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"All my colleagues who were out of politics are now going to the front". Sergei Rybakov on the mass emigration of prominent doctors from Russia.


The State Duma has announced that it plans to mobilize up to three thousand medical workers. "Quietly and in an understandable way. And not more than three thousand people."

Badma Bashankayev, deputy chairman of the Duma committee on health protection, assured that the mobilization of medical men would take place "calmly, without any rush and in a clear-cut manner". According to him, no more than 3,000 people will be drafted, first of all graduates of military medical institutions with military field medicine training as well as physicians with combat experience. Bashankayev added that there will also be a demand for graduates of civilian medical schools with specializations in "surgery", "anesthesiology" and "traumatology".

Starting in February, not only IT specialists, political refugees or opposition journalists have started to leave Russia, but also well-known doctors. Professionals who have founded entire schools of science or who head renowned medical centres.

The general public seems to regard the doctor in Russia as a self-sacrificing idealist, willing to save patients for a modest salary. Equally, the well-being of those cured patients is the doctor's best reward. This means that they are simply not capable of abandoning the sufferers to their fate and going off to a foreign country for despicable material goods. The inner Hippocrates will not allow it.

Everyone who can leave is leaving - and doctors have long since joined the general trend. Worse however, is that it is not only general doctors who leave but also, above all, world-class specialists, people who are the backbone of Russian medicine.

Andrei Volna, a well-known orthopaedic traumatologist in medical circles, left the country in September.

On his FB page, the doctor wrote:

"The persecution of our family has become tangible. There is not much left before it is physically tangible. We are not even talking about the moral component. We will write some advice to our patients (those who need it) a little later. When we come to our senses. We are safe now. Forgive us!"

Andrei Volna, orthopaedic trauma surgeon
Photo: FB

The pediatrician Fyodor Katasonov, the pulmonologist Vasiliy Shtabnitsky, the anaesthesiologist-resuscitator Vadim Sizov, the gastroenterologist Alexey Golovenko and the infectious disease specialist Oksana Stanevich left. These are only the best known names; there are many more not so famous emigrant specialists.

Alexey Golovenko, gastroenterologist, populariser of scientific medicine

These people did not come for a quick buck, they did not come because they planned and gathered for a long time, and finally made up their minds. No, this is military emigration after February 2022. In other words, these people were driven out of the country.

"For a number of reasons, not the least of which was the escalation of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict (which lasted 8 years), I was forced to leave the country on March 7," writes Oksana Stanevych on her FB page.

"As far as I know (I may be wrong in someone else’s mind) - all these specialists were in demand and weren’t complaining about their income: which is often less in other countries. They left due to captivity; due to repressions (in fact some of them have been arrested); due to hopelessness. From a lack of hope for the future," notes Andrey Volna under the post by Sergei Rybakov about the departure of the Russian medical elite.

"What happened on the 24th? I just couldn't live in Russia anymore. It wasn't scary, no, it just became impossible to live anymore. I think everyone who left can boast of no lesser list of achievements, and everyone has his own reasons. I just lost my country on the 24th. Not as a doctor, but as a citizen" - these are the words of Vasily Shtabnitsky.

Vasily Shtabnitsky, pulmonologist
Photo: Evgeniy Samarin /

"I had the opportunity to build my way forward. To think through, to sell, to relocate, to learn the language, to integrate in a planned way, to prosper. I didn't take advantage of it. I was needed in Moscow. I couldn't even think about taking the children away from their mother, who didn't want to go anywhere. I did not understand how and on what to live in another country. The war 'helped'". - tells Fyodor Katasonov.

These people were not intimidated by small salaries, exorbitant responsibility, mountains of bureaucratic paperwork and a lack of equipment and sometimes even the right medication. They were prepared to treat their patients under almost any conditions - but even this was not enough. Apparently, a real doctor has to work only in unbearable conditions - and unconditionally support the policies of the party and government.

The emigration of doctors is not the only problem in contemporary Russian medicine.

After the events of February, the country faced problems with medications as it became harder and harder to find drugs for cancer, diabetes, and spinal muscular dystrophy. Even antidepressants have disappeared, which in the current situation looks particularly frightening.

It is reported that around 300 foreign drugs will not reach the Russian consumer in the near future.

Meanwhile, the comments under the post by Ilya Fomintsev, founder and head of the Cancer Prevention Foundation and founder of the "Higher School of Oncology", unequivocally demonstrate the opinion of "true patriots":

"So people left instead of treating their own people. It happens. Who are they anyway?"

"At the same time no one has subjected doctors to any repressions. So the answer is simple - for these people their political ideas are much more important than their profession, their patients and so on. So, no matter how good specialists they are, they are not doctors.

"And tens of thousands of fine doctors are staying to work in Russia. You left and that’s fine."

In the first half of 2022, 419,000 people left Russia to work abroad, the RBC newspaper reported, citing data from the Federal State Statistics Service (Rosstat).

This is twice as much as the same period last year, when 202 thousand people left the country. While this is the official data, many analysts say it's actually several times lower.

This is the third wave of emigration under the same president. There is even a special term - "Putin's emigration".

Putin's emigration is a conventionally defined period of emigration from Russia. It is characterized by the fact that educated and successful residents of major cities are leaving the country, often for political reasons.

In 2022, the third, "military" wave of Putin's emigration began. The first was in 2011, the second in 2014 (the year of the annexation of the Crimean peninsula).

It is difficult to calculate exactly how many doctors left during these years. Rather, we should speak of a global "brain drain" - scientists, writers, and journalists - people with higher education, talented, and successful in their profession. Those who cannot be replaced.

Of course, for a country with a population of 144 million, the loss of even a few million people looks insignificant. It's another matter that not all of those 144 million people have scientific degrees, outstanding scientific papers or at least higher education. The departure of this seemingly "insignificant" number of professionals will haunt the orphaned country for years to come.

Now, however, it is not even about the loss of valuable professionals. After all, the authors of the above comments are right in some respect: someone is left and will treat people, it might not be as good treatment, but it will be treatment nonetheless.

However, if dozens and hundreds of intelligent, educated people say "I can't live here any more", pack a suitcase and jump on the first plane that comes along, it's time to turn off the TV,  and turn their heads.

Sergei Rybakov.
Former Deputy Head of the Alliance of Doctors  
(The Doctors' Alliance, of course, is recognised as a foreign agent)

- All of our medical staff are subject to military service. Our authorities are perfectly capable of creating a huge deficit of medical specialists through this mobilization.  And what about the regions? Kemerovo, for example. There are only one or two surgeons in one district, or even one surgeon for every four districts, and if he is, say, of military age. If he is mobilized, who will be left to operate? - It is unclear.

- Where does this strange figure of three thousand medical personnel come from?

- It comes from nowhere. It has nothing to do with reality. Three thousand who?  Doctors, nurses, paramedics?  I think the Russian command has been watching too many old war movies. Imagine a picture - a brave doctor in a tent under dim light operating on something, sand is falling from the ceiling, bombs are exploding somewhere... Can you picture it?

- Yes, very vividly.

- Now forget it. It hasn't worked like that for fifty years. No one will operate on the front line, it's useless. The medic's job is to do what? Stabilise and get him - as quickly as possible - to a place where he can get help. Usually, this is a point within 200 kilometres.

- Sergei, how are your colleagues who are in Russia right now reacting to the news?

- Do you swear?

- Absolutely.

- They're fucking surprised.

- I understand. And emigration is not a very attractive option...

- It's much harder for a Russian doctor to go somewhere and get a job than for someone in another specialty. First of all, after February the 24th,  no one wants to talk to our medical community. Secondly, there is such a thing as confirmation of medical qualifications - basic and professional. This is a very expensive and very nerve-racking story.

For the last 22 years instead of moving towards the integration of medical education and mutual recognition of qualifications in general we went our own way. Then came the 24th of February, and again, all health workers are military personnel. Now they are all restricted in their freedom of movement. You cannot even go to refresher courses, you cannot renew your specialist certificate, you just have to stay where you're registered.

The fact is that many of my colleagues hysterically stated at the time that they are out of politics. Yes, if a patient is brought to us, we don't care who it is. That being said, as far as our labour rights are concerned, as far as our political position is concerned, the authorities have always told us - you are a doctor, you have no right to open your mouth. In every way they knew how to prove it to us.

For those who were out of politics now, my very respected colleagues will now go to war in one form or another. This was our, including the Alliance of Doctors, huge mistake. We were too little focused on democratic education in the union, concentrating on local tasks, which we were overwhelmed with.

Authors:  Irina Iakovleva, Victoria Hoogland

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