in the run-up to parliamentary elections on December 4.
One first year maths student at Moscow State University said if she continued her studies she would probably go abroad, because she did not believe the government was putting enough money into science development.
The loss of more new talent would be devastating for Russia, already reliant on an older generation of specialists for its scientific research.
Unlike previous waves of emigration, this one has deep political undercurrents, according to Dmitry Muratov, editor of the opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta.
“In the 1970s there was Jewish emigration out of the Soviet Union, and then lots of people left at the beginning of the 1990s. That was emigration for sausages and blue jeans. Now, go anywhere in Moscow – there are sausages and blue jeans everywhere – you can find anything you want, but there’s still gigantic emigration because people are leaving for a breath of fresh air. They’re leaving over values,” he said.
Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party is expected to win the general election. Putin himself, now prime minister, is expected to recapture the presidency next year.
Analysts warn of stagnation and a continuing exodus. Many trying to leave are well-educated with stable jobs, among them Alexander Shishenin, a manager at Russia’s largest search engine company and email service, Mail.ru.
“Well, I would like to try living abroad because I don’t like how the political situation (in Russia) is developing, as there’s no party representing the middle class,” he said.
“I don’t like the economic situation either: there’s nowhere outside Moscow where you can work for a normal salary. And the third reason is the problem with the courts. It’s not just me: society in general doesn’t get a sense of justice.”
One survey suggests three times more Russians want to emigrate than did so in 2007. They include the rich, according to an agency that advises them.
“A lot of my clients don’t want to invest a lot of their money here, they want to invest it overseas. They don’t want to send their kids to school here. They want to send them overseas. They see this country as a sort of necessary evil,” said Alexander Aginsky, director of Aginsky Consulting.
A brain drain, a death rate higher than the birth rate: Russia’s long-term future is at stake.
There are warnings that while power shows every sign of becoming entrenched, the country itself risks becoming a waning power.