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European University Institute - Department of Political and Social Sciences

The Ukraine war and the Russians who left home

The European University Institute (EUI) is pleased to release the findings of a compelling research project that examines the wave of Russian emigration following the February 2022 attack on Ukraine.

22 January 2024 | Research

Outrush_News item

The OutRush project, conducted by an international team of scholars and led by EUI researchers, has surveyed more than 10,000 Russian emigrants who left their homeland for reasons linked to the war. The findings provide insight into who is leaving Russia, their levels of political activism, and how Russian emigrants are adapting to their new surroundings.

"The data suggests that the Russians leaving their country belong to very specific societal segments," explains Ivetta Sergeeva, principal investigator and researcher at the EUI's Department of Political and Social Sciences. "They are well-educated, urban, politically active, and have high human and social capital."

Regarding political activism, the findings reveal a decline, particularly in visible forms like donations and digital activism, accompanied by an increase in fears of transnational repression.

"By the summer of 2023, the fear of repression from the Russian government among Russian emigrants had risen by a worrying 17% since September 2022," explained Emil Kamalov, principal investigator and researcher at the EUI's Department of Political and Social Sciences. "Up to 78% of Russian migrants expressed fear of persecution by Russian authorities, even while living abroad, a concern that remains prevalent in most host countries."

The respondents reside in more than 100 countries, with the highest numbers in Georgia, Serbia, Armenia, Germany, Israel, Kazakhstan, and Turkey. The OutRush project features real-time monitoring of the integration progress, with researchers surveying the same persons every six months with questions about their economic stability, social networks, fears, and expectations.

"Despite challenges, Russian migrants are showing signs of gradual social and economic integration," said Sergeeva. "Two-thirds of emigrants formerly employed by Russian companies now work in international or local firms."

The project findings show that, despite cutting economic ties, Russian emigrants maintain strong and stable social connections to Russia, showing no significant changes even after a year and a half.

"They remain emotionally attached to Russia, are highly interested in Russian politics, and continue to be a source of information for those back home," said Kamalov. "This suggests that Russian emigrants are developing dual identities, meaning they maintain an interest in their society of origin while integrating into their host societies."

The project findings also show that 25% of Russian emigrants either already speak the local language or are putting in substantial effort to do so, and another 25% are learning the local language irregularly. Only 5% have completely stopped their language learning efforts during the course of the survey period.

The OutRush project was founded in March 2022 by Kamalov and Sergeeva. The OutRush team also includes researchers: Nica Kostenko (Tel Aviv University), Karolina Nugumanova (Scuola Normale Superiore), and Margarita Zavadskaya (Finnish Institute of International Affairs).

Visit the project website or contact [email protected] for more information on the project.


Photo credit: Shutterstock

Last update: 22 January 2024

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