Brain drain in an authoritarian regime on the example of Belarus



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Tartu Ülikool


Brain drain and the competition to attract top talent have become increasingly relevant in recent years. However, there has been a lack of in-depth research on brain drain in authoritarian regimes. The political situation in Belarus has experienced significant turmoil, particularly after the falsified official presidential election results in 2020, which sparked widespread protests. As a result of the unstable political climate, many talented Belarusians have chosen to emigrate from the country. This thesis aims to identify the factors that influence highly skilled individuals' decision to emigrate from an authoritarian regime on the example of Belaurs. The hypothesis is that the decision-making process for highly skilled individuals in authoritarian countries, such as Belarus, is complex and influenced by a combination of push and pull factors. Process-tracing methodology is employed in this thesis to trace the relationship between the 2020 presidential election and the progressive process of autocratization and repression in Belarus. Ten in-depth expert interviews were conducted with both Estonian and Belarusian experts to gather data. The findings reveal that since 2020, the primary push and pull factors influencing the decision to emigrate have become more politically oriented, whereas prior to 2020, they were predominantly economic. The impact of intervening obstacles, such as COVID-19 restrictions and sanctions, remains uncertain due to varying expert opinions. In addition to presenting the results, this thesis also offers a brief overview of potential policy implications that could help address brain drain in an authoritarian context.