A large number of Russians have emigrated since the war in Ukraine

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THE FIRST there was an exodus at the start of the war: up to 300,000 Russians fled the country in the first few months since the president’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. A second wave began when Vladimir Putin announced a “partial movement” in September, and desperate young men rushed to border crossings to avoid the draft. It is difficult to establish the exact scale of emigration that the war provoked. It is not surprising that the Kremlin has released data on the matter. And independent estimates have varied from 500,000 to 1m. But new analysis has narrowed that range (see chart).

Re: Russia, an analysis and policy network, has analyzed various estimates and data available from countries that have accepted large numbers of Russian emigration. They found that between 817,000 and 922,000 people have left Russia since February 2022. The biggest receiving countries were Kazakhstan and Serbia, each with 150,000 emigrants. But Russians have moved around the world, including between 30,000 and 40,000 who went to America, according to the estimates.

There is uncertainty about the data. Russians may travel through several transit countries before settling. Others return home after struggling to establish a life abroad, often citing difficulties in finding work. Some returnees suggest that they will try to emigrate again once their financial situation allows it.

Emigration from Russia Mr. Putin is not new. In the first 19 years of his rule 1.6m-2m people left the country (although the rate had been declining since the turbulent decade after 1989). The rate increased significantly around 2012, when Mr Putin returned to the Russian presidency in an election marked by fraud and protests (see chart). But the invasion of Ukraine is the single biggest cause of political upheaval since the 1920s.

Also important is the image of those who can move. In general, immigrants in wartime Russia have relatively high levels of income, social capital and education. That is bad news for Russia, both economically and socially. Re: Russia believes that the wartime emigrants make up about 1% of the Russian workforce, exacerbating the labor shortage. The Gaidar Institute, a Moscow think tank, said 35% of manufacturing businesses were understaffed in April, the highest number since 1996. The shortage of specialists is particularly severe: according to one Kremlin official, at least 100,000 IT professionals will leave the country in 2022. With no vision for the future other than international isolation and war, the Kremlin will struggle to stem the tide.■

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