Friday, November 12, 2010

Why immigrate

People keep asking me this. Why did you come to Canada? Meaning "What was wrong with Russia?"
One needs a good reason to leave their homeland. Well, I had a bunch of them.

As I heard somewhere "Russia is a country with unpredictable past" - as absurd as it sounds, it is true. When power in Russia changes - and I have witnessed one of the changes - where we stopped building communism and went on to democracy - history books are re-written in the process. Good guys become bad guys and vice versa. You might say that it is a natural thing when the regime changes. It is. However, there were 2 such changes during the XX century - which witnesses of how unstable the situation in the country is.

If you ask someone in Russia what their plans for the next 25 years are, they won't understand the question. Russians do not plan for such a long time ahead. They have learnt how naive it is to plan something there. If you live on a volcano, you do not go planning your future. This volcano life is quite tiresome. Constant feeling of uncertainty can drive one crazy over time.

Aside from volcano feeling there is corruption. You cannot live in Russia and avoid meeting with it. It is everywhere. You need to get some document from officials - don't forget the envelope with bribe or you don't get it. You want your child to go to university? Go and pay for that. A friend of mine had to bribe the police and the judge so that the man who tried to kill his pregnant wife and was caught by my friend at the crime scene was actually sentenced and sent to jail.

I was born in USSR. There were universal healthcare and education systems that were free. They still say that these systems are in place in Russia. Well they are not. Healthcare has lost on its quality over the years and keeps worsening every year. Same is true for education. There are private hospitals and schools available as alternatives. But they do not guarantee a much better service or quality and around 95% of population cannot afford their services.

Social inequality is another factor that influenced my decision. Russia is famous for its oil and gas export. However, the money from it is distributed among those close to the top - government. If you visit Moscow, you will see so many luxurious cars you will hardly encounter anywhere else. Exclusive yachts can be seen on city's rivers, cottages with price tags of millions dollars can be found all around the countryside close to the capital. Those cottages are hidden behind 10-meters fences, security services with automatic firearms are patrolling these houses... They belong to those who call themselves elite. I was employed by one of them some time ago - most of them have a criminal background and believe to be owners of the country.

There is also a thin layer of middle class - those who are educated, ambitious and able to earn enough money to buy a car, travel to the favourite destinations among Russians - Turkey or Egypt - once a year and rent an apartment. You cannot afford to buy one living in big cities - the prices are ridiculous (1 bedroom apartment in Moscow starts from 300k dollars, whereas average middle class salary is somewhere at 1500 USD). Mortgages with interest at 20% are of no help in the situation as well.

The total majority of the population is fighting poverty. There was a poem written by a famous Russian author back in the XIX century that is still up-to-date - it read "Russia is the coutry of owners and slaves". I did not want to live in that society anymore.

There are many more minor reasons why I chose to leave, but I tried to list the major above.