Some Who Left: A New Wave Of Russian Emigration

Map of Russia and Russian Flag adapted from images at state.gov

(RFE/RL – rferl.org – Robert Coalson – April 21, 2015)

Hundreds of thousands have left Russia over the last two years, citing a variety of political, economic, and personal reasons.

According to Russian government statistics, 203,000 people left the country permanently in the first eight months of 2014.

That’s up from 186,000 in 2013, and very likely to break Russia’s one-year brain-drain record of 215,000 set in 1999.

Leading Russian environmental activist Yevgenia Chirikova is the latest prominent Russian to decide to emigrate. She said she made her decision to protect her children from the possibile consequences of her activism.

Here are a few other prominent Russians who have decided in recent months to seek their fortunes abroad:

  • Rustam Adagamov, photographer and blogger. Adagamov emigrated to the Czech capital, Prague, in March 2014 after Russian authorities investigated him on accusations of statutory rape — accusations that he denies.
  • Sergei Guriyev, economist and former rector of Moscow’s New School of Economics. He left Russia on vacation in May 2013 and decided not to return after being contacted repeatedly by prosecutors investigating possible new criminal charges against former oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky. “I left Russia for personal reasons,” he wrote in The New York Times. “I personally prefer to stay free.” Guriyev lives in France.
  • Oleg Kashin, journalist and blogger. Kashin immigrated to Switzerland in May 2013. He had been savagely attacked in 2010 for his reporting and said that he feared persecution for his opposition political activity.
  • Garry Kasparov, former world chess champion and Russian opposition political activist. He left Russia in June 2013, saying that he has not emigrated, but that he will not return to Russia until he feels he can do so safely. “Russia is and will always be my country,” he wrote at the time. Kasparov lives in the United States.
  • Masha Gessen, writer, journalist, activist, and former director of RFE/RL’s Russian Service. In December 2013, Gessen — who holds dual U.S.-Russian citizenship and has lived in both countries — announced that she was returning to the United States because of statements from some Russian officials calling for children to be taken away from gay parents. “Once they started talking about removing children from families,” she told CBC television, “I felt like no risk was small enough to be acceptable. So we just had to get out.”
  • Mikhail Khodorkovsky, once the richest man in Russia, he spent 10 years in prison on embezzlement and tax-evasion charges he says were politically motivated. Khodorkovsky was granted a presidential pardon and released in December 2013. He has since lived in Switzerland, where he has been granted residency. He said in March that if he returned to Putin’s Russia, “I’d end up back in a prison cell.”
  • Pavel Durov, entrepreneur and founder of the social media site VKontakte. In early 2014, amid a ferocious business dispute at VKontakte, Durov left Russia. In April 2014, he announced he had been granted citizenship by the Caribbean nation of St. Kitts and Nevis. He says that VKontakte is now controlled by Putin insider Igor Sechin and Kremlin-friendly oligarch Alisher Usmanov.
    Galina Timchenko, journalist and former editor of Lenta.ru. After the owners of Lenta.ru fired Timchenko in March 2014 over its coverage of the conflict in Ukraine, almost the entire staff of the site quit. In April, Timchenko and her team announced a new media project called Meduza, based in Riga, Latvia. She told The Daily Beast in November 2014 that she feels safe from Russian government pressure now. “I don’t believe, not for a single second, that the Kremlin is able to throw their little cages over the huge Russian Internet,” she said.
  • Leonid Bershidsky, journalist and founding editor of the Vedomosti daily. Bershidsky announced he was leaving Russia for Germany in June 2014, citing the conflict in Ukraine. “I have no desire to stay in Russia and pay a single kopek for Crimea,” he wrote. “Stolen goods are stolen goods.”
  • Marat Gelman, art curator and political consultant. Guelman announced in January 2015 that he was leaving Russia with the intention of setting up an art gallery in Montenegro. He ran into trouble in 2013 when he curated a show at the Perm Museum of Contemporary Art that ridiculed the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics and Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.

Article from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty – rferl.org – ©2015 RFE/RL, Inc. Article also appeared at rferl.org/content/russia-emigration-emigrants/26970465.html