I would like to understand the meaning of the following phrase:

Capital flight from Russia in 2014 was 151 billion dollars.

First, I would like to know how such a calculation can be done. Secondly, I would like to know what the underlying mechanism of capital flight from Russia is. For example, does this mean approximatively the following: Russian companies sell Russian gas and oil and then instead of investing this money domestically, they invest it outside?

  • $\begingroup$ The fundamental question here, I think, is how "capital flight" is defined (there certainly isn't a canonical definition). The most neutral definition would say that it's (minus) the capital account - but that's just the current account, which was positive but much less than $151b for Russia in 2014. Presumably the definition in this sentence focuses on some well-defined subset of capital account transactions, and ideally an answer for this question would take a stab at which definition is being used (and which definitions are commonly used). $\endgroup$ May 5, 2015 at 14:27

2 Answers 2


The Central Bank of Russia (CBR) gives tons of statistics. Take a look at "Net Inflows/Outflows of Capital by Private Sector" and “Balance of Payment” in different representations. I warn you ahead that it’s not that clear from the data what moves where.

There are several reasons for capital flight:

  1. Dollarization and flight to safety. That is related to high inflation and bank runs over the past 25 years, after the collapse of the USSR. Russians do not fully trust the ruble or the local financial system. A lot of Russians hold foreign cash, mainly dollars and euros.

  2. Sanctions. Because of the Ukraine issues, the West put sanctions and effectively closed its financial markets. So, Russian banks and enterprises cannot refinance and have no way but to pay debts. Paying debts is like capital flight.

  3. NX = S – I. Russia has chronic CA surplus, which means capital outflow. It lasted for years. See this. If you have insufficient investment demand inside country for its savings that means capital outflow. That is related to point 1 also.


From a Russian stand point, I would turn all of my rubles at the end of the month into USD because of the recent weakness that rubles have shown. But I don't think savings make up the majority of the capital flight.

http://www.iam.fmph.uniba.sk/studium/efm/diplomovky/2006/cervena/diplomovka.pdf In the link above, the author of the paper explained the different methods of measuring capital flight(page 13)


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