Andrei Lavruhin

, senior analyst of the Belarusian Institute of Strategic Studies, research director of the Institute of Development and Social Market for Belarus and Eastern Europe , answers

these questions of

Yuriy Drakakhrust on the Svaboda Premium channel.


  • After 5 years of emigration, the vast majority of emigrants will not return to Belarus under any conditions.

  • My daughter went to Belarus last year and, upon returning, said that she didn't want to go there because she lost communication with her friends.

  • Among those emigrants who are now 20-40 years old, a couple of percent will return, among those who are over 50 - 40 percent.

  • After the defeat of Russia and the democratic transition, Belarus will face the problems of the disappearance of Russian subsidies, the maintenance of sanctions or their "echoes" and reparations in favor of Ukraine.

  • In democratic Belarus, the current tension between those who left and those who stayed is transforming into tension between those who stayed and those who returned.

* * *

— Andrei, you published a rather sharp and categorical post on FB, the meaning of which is that the vast majority of Belarusian emigrants will not return even to democratic, free Belarus.

Let's go through the points of your post.

Your thesis is that 5 years of emigration make it irreversible.


- I proceed from my experience, from the experience of my colleagues, from some analytical materials.

The first year of emigration is the time when a person is most likely to return.

The second year is a time of hesitation, procrastination.

But already in the third year, the process of adaptation, growing into the everyday life of a new country begins.

If after 5 years of emigration they will come to Belarus, they will come to a foreign country, not the one from which they left.

- Well, yes - to a new, different country than the one they left.

So they left a dictatorial country where terror reigns.

And maybe a new, free country will appear.

And they will be able to participate in its construction.

Wouldn't they want to do it?

Recently, a survey was conducted among socially active emigrants.

Among them, 25% answered that they were not going to return, but 42% said that they were going to.

How would you comment on these numbers?

- These answers are for the most part only wishes, wishes, and not real intentions.

Let's assume that the future will correspond to all the hopes and dreams that we share.

But the people who will return will have settled lives in other countries behind them.

And they will compare one way or another.

- In your post, you make an important argument - that the children of emigrants will experience re-traumatization if they return to Belarus with their parents.

What is the essence of this argument?

- My eldest daughter - she is 15 years old - had a very traumatic experience of emigration.

It was very difficult for her to adapt to life in a foreign country for two years.

And I know that there are a lot of teenagers with this experience.

Their world collapsed.

But last summer she still went to Belarus.

And when she returned, she said to me: "Dad, I don't want to go back there."

She no longer understands her friends who live there.

One of her best friends is going to enter the Faculty of Journalism at BSU.

My daughter asks this friend: "Do you understand how you will work after this journalism course?"

And they can't have a dialogue anymore.

Well, that's my experience, I can't extrapolate it to everyone.

But I know that many people have a similar situation.

- Andrei, you predict that very little, a couple of percent of emigrants aged 20-40 will return, and 40 percent of those aged 50 and over. Why?

- This results from the mechanisms of socialization of the individual.

This is due to the fact that young people and middle-aged people are more able to adapt to new situations and learn new cultural codes.

The younger a person is, the more optimistic he looks at the world.

I am just now at the age of 50+.

And it is more difficult for people my age and older people to grow into a new life.

— But in the new, free Belarus, new opportunities for self-realization may just open up, and they will be the most attractive for people aged 20-40.

- It depends on the conditions.

And the conditions waiting for us are not the most favorable.

- And this is another point of your argumentation in the post.

You write that in the event of Russia's defeat in the war and a democratic transition in Belarus, Belarus will face three problems: Russian subsidies will disappear, Western sanctions will not disappear, and Ukraine will have to pay reparations.

But maybe the West will support Belarus, which was assigned the role of a co-aggressor, but after the end of the dictatorship, sanctions will be lifted, and Ukraine will not collect reparations from the country, which, according to some, itself became a victim of the Russian occupation.

It can't be like that?

— The analyst should also consider pessimistic scenarios.

It is possible that Belarus will introduce its troops into Ukraine after a certain time.

Then the status of co-aggressor will be indisputable.

And, accordingly, the obligation to pay reparations.

As for sanctions, it is easy to impose them, but it is difficult to cancel them.

Even if they are formally removed, a long "echo" remains from them.

And to return to the relations that existed before the introduction of sanctions, it will take not months, but years.

As for the hypothetical assistance of Belarus from the European Union.

May God grant that after the war, EZ will be able to rebuild Ukraine at least to minimum living conditions.

Belarusians are also victims of this war.

But this is the view of our community of people with pro-democratic beliefs.

However, in Belarus at least a good third of people have completely different views.

So are all Belarusians victims?

I am talking about a pessimistic scenario - minus Russian support, and it is not a fact that there will be support from the European Union.

And besides, there can be reparations.

And will such economic conditions be favorable for the return of emigrants?

- Another thesis from your post is about a certain tension between those who are going to return and those who stayed in Belarus all the time.

We observe the tension between those who stayed and those who left.

Will this tension somehow dissipate and settle down in the new Belarus?

- No one canceled the competition.

Belarusians are capable of solidarity, but they are also prone to quarrels, especially in the political sphere.

It seems almost likely that there will be competition between those who returned and those who stayed.

And not only in politics.

This competition will be exacerbated by the lack of money, including budget money.

Of course, there will be a few people who will create the most favorable conditions for them to return.

But we are talking about a mass process.

— You write that it took 20 years to form the middle class that existed until 2020.

They say, after the mass emigration of 2020-2022 and the return of democracy, it will take another 20 years to re-form the middle class.

But maybe we are exaggerating the social scale of this wave of emigration?

Subjectively, it really seems to us that the whole of Belarus has left.

Or maybe not all?

The majority still remained.

Maybe, including the middle class?

- Maybe so.

I looked at the data on emigration in recent years - it is 200-250 thousand people.

According to Eurostat, in 2021, 150,000 people moved to EZ.

This is about 5% of the employed in the economy.

Is it a lot or a little?

The answer depends on how significant the middle class layer was.

Even before 2020, all experts said that he is not too fat.

Someone is definitely left, and in the IT sector among them.

But if we talk about the politically active part of the middle class, I assume that many of them emigrated.


, Aleksandar Knyrovich said

in "Duvoi" in Belsat that in any society the share of such socially active people is approximately 5%.

So, maybe they left Belarus.

- Another point of your arguments is the possibility of a protracted, long war.

What will happen to migration waves from and to Belarus in such a situation?

- Migration waves can increase even with a favorable development of events.

The population of Lithuania for 30 years (1992–2022) decreased by one million people.

And it did not happen because life became worse.

During these years, democratic changes took place, the country joined the European Union.

People got the opportunity to move and at the same time saw what big problems are facing the economy and society.

By the way, in recent years there is a trend, albeit an uncertain one, that more people return to Lithuania than leave it.

But indeed, the scenario of a protracted war seems likely to me.

I don't know what can make Russia stop it.

Economists say that it will have enough financial resources for at least 3 years.

Of course, if Putin suddenly dies, the situation may change.

But I believe that a conservative consensus has formed in Russia, and not only at the level of the elite, but also at the level of society.

Until this furnace burns out from the inside, nothing will change.

And even defeat in Ukraine does not mean the collapse of the Kremlin regime.

Russia will wait for revenge and prepare for it, moving to a mobilization model.

Who in February 2020 in Belarus could have thought that in 3 years the situation would be as it is now?