Group of people cross the border between countries
Russians cross the border between Russia and Georgia after announcement of a mobilization drive | The Monkey Times

Emigration from Russia after February 24, 2022

The wave of emigration from Russia after the invasion of the Russian army into Ukraine in 2022 is the largest since the collapse of the USSR.

5 mins read

Since the beginning of the war between Russia and Ukraine, which Russia started on February 24, 2022, emigration from Russia became a serious economical and politic factor. And at the same time many Russians have faced a difficult internal conflict. It is convenient to be a patriot of the country while staying on the territory of Russia, especially since such rhetoric is encouraged within the state. But outside of Russia, many Russians clearly feel very uncomfortable, especially in cases where it becomes necessary to speak on political topics. Many Europeans are not happy with the way the Russian Federation is behaving in foreign policy, which also affects the attitude towards obviously very patriotic Russian citizens. Often, Russians have to pretend to be Kazakhs or, for example, Belarusians in Europe and other parts of the world.

Incident in a Restaurant

It was with such a case that I encountered in Germany when I met a girl in a restaurant who introduced herself as Svetlana. Within the first few minutes, we switched to discussing political topics, and after 15 minutes of our conversation, we started talking about the conflict that Russia unleashed by attacking Ukraine on February 24, 2022. During this time, Svetlana managed to tell that she had flown to Germany from Moscow, but subsequently quickly changed her rhetoric, specifying that she had just arrived from Moscow, but in general she was from Belarus and spent most of her life in Minsk and only a couple of years she lived in other countries.

She subsequently ignored my questions about the city of Minsk, or laughed it off. Suddenly I realized that much of her story is not true. The fact is that I have been in Minsk more than a dozen times on business trips and during that time I not only managed to explore the city center, but also learn a few words that in Russian and Belarusian languages are the same in meaning, but different in spelling and, natural pronunciation.

Many Russians Inside the Country Are Forced to Support State Policy

This experience, when Russians pretend to be immigrants from other countries or instantly become “apolitical” in public, is not isolated, I often heard similar stories from friends and acquaintances. All this shows how strongly external circumstances and the political situation can influence people’s behavior. Domestically, Russians who support government policies may well be patriotic and support Russian values, or feign support for the state. However, outside of Russia, they are faced with open communication and diversity of opinion, and many of them become cautious and avoid speaking their true views, fearing possible negative reactions or condemnation, realizing what is what.

It is also worth mentioning censorship within Russia. Perhaps immediately after the collapse of the USSR, Russia had a gap in the direction of liberalization, but now the country has returned to totalitarianism, ruled by one person for more than 20 years, who managed to build a dictatorship and subjugate all branches of power. At the same time, the political system in Russia restricts freedom of speech and suppresses negative opinion about the government or military actions to such an extent that it creates an atmosphere of fear and self-censorship among the population. Those Russian citizens who do not support military action are afraid of possible consequences. They literally fear legal or social action against them if they criticize their country. It is for this reason that many progressive Russians have already left the country, including to Thailand, Georgia, Armenia and other countries.

Group of Russian people are going to the border between Russia and Georgia
Group of Russians are going to the boarder between Russia and Georgia in September 2022 | The Monkey Times

Emigration from Russia after Russian Invasion of Ukraine

Thus, according to Federal Security Service (FSB) estimates, in the first quarter of 2022, that is, over a month since the beginning of the invasion, the flow of people leaving for Georgia increased 5 times compared to the previous year (38.2 thousand people), and for Armenia – 3 times (134.1 thousand), to Azerbaijan – more than 2 times (56.4 thousand), to Uzbekistan – 3.5 times (53 thousand), to Tajikistan – more than 4 times (40 thousand) , in Kazakhstan – 2 times (20.4 thousand).

Announcement of mobilization in September 2022, half a year after the outbreak of hostilities, provoked a new outflow of citizens, mostly men. Basically, those fleeing the mobilization went to neighboring countries, where you can enter either without a visa or with a Russian passport. The main destinations were Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Georgia. Turkey has also become a popular destination, tickets for all the nearest flights to this country were bought out in just 1 hour.

The Russian Internet publication Bumaga published data stating that, according to their estimates, more than 180 thousand people left the country in less than a week from the announcement of mobilization. Of these, 98,000 Russians left for Kazakhstan, and more than 53,000 for Georgia. These data indirectly confirm the Kazakh Ministry of Foreign Affairs, reporting that the number of Russians entering during that period increased three times compared to the average rate of 9-12 thousand people per day. As for Georgia, immediately after the announcement of mobilization, 5-6 thousand people entered this country daily, then a week later there were about 10 thousand people.

Outflow of Personnel from the Russian Federation

The Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation issued almost 4 million foreign passports in January-September 2022, which is 1 million more compared to the same period last year. In the statistics published by the Federal Security Service, from July to September 2022, the number of Russians traveling abroad amounted to almost 10 million times. This is approximately twice as much compared to the previous quarter of the same year.

The outflow of personnel from Russia, especially in the IT sector, was so noticeable that the authorities made repeated attempts to curb emigration. For example, Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin promised programmers preferential mortgages and deferment from the army, while state-owned companies and banks almost doubled the number of open vacancies. Companies that developed mobile applications of the company received substantial tax incentives. They were also exempted from inspections by regulatory authorities for three years. But all this did not restrain the outflow of highly qualified specialists from the country. First, there is no trust in the government. At the beginning of the war, Vladimir Putin personally announced that only contract soldiers and a professional, specially trained army would be involved. But after half a year he announced partial mobilization. Secondly, the benefits promised by the government turned out to be simply unattractive and hard to get.

The Reaction of the Authorities, for which No One Is in a Hurry to Fight. From Promised Benefits to Threats.

Subsequently, the rhetoric of the authorities towards people who left Russia has changed dramatically. In December 2022, the senator from the annexed Crimea, Sergey Tsekov, proposed seizing property from citizens who left Russia, and Dmitry Medvedev, the former president of the Russian Federation, who once started a war with Georgia and already asked Russians to reduce personal expenses, expressed the idea of not letting emigrants back into the country and treating them as “public enemies” , as well as cut them off from sources of income in the Russian Federation.

At a time when the government is flaunting its patriotism, not a single member of the ruling class is really in a hurry to fight for Russia. Not a single high-ranking official, son or relative of such an official was seen in the combat area. I wonder if such patriotic behavior is just a convenient cover for sitting in your easy chair. And will the entire Russian government crumble like a house of cards at the time of the change of power, when Putin retires?

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