Russian computer scientists in the UK: analysis of the migration mechanism




migration network theory, transnational migration, intellectual and highly skilled migration, migration resources


The paper examines life tra- jectories of Russian computer scientists who emigrated to the United Kingdom. The theoretical foundation of the study is migration network theory. The theory assumes that there are two types of migrants: pioneer migrants, who were the first to enter the country of destination with no prior social contacts, and their followers, who emigrate using social ties with their compatriots already settled down in the host country. The research question is how pioneer migration becomes possible. What resources are crucial for pioneer migrants to move to a new country? What institutional channels are engaged in their emigration? These questions are particularly relevant to explore academic migration after the collapse of the USSR, as they help to better understand the factors that facilitated the «brain drain» and define the groups of scientists that were affected by the process. The paper seeks to answer these questions basing on the analysis of semi-structured interviews with Russian computer scientists who migrated to the UK in 1990s and early 2000s. The paper examines the biographies of pioneers in comparison to life trajectories of the followers. Two stages of pioneer migration are distinguished: preliminary migration and permanent leave. Each stage is characterized by a combination of resources that made the stage possible. The author concludes that international exchange programs and postdoctoral internships, knowledge of and involvement in academic life abroad, connections with European and British scholars and high level of professional skills were crucial to pioneer migrants.