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Brain Drain From Russia? The BBC Gets It Wrong. (As Usual)


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The BBC reports that Russia is suffering from a wave of emigration among middle-class professionals in a story dated 2 October under the heading “Russia brain drain after Putin crackdown”. The facts tell a different story.

As a skeptic of what the BBC writes about Russia and since human resources is one of my areas of expertise, I decided to check the facts.  And it turned out just as I had expected.  It is the BBC’s editorial team not Russia that seems to be suffering from a brain drain, nay, a hemorrhage. The facts just do not back up the story and rather prove that the opposite is true.

Although the once venerable BBC likens the – supposed – wave of emigration to the mass exodus that followed the 1917 October Revolution and the tragic years of the 1990s that followed the Soviet Union’s fall, the fact is that very few are now leaving. In fact the shocking truth is that actually more people are moving to Russia than leaving it.

The BBC refers the supposed problem back to Vladimir Putin's re-election as president in March 2012, which they allege led to a “crackdown on the liberal opposition and independent media.” So, let’s look back at the figures starting from 2012. (Source Russian Statistics Agency, Rosstat).

It turns out that in year 2012, 417,681 people moved to Russia and 122,751 emigrated from Russia, the net influx being almost 300,000 people. You can hardly call that a “wave of emigration”.

Since Western analysts in my experience are prone to show racist bias in favor of people from Western countries as opposed to (as they imagine) “lower quality” people from the former USSR, I decided to look separately at migration flows to and from Russia from the rest of the world excluding the former USSR.  I call this category “the West”, though it includes the rest of the world apart from Ukraine and the CIS.

This does not change things in the BBC’s favor. Only 27,179 people left Russia for the West in 2012, and lo and behold, 53,726 left the West and the rest of the world for Russia. So in 2012 the BBC’s wave of migrants was heading in completely the opposite direction!

2013 did not turn out any better for the BBC. Again there was a net influx of 295,855 migrants to Russia, of whom 21,000 left the temptations of the West.

But certainly then 2014 would prove BBC right, because one cannot just write something like that without any support from the facts?  Alas, the first 7 months of this year failed them again.  In this period the net migration to Russia was 142,486 people of whom 7,464 came from the West.

It does not help that the BBC gives the names of 7 people that they know have left Russia for the West.  I can easily name 10 people who have taken up residence in Russia.

Russia clearly is not losing people. Oh, yes, they claim it is a “brain drain”. But sorry, the 7 people they named do not in any way come across as convincing of an exodus of the best sons and daughters of the nation.

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