The Explanatory Dictionary of the Soviet Language defines nevyezdnoi as "a citizen not allowed abroad by Soviet authorities." Nearly the entire population of the old Soviet Union was nevyezdnoi: only the élite were allowed to travel to foreign countries. These restrictions were lifted in the Gorbachev era, but now a new nevyezdnoi class is emerging. This time, it's the élite who are restricted, and not just by the state.
Foreign governments and private institutions, suspicious of the spendthrift habits, mammoth bank accounts and princely villas that have become trademarks of nouveau riche Russians abroad, are beginning to close their doors and their borders to some of the richest. And many powerful Russian tycoons must think twice before boarding an outbound flight lest they share the fate of Pavel Borodin, the erstwhile Kremlin property manager and multimillionaire who was arrested last month in New York on an extradition request from Switzerland alleging involvement in money laundering.
Like Borodin or Mikhailov, these rejectees have not been proved guilty of any specific crime that would warrant their exclusion. Yet perhaps it is good that they must stay home. Too many of the Russian high and mighty have used their positions over the past decade of reform to line their pockets. Graft is universal. Last year an estimated $24.6 billion left Russia, money garnered mostly through bribery, kickbacks and outright theft and sent to private accounts in offshore banks. That's an increase of 30% over 1999, and the total capital drain from Russia over the past decade is more than $250 billion.
Russian thieves have been siphoning billions abroad in order to enjoy civilized life far from their plundered country. But what can they do with their foreign villas and bank accounts if they lose access? Might their nevyezdnoi status compel them to reinvest their ill-gotten gains in their own national economy? A major oligarch is said to be looking into the development of ski resorts in the Caucasus Mountains. Might the lure of potential profits force Russian tycoons to pacify Chechnya more effectivelyand less barbarouslythan the government has been trying to? Will they, indeed, find ways to make their money serve them hereand benefit their country, too? If so, the West is doing Russia a great favor by making Russian business and political big shots nevyezdnoi.