There’s a really telling trend about Russia’s demographics: Westerners are moving out of Russia, while citizens of central and east Asia are moving in.
Germans, Americans, Britons, Fins, Spaniards, and Italians topped the list of foreigners moving out of Russia in 2014.
On the other hand, those living in China, Armenia, Kazakhstan, South and North Korea, and Georgia moved into Russia.
Ever since Russia-West relations have deteriorated over the last year, many Westerners have opted to leave. Meanwhile, Russia has been working to strengthen ties with countries in Asia (including China and North Korea).
The only European countries whose citizens actually moved into Russia were Ukraine and Belarus. However, it’s important to remember that neither Ukraine nor Belarus belongs to the EU, and the economies of both countries are still deeply entangled with Russia. (And, of course, let’s not forget everything that’s been going on in Ukraine.)
In total, if we exclude the Ukrainians who moved to Russia, a net 1 million foreigners left Russia in the second half of 2014, according to data from Federal Migration Service.
At first glance, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan (the red/pink in the Central Asia) look like oddballs who don’t quite fit the major trend. But actually, this, too, is unsurprising. The flow of migrants into Russia has fallen by 70% in January year-over-year, which has been attributed to the ruble’s plunge and the increased costs associated with finding work.
Most of these migrant workers came from Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, and they were looking for opportunities to earn more money to send back home. But with the ruble’s devaluation, this was no longer the optimal choice for many. Additionally, Russia makes migrant workers take a mandatory exam, which is simply too expensive for most to take.
This latest exodus of foreigners falls into an even larger trend. Russia has been experiencing a major brain drain over the last two years, since Putin took up his third term in office.
What’s particularly notable about the past two years is the type of people who have been leaving the country.
“While the total number of Russians who leave for good remains relatively small, the profile of the typical emigrant has changed. When the Soviet Union dissolved, the most common emigrant was a poor, unskilled young man. Today, it is a well-off professional,” according to World Policy.
Notable individuals who have left include chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov, economist Sergei Guriyev, journalist Leonid Bershidsky, and the founder of VKontakte (Russia’s version of Facebook) Pavel Durov.
Additionally, Russia’s “creative class” has been starting to feel isolated, although some politicians seem unfazed by this.
“Russia won’t lose anything if the entire so-called creative class leaves. What’s the creative class anyway?” said Vitaly Milonov, a Member of the Legislative Assembly of Saint Petersburg. “For me, a woman who gets up at 5 a.m. to milk a cow is creative because she produces something. Not some guy with a stupid haircut who sits in a cafe all day long writing in his blog.”
The bottom line is: Russia’s demographics have been changing like crazy in 2014.