Bowdoin’s Henry Discusses New Wave of Russian Exiles

By Tom Porter

While millions of Ukrainians have fled their home country in recent weeks to escape the war, a record number of Russians are also going into exile following a crackdown on internal dissent by the Kremlin.

laura henry headshot

“Some fear arrest and imprisonment for participating in antiwar protests or for speaking out against the war,” says Professor of Government Laura Henry. “Such fears heightened in recent days as Russia’s new ‘fake news’ laws produced the first charges against ordinary Russians—targeting a food and lifestyle blogger and a pensioner for posting antiwar content to their social media.”

Henry, an expert on Russian politics, Eastern Europe, and the European Union, was writing in the Monkey Cage, a political science blog published by The Washington Post. The article was cowritten with Stetson University’s Elizabeth Plantan. While many Russians are nervous about being persecuted at work or at school for opposing the war in Ukraine, we are told, many also “no longer see a future in a country sliding rapidly toward full authoritarianism, isolation, and deep economic crisis.”

“Will this wave of emigration result in new pressure on the Kremlin?” ask Henry and Plantan. “Our research shows how exiles—particularly well-connected activists—can become a force for political change at home, even from beyond Russia’s borders.” Furthermore, they add, the Russians who are now departing appear to be disproportionately young, urban, and well-educated. “Many of them work in the tech sector or other white-collar professions, prompting economists and policy analysts to warn that Putin’s Russia may also face an unexpected ‘brain drain.’” Read more.