Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Window on Eurasia: One Russian in Five Ready to Change Place of Residence, Survey Finds

Paul Goble
Staunton, August 10 – Slightly more than one Russian in five – a total of nearly 30 million people -- is ready to move to another location, with the share prepared to do so ranging from more than half in parts of the Russian Far East to fewer than one in 14 in St. Petersburg, according to the results of a massive poll conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation.
It has been “traditionally assumed, Anton Razmakhnin writes in his report about the poll, that Russians are not as ready to move from one place to another either to find work or to have a better life, but the new survey shows that this assumption is not nearly as justified as many officials and analysts have assumed (svpressa.ru/society/article/28821/).
To test that assumption and to determine which groups in the Russian population were the most mobile was one of the tasks of the recent POF poll of 34,000 Russian residents in 68 of the country’s federal subjects. Detailed results from that survey have now been published (bd.fom.ru/report/map/projects/dominant/dom1030/d103015).
The poll found, Razmakhnin says, that for Russia as a whole, 21 percent of the population is prepared to move, a share that is small compared to the 75 percent who say they do not want to shift their place of residence but one that means that approximately 30 million people are ready to do so.
As is the case in many countries, “the portrait of the most typical of those who want to move” are those “from 18 to 30, with middle or specialized middle education, who live in a village or city with fewer than a million people, who are in the middle of the income pyramid, and who are dissatisfied with the situation in [their] region.”
But Razmakhnin says, there are two important features that this portrait alone does not capture: On the one hand, “among potential migrants are more people with higher education than among those who want to remain.” And on the other, those who are prepared to move are move are more inclined than those ready to stay to believe their fate depends on their own actions.
Of those who want to leave, more than 75 percent are prepared to move only to somewhere else in the Russian Federation, with only 14 percent ready to move to “the far abroad” and only four percent prepared to migrate to one of the former Soviet republics, or “near abroad.”
The survey found that potential migrants are more interested in moving to a larger city in their own region (15 percent) or another region (18) than to the megalopolises of Moscow (10 percent) and St. Petersburg (7 percent), a pattern that reflects the economic motivation and knowledge of conditions of most migrants.
Among the other factors pushing people to move are the demise of many Russian villages and small towns over the last decade. When schools and hospitals are closed in rural Russia, something that has been happening ever more frequently, most younger Russians feel they have no choice but to move.
Not surprisingly, the POF survey found that there are enormous differences among the regions of Russian. “Practically all the eastern portion of Russia with the exception of those Siberian cities where there are powerful scientific and industrial centers and also the national republics (Sakha, Tyva, etc.)” has the highest rates, in some case more than half.
The survey also identified those regions where people are the least ready to leave. The place whose residents are the least interested in leaving is not Moscow as many might expect but St. Petersburg, Razmakhnin says. “Only seven percent” of the “patriotic” residents of the Northern capital “would like to leave it” because of its urban milieu and closeness to the sea.
But the “main” attraction of that city, he suggests, is its well-defined individuality, a situation which puts it at odds with almost all other Russian regions. “Petersburgers are above all else Petersburgers and not ‘simply Russians,’ and from this arises a specific Petersburg identity,” whose bearers see themselves as following a distinctive path.
A very different situation obtains in Kaliningrad, the non-contiguous part of the Russian Federation. Although it borders on European countries and the sea, its residents, who appear to be “tired of dealing with the problems of travelling to other regions of Russia, the POF study found, “would like to leave it or emigrate altogether.”

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