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Number of young Russians who want to emigrate hits highest level in decade

Several thousand people gathered in central Moscow on July 29 on a second consecutive day of protest against the Russian government's plan to raise the retirement age. (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty/Released)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

A majority of young Russians want to leave the country, according to a new opinion poll, the highest number in a decade.

The survey by the independent Russian pollster Levada Center, released on November 26, found that more than half of Russians between the ages of 18 and 24 want to leave for other countries, while 21 percent of respondents from all age groups said they would like to emigrate.

The next age group that was most interested in emigrating was 25 to 39 at 30 percent, the poll showed.

Russia’s sluggish economic growth, which has prompted President Vladimir Putin to order his government to find ways to jump-start the economy, and a summer of pro-democracy protests have posed some of the biggest challenges the president has faced during his two decades in power.

The poll reflected those issues, with respondents citing anxiety for their children’s future and the economic situation as the main two reasons for considering emigration.

The country’s political situation and the search for better medical service were also cited as reasons to leave.

The results for the 18 to 24 age group were up markedly from a similar poll in 2014, when 20 percent said they would like to leave.

Since then, the number has been gradually rising, especially during the May-September period this year, when political dissent reached a crescendo with a series of protests that saw hundreds arrested amid heavy-handed tactics by police.

The protests were sparked by the refusal of election officials to allow a large number of opposition figures from running in September municipal elections in Moscow and elsewhere.

Fifty-six percent of those who indicated that they want to leave the country say Russia is moving in the “wrong direction” and that they are “ashamed over what is happening in the country.”

Of those who consider emigration as a path, 73 percent said they didn’t approve of Putin’s policies, while 39 percent said they were ready to participate in political events in Russia.