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How Russian Liberals Create Russophobe Myths

In this case the myth of catastrophic Russian brain drain – long after that ceased to be the case

We introduced Nikolai Starikov to you in October. We wrote:

A historian, he is an extremely popular author and blogger from St. Petersburg.  Several of his books are current best-sellers. He is on TV all the time, one of the most visible of a new breed of up-and-coming politicians.  

He recently founded The Great Fatherland Party, a conservative, patriotic party which espouses Christian values. In an American context, you might compare him to a Marco Rubio, and in Europe... well Europe doesn't really produce this kind of politician.

The thing to understand is that this guy is very mainstream. He echoes what a majority of Russian elites and public believe.  

The article below is classic Starikov. A few years old now, but enormously useful.

This article originally appeared at Nikolai Starikov. It was translated by Anatoly Karlin at Da Russophile

Translator's note: Do you remember the growing chorus of voices in the Western media speaking of a “growing wave” of emigration from Putin’s Russia? Those 1.25 million liberal professionals who have fled that neo-Soviet abyss in the past few years? As it turns out, not only are these stories complete fabrications – in a previous post, I revealed that the actual statistics (as opposed to hearsay) indicate that emigration has fallen to record lows – but they originate with the Russian liberal media.

The words of a government official, whose department has nothing to do with migration, was egregiously MISQUOTED to give the impression of a huge outflow in the past few years whereas he had been talking about the entire post-Soviet period! Nonetheless, too lazy and/or ideologically biased to do basic fact-checking, this false narrative spread into the top Russian liberal media outlets and from then on into Western publications (with their equally lazy and Russophobic hacks) such as Julian Evans for Wall Street Journal and Simon Shuster for TIME.

The full meta-story of how the Russian liberals orchestrated this “Second Wave of Emigration” meme is reconstructed in painstaking detail by Nikolay Starikov in his blog post How Liberal Myths are Created.

My translation follows:

The recipe is simple: a little manipulation, a few lies, and a lot of emotions. And that’s all – yet another calumny on Russia is ready. Let us get to the bottom of this kitchen cooking liberal myths about our country.

A myth is always created in several stages:

STAGE 1 – The “Careless Citation”

Radio Echo of Moscow, Sat. Jan 15, 2011, program “Dura Lex.”

In the studio we have Mikhail Barschevsky and Chairman of the Audit Chamber Sergei Stepashin. They are having a nice discussion and congratulate each other on the New Year.

Sergei Stepashin feels himself comfortable and says the following in his discussion with Barschevsky:

BARSCHEVSKY: … You now speak of innovations. But, in reality, by abusing human rights – ordinary rights, such as security, not providing judicial protection – we lost a lot of talented people to brain drain. People who may now have been very useful for innovation.
STEPASHIN: Well I have the exact figures. 1,250,000 people, who are now working abroad. They aren’t the least able of us….
BARSCHEVSKY: You mean not plumbers?
STEPASHIN: Well, they are academics, specialists.
BARSCHEVSKY: 1,250,000?
STEPASHIN: 1,250,000. About as many left after 1917.

So what did Stepashin actually say? He said that 1,250,000 Russians work abroad. They are educated academics and specialists.

Now pay close attention – the Chairman of the Audit Chamber didn’t say a word about when these people left the country. The conversation was about something else – that today some 1,250,000 smart Russians work abroad. But when did they leave? Throughout the entire post-Soviet era! (And likely, including the period of the late USSR).

Sergey Stepashin has to be more careful with his numbers, and his words – especially on account of his position, and on that radio station! [AK: Echo of Moscow is one of the main media voices of Russian liberals].

STAGE 2 – Quote Manipulation and Myth Creation

After the radio program the liberals did two things:

(1) They began to present the 1,250,000 figure as originating from an authoritative source – the Chairman of the Audit Chamber. As if our Audit Chamber concerns itself with counting the numbers leaving the country. [AK: Obviously, it doesn’t; that’s the job of the Federal Migration Service]

(2) They presented this figure not as the numbers of Russians working abroad, but as the numbers of Russians who took leave of Putin’s Russia. I hope the difference is clear.

Thus the myth creation process from Stepashin’s carelessly phrased words began to spread in earnest. Here are a few randomly chosen Internet headers:

The middle class leaves Russia. “According to the Audit Chamber’s figures, some 1,250,000 emigrated from Russia in the last few years.”

Consequences of the Putinist decade: clever people scrambling out of Russia. “The country is submerged under a new emigration wave. 1,250,000 people left for the West. Once again people are running out of Russian en masse. If we believe the calculations of Sergey Stepashin, the Chairman of the Audit Chamber, 1,250,000 Russians left the country in the past few years.”

Soon after, this process is reinforced not just by simple “parrots,” but by more qualified commentators. Their goals are the same – the creation of false information in support of their thesis that “all that we had is now gone.”

1,250,000 emigrants. Why is Russia leaking human capital?” asks the title of a program on Radio Finam FM. It begins thus: “According to Chairman of the Audit Chamber Sergey Stepashin’s calculations, in the last few years 1,250,000 emigrated out of Russia. And this is only the official statistic.”

The radio show-manipulators invited Dmitry Polikanov, the Deputy Director of the Central Executive Party Committee of United Russia. But for him and for all its listeners, this 1,250,000 figure is already presented, as the OFFICIAL NUMBER OF EMIGRANTS IN THE LAST FEW YEARS.

This is how they frame their question: “Dmitry, please tell us, is not the younger generation off United Russia party leaders the least concerned about this statistic, or is it considered to be within reasonable bounds, and irrelevant? 1,250,000 people left our country in the last few years, but don’t worry – that’s nothing to worry about.”

It’s a smart approach – how exactly is a young United Russia functionary is supposed to argue with the Chairman of the Audit Chamber? For nobody has the time or desire to read the original source and realize that what Sergey Stepashin talked about, wasn’t in the least related to how leading liberals quoted him.

The liberals always exploit our big weakness – the majority of normal people don’t know the rules of information warfare. They can’t even imagine that liars may intentionally distort and outright falsify words and facts. And the liberals feed off this. They brazenly LIE.

Just remember – don’t trust any numbers put forwards by the liberals. In most cases, it will either be based on lies, or intentional manipulation. Check them; refute them.

But the young Polikanov accepted those liberal figures at face value and didn’t dispute the figure of 1,250,000 who LEFT IN THE LAST FEW YEARS. And in so doing, he in a way confirmed them. And that’s all that “independent” journalists really require.

Because now they can link to that discussion too: here was a United Russia functionary, and he didn’t dispute that figure, hence he agreed with it. And thus that 1,250,000 just left the country is the truth.

After that this figure seeps into the blogosphere, and becomes a common motif. A clear example of how normal life in “Putin’s Russia” is impossible.

Soon after Moskovskij Komsomolets joins in, which employs that famous “literatus” Aleksandr Minkin. He writes an article under the title Flight from the Tandem: “The Audit Chamber officially reported: “In the last few years, 1,250,000 people left Russia.” The wave of emigration is not a lot less than the one after 1917. This statistics are confirmed by the Director of the Federal Migration Service Romodanovsky: “About 300,000-350,000 Russians leave to work abroad every year.” How many of them return he didn’t specify.”

Regular as clockwork, Minkin is lying big time. The Audit Chamber didn’t officially report anything about emigration, nor can it because it isn’t its sphere of responsibility! Minkin isn’t only repeating Stepashin’s distorted words, but he is also creatively manipulating the speech of Konstantin Romodanovsky. The FMS Director actually said this: “Every year more than 300,000 people leave Russia, of whom 40,000 – for permanent residence abroad.”

That is, only 40,000 people permanently leave the country. The others study, work, travel, and return. The state statistics service Rosstat has very similar figures.

But let’s be honest, unlike “independent” journalists. Where to they go, where do citizens “flee” from their “bad” life in Russia? Of course, they leave for the “civilized world.” So let’s take the numbers of those leaving for the so-called “Far Abroad” (AK: Refers to the world outside the former USSR). After all it’s not like our countrymen are leaving for a better life in Moldova or Georgia.

Left for FA860268232787156634085959654586479374277833689187991568413394

So what we have is that in the past 12 years, some 605,380 people left the country. And the trend is for this figure to decrease with every passing year.

Unfortunately, Rosstat doesn’t give figures for 2009 and 2010 (AK: It does, but you have to dig into their database; this trend has continued, and as of this year the migration balance between countries like Germany and Israel has even turned positive!). But in 2008 some 39,508 people left Russia, out of whom 13,394 left for the Far Abroad. Is it even possible to imagine that in 2009 and 2010 there began a flood of 1.2 million when in the previous year there were less than 40,000?

STAGE 3 – Smearing the Country

And now Novaya Gazeta strolls by, all very randomly and independently. [AK: NG is the most hysterically liberal and knee-jerk anti-Putin paper].

After the previous stage of myth creation and “legitimization,” NG confidently states: “A high ranked bureaucrat has shed light on the unprecedented human flight out of Russia at the end of the 2000’s. The Chairman of the Audit Chamber Sergey Stepashin back in January gave a figure – from 2008, some 1.25 million Russians in the economically active part of the population. And the outflow continues. Although Stepashin predictably didn’t delve into its causes, the current emigration wave unconditionally enters the list of deferred achievements of the “eight years of Putinist stability.””

Read this Novaya Gazeta article. Pathos, photo. The general tone: All we have is gone, the Russia, that we have lost.

And now remember back – what did Stepashin actually say?

Do you still trust the liberal media?

All that said, for us this history with the lies and distortions so eagerly spread by the campaigners “for our freedom and yours” is only another reason to soberly analyze the emigration out of Russia of those people, who may be of use to it.

Let’s summarize:

  1. Some 1,250,000 of our countrymen, who left in the past 20 years, are now working abroad. Many of them are well educated and talented.
  2. The brain drain out of Russia continues. But, bearing in mind that the figures are falling year by year (reaching 39,508 in 2008), we can confidently say that the scale of this emigration is continuously declining.
  3. It is also clear that the vast majority of our brain drain happened in the periods of “reform” and “liberalism” – when effective managers and those same liberals destroyed science and industry – and not at all in the past few years.
  4. Sergey Stepashin should not relax when interviewed by Echo of Moscow. He should watch his words carefully, anyone of which may be used against Russia in the information war.
  5. Under no circumstances should one trust figures cited by the liberal mass media and “independent” journalists. They will deceive you, like rogue traders cheat on unwary customers in a bazaar.
  6. Cross check everything yourself, think independently. The main instrument for this is common sense.
  7. You have to love your country. This love will help you separate lies from truth.

Translator's Endnote: There is also a STAGE 4 – the Western Transmigration. In this episode, the hacks who populate Western journalism reprint Russian liberal talking points, but being every bit as lazy and ideologically Russophobic as the liberasts (and in some cases not even knowing the Russian language) checking the provenance of these stories isn’t exactly their first priority. It’s not even on the to do list.

Hence articles such as:

Hence what begins as liberal manipulation in the dregs of Russian media spreads to marginal newspapers such as Novaya Gazeta, and from then on to the heights of what passes for Western “journalism.”

PS. Compare also with liberal slandering of Russia on Russia’s demography by Nezavisimaya Gazeta and how the liberal media played up the specter of a wave of crisis-induced abortions in early 2009 even as abortions continued to fall and fertility to rise. Truly there is no end to Russian liberal lies.

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