The outflow of scientists from Russia did not increase fivefold, but fell threefold: why you should not trust the former Komsomol leaders

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The outflow of scientists from Russia did not increase fivefold, but fell threefold: why you should not trust the former Komsomol leaders
The outflow of scientists from Russia did not increase fivefold, but fell threefold: why you should not trust the former Komsomol leaders

This week, the media released news that might shock you: "Previously, about 14 thousand researchers left Russia [a year], now - 70 thousand." We have carefully examined the situation and are forced to note that there was nothing of the kind and is not present. In reality, we are not talking about scientists at all, and not even about highly qualified specialists. There are problems with scientists in Russia. But in this case, we are not talking about them, but about the fact that some former Komsomol leaders, who successfully settled in the RAS, confused the brain drain from Russia with the departure of guest workers from it. Let's figure out how they did it.


It all started with a speech by Nikolai Dolgushkin, Chief Scientific Secretary of the Russian Academy of Sciences. He said so: “The non-decreasing outflow of scientists and highly qualified specialists abroad plays an important role in the reduction of the number of researchers. The number of specialists going abroad annually has not decreased and since 2012 has increased from 14 thousand to almost 70 thousand people at the present time."

Scary to the point. But the author of this text himself once planned to become a scientist in Russia, so he has a little idea how many of them we have. This immediately raised the question: where did “70 thousand highly qualified specialists a year” come from in our country?

This is not an idle question. The training of young personnel has been the most vulnerable point of all Russian science (and the economy as well) since at least 1991. Not so many people want to go to science: they will have to strain their brains, and they pay like a small insect. In addition, there is a difficult psychological atmosphere: research teams often resemble banks with spiders, where young and overly ambitious researchers are not only knocked on by their bosses, but also directly slandered, squeezing out where they will not be dangerous as competitors.

There is another complication as well. Obviously, a scientist or highly qualified specialist from Russia is unlikely to go to Kyrgyzstan or Ukraine - the science there is much worse than ours. But the fact is that 70 thousand a year is a figure close to the total migration from Russia to the far abroad. Do we have only scientists emigrating?

Where did 70 thousand people “flowing abroad” come from?

To understand this, you need to find out: how many scientists do we have? The exact definition of the word "scientist" is still to be looked for, so there is data only for a more vague category of researchers: Rosstat believes that we had 348 thousand of them last year. It turns out that 20% of researchers leave Russia every year? And in five years there will be zero?

Let's try to open the Rosstat website and find out what is really going on with the "brain drain" there. Following the link, we are interested in the section "Distribution of migrants aged 14 and over by education level and countries of exit / reception in the Russian Federation in 2019." In 2019 (later data is not yet available) 62 thousand people with higher education migrated from our country. There are slightly fewer candidates and doctors of sciences among them - 360. It turns out that Dolgushkin meant them by “highly qualified personnel”? Alas, there are no other options in sight: it is unlikely that he meant those who do not even have a university behind them.

Is it fair to consider a graduate of a Russian university as a "highly qualified specialist"

It so happened that the author of these lines both studied at Russian universities and lived in a number of hostels (mostly not their own universities). There he saw different people: many were brilliant students, and about a third did not study at all. Once, by chance passing an exam in the same auditorium with fifth-year students, he received a question from a girl sitting next to him: “I don't understand what is written on the ticket. Can you tell me what the word compromise means?"


After graduating from the university, the author made diplomas to other students in order to survive. The first experience in this area wounded him to the very heart. A beautiful girl on an expensive crossover of bright red color formulated the task for making a diploma as follows: "Just don't write too cleverly, I still read it aloud, if there are unfamiliar words, I will put the emphasis in the wrong place and.. …" The performer tried, and the girl defended her diploma very good.

Of course, not all universities in Russia are in such a difficult condition as MGIMO, where the lady described above studied. But it should be admitted: a lot of people go to our universities not to study, but to get rid of the army or "glue" promising young people (or just get a pretty crust). These students then rarely work in their specialty, even less often they want to.

In other words, the Chief Scientific Secretary of the Russian Academy of Sciences has carried out a typical substitution of concepts: a graduate of a Russian university can by no means indiscriminately be called a “highly qualified specialist”.

Where exactly did Russian brains go?

Since we have opened the Rosstat website, at the same time we will find out to which countries our 62 thousand "scientists and highly qualified specialists" are drawn. A surprise awaits here: 55 thousand of them - almost 89% - went to such scientifically advanced powers as the CIS countries. Most of the "scientists" flowed to Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.

What did they throw in their native country, how do the flourishing science cities of the former USSR beckon them? This would be a topic for an intriguing investigation, if not for the fact that, as can be seen from the data of Rosstat, they are mainly migrants from the same former USSR. And graduating from a university in these countries is now no more difficult than in Russia itself. That is, with some desire, anyone can do it, often without studying at all.

Moreover, these 55 thousand people with higher education make up only one-sixth of the total number of migrants to post-Soviet countries. This roughly corresponds to the share of the population of the CIS countries with higher education. Simply put, these are guest workers who return to their cities and villages from earnings in Russia, which they already do every year. When they enter here, they are registered with the migration register, and when they leave, they are removed. Such is the "brain drain" - though not from Russia.

Among the remaining 7, 3 thousand "highly qualified specialists" a decent number left for Georgia, Vietnam and other similar places. Who are these people? We would assume that these are students who studied in Russia. The author himself saw one such - a Chinese who stubbornly did not speak either Russian or English, but successfully (he still knew how to count banknotes with Arabic numerals) who completed his studies at a Russian university right up to his second year.

It will be more accurate to judge the "brain drain" to non-CIS countries by the numbers of candidates and doctors of sciences migrating there. If in 2012 there were 74 such people, then in 2019 there were 26 of them. That is, the brain drain has not increased fivefold since 2012, as Dolgushkin said, but has decreased almost threefold. It is clear that not only candidates and doctors of sciences migrate. But it is doubtful that the picture is that much different among graduate students and fresh graduates planning to pursue science.

This does not mean that science in Russia has no objective problems. They are: in practice, scientists (despite any attempts by the authorities to change this) are paid quite little. And, no less important, the quality of young cadres entering science is rather low.Finally, in many industries the quality of scientific administrators is such that neither good young cadres nor high salaries of these cadres would help them. But there has been no growth in the brain drain in the past eight years in Russian science. And this is clearly seen from migration statistics.

How the Chief Scientific Secretary of the Russian Academy of Sciences could confuse guest workers returning to their homes with scientists and "highly qualified specialists"

Something strange comes out. We opened the Rosstat website, and in three minutes and 38 seconds (the author spotted) we found that tens of thousands of "highly qualified specialists" are mainly labor migrants returning to their homeland. Why was Dolgushkin unable to allocate three minutes and 38 seconds to come to the same conclusions?

Let's try to spend a little more time on a superficial acquaintance with the biography of this person. For what achievements is he best known? In 1981-1989 he was the secretary of the Central Committee of the Komsomol. Then - the executive secretary of the Central Control Commission of the CPSU. Further - the typical path of many Komsomol leaders: in the nineties he went into business, it did not work out there, he moved to the deputy minister of agriculture, and in 2001, already being a deputy minister, he became a doctor of sciences. In 2016 he became an academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences.


There is nothing surprising in the fact that he might not have figured out why the "brains" from Russia are massively "flowing" to Uzbekistan or Ukraine. Typical generic traits of a Komsomol / party leader are assertiveness in knocking out funds from the state and persistence in supporting this desire with absolutely any numbers and facts. A thorough and unbiased preliminary analysis of these figures and facts does not always apply to the strengths of those who come from such an environment.

How did a person with such attention to detail become the Chief Scientific Secretary of the RAS? In principle, it's easy to guess. The overwhelming majority of academicians did not agree with the reform of the Russian Academy of Sciences, so its previous leadership was wiped out.

In 2017, academics, including Vladimir Fortov, who recently died of coronavirus, tried to object to the reform. But they were expected to be pressed. Around that year, a purge was carried out in the institution: those who were too dissatisfied with the reform were removed from major posts, and the more flexible, on the contrary, were promoted to the top.

In this whole story, the main moral is not that the former Komsomol leaders, in principle, should not be recklessly trusted. And even if they say that 2x2 = 4, it is better to look at the multiplication table again than to take their word for it (they might just forget, right?). These observations, frankly, became commonplace long before 2021.

Another thing is more important: if you hear something unusual from an academician, you should first find out on what sources he bases his opinion - and whether he interprets them correctly. And only then worry about how Russian science is dying from the departure of highly qualified specialists to the countries of Central Asia and Ukraine.

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