Russia is Losing Tens of Thousands of Outward-Looking Young Professionals

The recent concert by Russian rapper Oxxxymiron was the smallest of his career. On Tuesday, hundreds of people crowded into a small basement location, while those who hadn’t gotten tickets pushed and shoved on the sidewalk outside.

As the house lights went down, the rapper with a degree from Oxford University took the stage in front of a sign reading “Russians against war.”

Russia is Losing Tens of Thousands of Outward-Looking Young Professionals

Russia is Losing Tens of Thousands of Outward-Looking Young Professionals

Under Russia’s new legislation criminalising “fake news” and criticism of the armed forces, merely uttering those words may land him in prison for up to 15 years.

Oxxxymiron and his followers, however, were in Istanbul, one of many escape routes used by tens of thousands of Russians since President Vladimir Putin authorised the invasion of neighbouring Ukraine.

Polina, a 25-year-old graphic designer in St. Petersburg, said, “Everyone I know is against this stupid war.” I don’t feel secure returning, therefore I plan to stay here as long as possible. I have some pals in Turkey that can assist me as my bank cards aren’t working.

A friend covered the cost of her concert ticket, and the money they make will go to organisations that aid Ukrainian refugees.

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It’s not that Easy for Everyone.

Sasha, a professional coffee roaster, feared being sent to the front lines of a war he doesn’t support, so he resigned in an expensive Moscow cafe and spent most of his cash on a flight to Istanbul to avoid being drafted. After hearing stories of interrogations taking place at the border, he remarked, “I was so nervous they wouldn’t let me on the plane.”

But I had no choice but to depart; it was inevitable. It’s his first time outside the nation, and he’ll be staying at a hostel for as long as he can until he runs out of money or finds a job. Polina and Sasha were both reluctant to provide their real names.

As economic upheaval and political persecution begin to bite, separating Europe in a level not seen since the fall of the USSR, talented workers like them are increasingly opting to relocate outside. At least 80,000 have arrived in the last three weeks, according to officials in Armenia (a former Soviet Republic) where Russians can travel without a foreign passport, and the mayor of Tbilisi (the capital of adjacent Georgia) stated that 25,000 had come to his city alone.

Many of those who have gone:

Like Oxxxymiron, have studied in the West before returning to Russia; they are part of a group of forward-thinking artists, scientists, and businesspeople who have been instrumental in the country’s recent economic and cultural boom.

Historian Ian Garner studies Russian wartime propaganda and has found that “young people who want to travel abroad, who want to construct their lives, buy consumer goods, and have a type of middle-class lifestyle,” have been “marginalised” by Putin’s choice to invade. These are the ones who are more inclined to join the anti-war movement, too.

Protests were first organised by small groups in cities around the country, but they have now been greeted with a swift and violent crackdown.

Human rights organisation estimates that 14,980 protesters have been arrested, and a chilling recording that has been leaked online appears to show officers beating a detainee who refused to confess to taking part in an unauthorised rally, which is illegal under COVID-19 laws that have been largely repealed.

Responsibilities after Making Your Voice Heard

While concertgoers in Istanbul screamed “glory to Ukraine” and sported T-shirts with the name of jailed opposition politician Alexei Navalny, their countrymen back home face severe penalties for expressing their opinions.

Producer Marina Ovsyannikova of Russian state TV went viral after she jumped in front of cameras during a live news programme with a sign stating “stop the war” and told viewers “you are being lied to.”

She was arrested, given a fine, and might serve time in a penal camp. Others, like a retired man from a Siberian city called Tomsk who scribbled a note begging for a ceasefire, have also been hit with heavy fines.

Only a small percentage of those who departed believed that staying and fighting for their beliefs would actually make a difference.

Taras, a 42-year-old IT professional, has family in Ukraine. I felt that was the least I could do to join the protests. But after witnessing the current situation, I realise it wouldn’t make a difference anyway. Now that he has the freedom to work from anywhere, he plans to bring his wife to Turkey, where he plans to rent a property near the coast.

Cleanin of society

Putin has praised the exodus of anti-war protesters, calling it a “cleaning” of society. In an impassioned speech on Wednesday, he asserted, “The Russian people will always be able to discern true patriots from trash and traitors, and will simply spit them out like a gnat that flew into their mouth.”

All of our nation’s strengths—its unity, coherence, and ability to face any threat head-on—will be bolstered by this. Politically disengaged youth leaving Russia could make life easier for the Kremlin, but it would also have a devastating impact on the country’s ability to innovate in areas like technology.

A effort to offer digital experts preferential mortgages and set up tax advantages for enterprises that stay was announced earlier this month by Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, who has previously championed IT as the remedy to economic stagnation.

Still, it’s a challenge to keep people with highly marketable skills who are very mobile. Taras Chaus and his partner Elizaveta Cheliy, both Ukrainians, made the trip from Lviv to the front city of Zaporizhzhia to witness Oxxxymiron perform just two days before their country was hit by rockets.

In spite of the fact that, as Chaus put it, “many ordinary Russians do not yet comprehend how horrible it is,” ordinary Russians oppose the war because they care about their quality of life and the safety of their families. Few have escaped, and there are many more who are opposed to the war on the ground.

However, Cheliy was less hopeful than others about the likelihood of internal discontent influencing Putin to reverse course. Those who are multilingual and familiar with life in other nations are often eager to pack up and leave. She warned that older people tend to blindly accept what they see on TV.

The rapper they went to watch on stage echoed their sentiments. He yelled over the microphone, “People who support what is going on don’t know what is going on.” They call it a “special operation,” but it’s really a war.

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Then, Oxxxymiron turned to the camera that was streaming his thoughts to thousands of viewers in Russia and pleaded with them to wake up and see the truth of the struggle. Even though I know many people at home who disagree with me, I think the majority of people here would agree with me.

You must not blindly accept authority. I implore you to look into different points of view. Your parents are not murderers, but they do spend too much time in front of the television.

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