The wave of emigration, which has included large numbers of educated Russians, has grave implications for a country of 142 million with a death rate significantly higher than its birthrate. A study published this year by the Berlin Institute for Population and Development called Russia a waning power and predicted its population would shrink by 15 million by 2030.
Experts believe that 100,000 to 150,000 people now leave the country annually and warn that the exodus reached dangerous dimensions in the last three years.
“People are going abroad for better college education, for better medical help, for better career opportunities, believing they will come back someday, but very few actually do,” said Dmitry Oreshkin, a political analyst with the Institute of Geography. “The intellectual potential of the nation is being washed away, as the most mobile, intelligent and active are leaving.”
Lev Gudkov, head of Levada, also sees a political dimension. “The worst thing is that people who could have played a key role in the modernization campaign proclaimed by the Kremlin are all leaving,” Gudkov said. “But it appears that the Kremlin couldn’t care less if the most talented, the most active Russians are emigrating, because their exodus lifts the social and political tension in the country and weakens the opposition.”