Gallup poll finds 1 in 5 Russians would like to permanently leave Russia

One in five Russians say they would like to leave Russia for good if they could, a new Gallup poll shows, a sign that Russia is moving dangerously close to a full-blown demographic crisis.

The poll released Thursday shows that  Germany is the most desired destination for potential migrants, with 12 % picking the U.S.

The poll, conducted last year among 2,000 Russian, follows data showing a declining population in Russia for the first time in a decade in 2018.

During his 2012 presidential campaign, Putin was already warning that nagging demographic losses could turn Russia into the “empty space.” 

Since 2014, the percentage of working-age Russians who say they would like to move has at least tripled, jumping from 14% to 44% among 15 to 29-year-olds, from 7% to 22% among those between the ages of 30 and 45 and from 3% to 9% among those aged 46 to 60, Gallup says.

A big migration would deal a heavy blow to the future of Russia’s already strained pension system, which the government tried to address in 2018 by raising the retirement age for men from 60 to 65 and for women from 55 to 63. President Vladimir Putin watered down his proposal, however, setting the retirement age for women at 60, following a sharp backlash, including street protests around the country in September.

The desire to leave Russia can be found among all educational backgrounds and skill levels, not just among the better educated, the U.S. polling firm found.

Gallup found a desire to leave Russia permanently among 20% of Russians with primary education or less, 19% from among those with mid-level education and 24% among those with college degrees or higher.

The alarming trend favoring emigration slowed for a couple of years beginning in 2014, driven by a swell of Russian pride over the hosting of the Sochi Winter Olympic Games and Putin’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. But that uptick was short-lived, with the desire to leave once again tracking Putin’s falling popularity and an economy hit by Western sanctions.

Gallup notes a similar relationship between leadership approval and desire to migrate in the U.S., where a record 16% said they would like to move in 2017-2018. The difference between the two cases, Gallup says, is that the U.S. population is growing, albeit slowly.


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