And before you read it, as a hopefully still young and somewhat professional Russian I ought to say that I'm not going to shove off in any way, and belive me it wouldn't be hard for me if I wanted.
The other day I noted an especially overdrawn article titled “Time to Shove Off” that had recently appeared in The Economist. The article’s thesis was basically the following: Russia is again stagnating and all of its most talented and successful people are preparing to leave, a development which will eventual cripple the country. I briefly noted that I thought this was a load of rubbish and that the article omitted a huge number of relevant facts that contradicted its analysis.
As is quite obvious from even a cursory glance at the data, the recent Levada poll shows that Russians’ desire to emigrate is utterly unexceptional. Indeed, apart from South Korea, Great Britain and Germany, there is at least one other well-managed liberal democracy whose citizens are much more eager to leave the country than the despondent citizens of Putin’s stagnating autocracy. Don’t believe me? Look at this Gallup poll from early 2008 which asked the following question: “Ideally, if you had the opportunity, would like to move permanently to another country, or would you prefer to continue living in this country.” 35% of Chileans said that they would like to move to another country, far higher than equivalent figures for Argentina (20%) or Venezuela (12%).
Chile is, and has long been, one of The Economist’s favorite success stories, a country far more thoroughly liberalized, both politically and economically, than Russia is ever likely to be. Yet despite its liberalism, capitalism, and democracy more than a third of its citizens said they would prefer to emigrate. Chile’s figure was far higher than the corresponding figures for the far less economically liberal Argentina and Venezuela, or even a famously unequal and polarized society such as Brazil. Does this mean that Chile’s president is evil or that its basic political and economic structures are fundamentally broken? Does it mean that it should adopt the “Bolivarian” model which apparently is far better at retaining the basic loyalty of citizens? I suspect not, but then I have no interest in either tendentiously trying to prove Chile’s failure or convincing it of a specific course of action.
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