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Russians are leaving the country in droves

Some chafe at life under Vladimir Putin's rule, but for many others, economic limitations are the prime motivator. Experts say the numbers have reached demographically dangerous levels.

November 14, 2011|By Sergei L. Loiko, Los Angeles Times

One of the few to have returned is computer engineer Alexey Petrov, who came back in 2003 after four years in Argentina. He opened an Internet cafe in Buenos Aires, only to face economic crises there.

Recalling his emigration experience, Petrov, 38, cited the Russian adage "It is good where we are not" and pointed out that the whole world is afflicted with the same economic problems people in Russia are now fleeing.

"Most of the time I was away I was consumed with nostalgia, and it is one thing to be a tourist abroad and quite another to be an alien resident," Petrov said. "Now I know that if you ignore politics and stay away from it, you can lead a normal existence in Russia and be happy with little things life offers to you every day."

But politics can still intrude, with an atmosphere that can sometimes feel threatening. Take a recent day, when thousands of young people wearing the old imperial white, yellow and black flag and carrying extremist and ultranationalist posters marched the streets of Moscow screaming obscenities. Police stood aside.

Even though poet Irtenyev's wife, Alla Bossart, knows she will miss her cozy dacha near Moscow, as a former columnist of Novaya Gazeta she is well aware that in the last 10 years, five of her colleagues, including crusading reporter Anna Politkovskaya, have been killed.

On the morning she left Moscow with her husband and daughter, Bossart had to return from the taxi to her already locked apartment to pick up some things she had forgotten. And then she had to go back again to switch off the light.

As she walked down the steps again, she muttered an old Russian saying under her breath: "It is a bad sign to return."

sergei.loiko@latimes.com

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