“Perhaps they are sadly mistaken, though maybe not. It is roulette,” Belanovsky shrugs.
Thus, he believes, Russians who left can be divided into “adapters” and “maladapters.” “Maladapters, if they did not burn their bridges behind them, come back. Some adapters may also come back because of their parents or a desire for a familiar social environment (including housing). However, it appears that most adapters are not coming back.”
A very important factor, the sociologist notes, is children. “If children start going to school, adapt and master the language – and they do this faster than adults – this is a powerful incentive to stay in the host country, especially in Europe. But I think that among those who left due to the war, such people are in the minority. Childless people are more mobile.”
Meanwhile, those who left for post-Soviet countries come back much more often. These countries are chosen by Russians who are less adaptive and who perceive their departure as temporary, explains Belanovsky.
Thinking it through
Many people left without weighing all the consequences of leaving, making the decision impulsively, out of fear for their own lives and those of their children, notes psychologist Natalya Cheskis. “There were no conversations with children, no one explained to them why their parents had decided to move, which resulted in a jump in children’s anxiety levels,” she says.
According to Cheskis, the problems of relocation (moving because your employer is moving) and emigration include several aspects that cannot be ignored: “you lose your identity and have to find a new one. You must say goodbye to what is familiar and well-established, reorient yourself and adapt to new things; you are in a situation of uncertainty, and you need to withstand the stress that arises from that.” You need to find a social environment that gives you a sense of belonging, and in the case of emigration, not relocation, you need to find work that you are ready to do.
If a person made a deliberate decision, consciously chose the place where he wants to live, if he is ready to overcome the challenges that lie ahead, he will stay, Cheskis thinks. If the decision [to leave] was spontaneous and motivated only by fear, then most likely the person will go back when the situation changes.
According to Cheskis, the issue of going back or not should be revisited after a year or a year and a half abroad. “Only I think that those people who decide to return must be prepared for the fact that it will no longer be the same as before, that they will have to adapt again to a society in which there will be many traumatized people, and this will be a colossal problem for society, on top of the many others,” she warns.
Do emigrants help their host countries?
Economist Nikolai Kulbaka says the same thing. “Most people who left, in one way or another, understand that the Russia they left is gone forever. The point is that the Russia that will exist in a year or two – no matter whether it is the ‘beautiful Russia of the future,’ ‘Putin’s Russia’ or something in between – will no longer be their country, [and will be] a country where they will feel like strangers.”
Generally speaking, in his view, if an emigrant managed to find a good, stable job, then the chances are that he will stay abroad. “Historical experience shows that if migrants stay in a country for more than two years, they begin to put down roots.”
Still, it remains to be seen where exactly they will stay: many who left for Central Asia are now moving on, usually, to European countries.