Computer scientist or lawyer, communication expert or financial analyst, they are in their dynamic forties and their ideas are well in place. But in Moscow, the professional and personal lives of Piotr, Alexandre, Katia and Anton have been plunged into uncertainty since, according to official terminology, the Kremlin launched its “special military operation” in Ukraine.
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These four executives, typical portraits of liberal Russia at the antipodes of that of President Vladimir Putin, have never demonstrated against the head of the Kremlin. But they thought none the less. For almost a quarter of a century of authoritarian rule, they had become accustomed to zigzagging between political restrictions and economic freedoms. Today, opposed to the military offensive, they hesitate like thousands of others to take the plunge, vote with their feet and leave Russia.
“We lived well”
“Complex decision…”recognizes Piotr, an information technology executive in a foreign group based in Moscow. “Until then we lived well in Moscow, even if we didn’t feel comfortable. Authoritarian excesses did not prevent us from working. Our whole life and our family are here! Leaving would be a real upheaval for my wife and my son. But also for my parents, who want to stay,” confides this father who, like the others, prefers to remain anonymous.
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He estimates that nearly 10% of IT professionals in his profession have already fled the country for two months. Direction: the Turkish, Georgian or… Uzbek capitals. “ The Internet is good there, the economic framework welcoming and, politically, we breathe! », Piotr quips.
In full economic opening to the West, after a quarter of a century of authoritarian and closed regime, Uzbekistan has seen its technological boom revived since the arrival of Russian computer scientists in recent weeks.
A destination not so unexpected: the former Soviet republic of Central Asia is experiencing a surprising liberalization that resembles perestroika. Taking refuge there is a good way to take shelter from political repression in Russia but also from the economic recession that is looming there. Conversely, the loss of gray matter could turn out to be one of the most detrimental misdeeds of the conflict for Russia.
Off to Turkey…
“We have to think about our safety and… our careers”, slips Katia, communication specialist in one of the jewels of Russian high-tech. From the first days of the military offensive, she left with her husband and a small child to Turkey. Not in Istanbul but in one of the seaside resorts on the coast. “It’s a lot cheaper. My son enjoyed the sea and the good weather. My husband and I were able to continue working remotely,” she says, seated at a cafe in Moscow.
The family indeed returned after a month. “We left as a precaution, to see how things would evolve,” she confides, still not reassured about the short-term prospects. “We are going to redo our passports and apply for visas”, Katya explains. A fresh start is possible.
“This war hangs a sword of Damocles over an entire generation who, through their work and investments in Russia itself, actually wanted to build a new country. These efforts and hopes may prove to be in vain. dreads Alexander. As a lawyer, he accelerated the procedures to have his Russian diplomas recognized in Europe. He is now waiting for a French visa. “Politically, it was already difficult for a long time to stay in Russia. But, economically, we now risk losing out. The question is: could I work abroad? », he worries.
… or Dubai
Anton no longer has a choice. Western sanctions and Russian countermeasures have, de facto, reduced the activities of the financial company he created by more than 60%. “Everything was based on the opening of the country and on my contacts with foreign companies. Overnight, my business model collapsed. Either I rebuild on Russian-Russian perspectives; or I go abroad to pursue an international activity”, he summarizes.
Anton has already chosen: his family has settled in Dubai and, for the past month, he has been going back and forth with Moscow. “I lost a lot. The country is shooting itself in the foot. The Kremlin does not understand this. But we have to reinvent ourselves…”