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“An unknown future is better than a future of violence, censorship and broken lives”. Fifth wave of emigration.


The fifth wave of Russian post-revolutionary emigration was raised by Andrei Makarevich, People’s Artist of the Russian Federation. The musician, who is the founder and leader of the band Mashina Vremeni, but also a producer and TV presenter, was essentially the first one to leave the country in early March 2022.

He has been followed by the People’s Artist Chulpan Khamatova, the singer of Ukrainian origin Vera Brezhneva, the film director and media-manager Alexander Rodnyanski, the rapper Oximiron, the (now former) special representative of the President in relations with international organizations for steady development goals Anatoly Chubais together with his wife Avdotya Smirnova, by Elena Bunina who used to be head of Yandex…

The list of those who left can be endless. Understandably, Russians are worried about the consequences of the sanctions imposed by the West, about the political pressure and the persecution for anti-government views, the military mobilization and a new “iron curtain”.

There are no official numbers but, according to experts, they are in the tens of thousands of new emigrants. People are frightened. Many of them choose the optimal solution to the problem (in their own opinion) – flight.

We have spoken to some common people from Russia, in order to understand what they feel at this moment, how easy it was for them to decide to leave and where they see themselves in the near future. But most importantly – what needs to happen for them to return to their home country?


(At the moment of writing this article, on April 12th, Gleb was in Serbia. During the course of the so-called “special operation” in Ukraine, he managed to visit Mauritius, Hungary and Austria).

“On February 24th I was in Egypt. I woke up in the morning and saw the numerous messages on social media, even from people I rarely talk to. Everyone was asking me whether I was fine and how I was doing. Then I read the news and understood what the matter was.

Friends have been wondering whether I was planning to come home and suggested that I extend my stay in Egypt. I already had my return ticket to St. Petersburg and my flight from Moscow to Mauritius with a layover in Vienna was planned for March 3rd. Besides, I had plans for that weekend. So, I decided that I would rather fly back to Russia and see how things go.

By Sunday, February 27th, it was clear that Europe is closing all air space for Russian flights. Our government introduced reciprocal sanctions and banned all flights for European air companies.

I asked the manager to save my leg from Vienna to Mauritius. I was told that I’ll have to reach Vienna on my own.

I didn’t want to lose the ticket and stay locked in a single country, even though it stretches all the way from the Baltic Sea to the Pacific Ocean. I have been to 60 countries, and it is impossible for me to stay put anywhere for longer than 3-4 weeks at a time. That’s why on February 28th I tried to leave for Europe. I was born in Latvia, my grandma is buried there, so I have an open visa for 5 years for Latvia, valid until October 2022.

I decided to go to Europe through Estonia, since it is the closest border to St. Petersburg. It was cheaper, faster and easier to reach. I took the train from St Petersburg to Ivangorod, that’s at the Estonian border. It goes every evening at 18:40 from Baltiyski train station. I live in Pushkin, so I took it at Alexandrovskaya station. The trip cost me 364 rubles (4 euros). I reached the border with this train.

When the conductor checked my ticket, he mumbled “Everybody is heading to Ivangorod…”.

I walked from the train station to the border, it took me 20 minutes or so. A German man was walking alongside me. He was a professor in State University of Saint Petersburg, was staying in Russia under the DAAD exchange program. His flight to Berlin got cancelled, so he was coming home this way.

It is possible to exit Russia on land, only if you have pretext – for instance, that you’re going for studies, for work, to visit close relatives or for medical assistance. To confirm your medical treatment travel you can show a prepaid booking with treatment procedures in a hotel with medical license.

In February my friends were travelling for medical treatment in Pirita Spa Hotel in Tallin for 2 days. They gave me this information, so I booked a stay there too. By the rules, the booking needs to be prepaid.

On the Russian border I said I was going for medical treatment. Border guards checked both my passports thoroughly – one had the visa, but no space left, the other was for stamps. Then they scanned my booking confirmation and let me exit Russia with no further questions. 

On the Estonian border I claimed that I’m entering for transit. Nobody checked my insurance or booking, only my vaccination certificate. Without the Covid vaccine, you cannot enter Estonia. One of these days some acquaintances tried to get by with PCR tests and they’ve been turned around. “Sputnik V” is not recognized in Estonia.

In 2 days, I have successfully reached Vienna and on March 3rd have nicely left for Mauritius. I would spend 2 weeks there. I had return tickets to Moscow through Vienna, but the leg from Vienna to Moscow was already cancelled. Lufthansa has officially declared that they would not use Russia’s air space until May 27th.

So far, I’m not decided to have left for a long time. I hope that it will all be over soon, and I can return home.

But it’s easy for me to be on the road to 2-4 months in a row. I am a tutor in social sciences and history, I work online. Of course, the fall of ruble will affect my income, but not to the point that I cannot travel any more. I will reach Vienna and then see what the situation is.

I have confirmed that if you have a Schengen visa, it is possible to get to Europe by land so far with no major problems. A few days after me, on the night from March 2nd to 3rd, my friend crossed the border using the same arrangement as me. He took a coach bus directly to Tallinn. Even now there are countries who still grant Schengen visas.”


“I left because of fear. Since the evening of February 24th, I have not slept properly. I’ve been waking up with body pains in the middle of the night, running to the washroom, the body would want to cleanse. According to psychosomatics it’s fear of violation of boundaries. Lack of security.

When I was a child, I used to wait for what would happen when my drunk father came home. There was not much choice, either I got dragged to join his drinking friends, or he would slap me with the belt or I’d get lucky and he would forget about my existence at home under the condition that I stay quiet and don’t show off. The choice was not great. Reminds you of something, doesn’t it?

As a child I was happy when I was away from home and was happy when my parents decided to divorce. This choice is always about security, when you have no clue where the danger comes from at any moment.

Many times, events in my life have shown me that it was much safer to count on God’s grace and people not so close to me, rather than on those who are supposed to provide safety and freedom.

I left, because at that moment I had the opportunity. If somebody’s life depended on me, for instance – my pet’s or a close person’s life – I would have stayed.

In the last few years, I have always had a small set of primary necessities ready: a valid passport, money in cash more than in the bank. For those who have lived in the 90s it’s a must have.

I know languages. I can work remotely. By the end of February I have even saved a bit of money, enough for me to last for a while. And some other factors, such as the support of friends around the world, even gave me the possibility to choose destinations. It’s a luxury in these times.

It's been a very clear desire that manifested, that nobody else decides what happens to me next. Staying back would have meant for me to get stuck in the state of both the victim and the aggressor. I would have to lie, be quiet or say what people want to hear.

I want to play by my own rules at least on some minimal level. I want to decide where I want to be, what I want to see, read, listen to, say, without being worried that tomorrow somebody will declare me an outlaw for it or put me in prison for 15 years.

Unclear future is better than the future of violence, imprisonment, censorship and broken lives. I want to determine myself who is a friend and who is an enemy.

What’s next? I don’t have an answer to this question. We all live nowadays day by day, hour by hour. But this state doesn’t freak me out. For once, I feel inspired.

I set my tasks and execute them one by one. Here and now. There’s nothing else left.

Buy the tickets. Pack the things. Prepare the documents. Get on the plane. Buy and cook food. Learn new names, words. Appreciate new acquaintances and unexpected opportunities. Help those who need help when I’m in more stable circumstances. The walker will master the road.”


(Our guest preferred to not disclose his family name for security reasons)

“On the day of the attack everything got clear for me right away, as soon as I managed to open my eyes after sleep and read the surreal news. No doubt, it was the beginning of the end.

We have all been expecting something like this for a few years now. We have felt it. And now – boom!

Nevertheless, the brain has fought the first moment’s decision to leave for another 2 days. It’s been 2 totally useless days. I wasted them on walking in circles around the apartment, like an animal in a cage. Then I have realized that it is not reasonable and decided to sit at the table and make a list of things to do before leaving. I will take it step by step. It will take my mind off the rest of it.

On the day of the departure, I’ve been watching people’s faces. I think that’s what people’s faces looked like on the ship leaving St. Petersburg in 1922. Back then it was also clear that it was the end.

I was very worried going through customs control. What if they don’t let anybody through any more? What if they interrogate, check the conversations? But it was ok.

I was flying to Istanbul. Usually the flights to Turkey are very noisy. There are a lot of drunk men, anticipating the upcoming vacation. Many children shouting. Overall – a challenge.

I had the impression that this time it was absolute silence. Even the children stayed quiet and listened to their parents. Everybody was helping each other. And just like me, everyone would watch the faces of the others.

The plane took a slight detour. I think we flew over Kazakhstan. Because the sky over south Russia, Ukraine and Europe was already closed. Somebody was crying quietly. To be honest, my lashes also got damp. And a stupid song from the 90s was stuck in my head:

Doubts are at our doorstep,

The quiet years are behind.

Time is teaching us to seek our own way,

And teaches us to farewell forever.

Towards far away shores, away from our dear land

Your night plane has taken off to the skies,

The heavenly lights of your new luck

Have left me with my earthly trouble.

It’s just that I’ve done a video with the singer Irina Shvedova some time ago, who would sing this song for some project about the “old” forgotten stars. The lyrics were stuck in my head and fit the situation perfectly.

The moment the plane touched ground it seemed that everybody exhaled in relief. They would start smiling at each other and get to know each other. I decided to help Tatiana with her bags. She was taking her children out of Russia. A baby and a teenager. The night before they almost reached Paris, but the Russian plane was turned around right before Charles de Gaule airport. When she returned to Moscow, she flipped out, as she said it herself. She then had to buy tickets to Istanbul way overpriced.

Turkey became Russian these days. Everywhere you can hear familiar speech. Many young folks. They have clearly left for mainly ideological reasons. There is no aggression coming from the locals. Even the opposite – they are compassionate, offering coffee and tea, trying to help.

I don’t plan to return to Moscow. Not as long as the regime doesn’t change in Russia and there is no democracy. So probably never?

At this point it is just dangerous for me, also because of my job.”


(He also published this text in his Instagram account)

“I have installed the app “My Taxes”, got my driver’s license, took a mortgage, bought an apartment on Vasilievskyi with a rowan garden behind the window, hang a chandelier, sat on the floor and had the feeling that this will be my home.

In one month, my country has started a war.

We have retreated to positions prepared in advance in Vilnius. I’m not considering myself an emigrant yet. Maybe I’m just fooling myself.

Looking at other emigrants, I have listed a few “hygiene” rules for myself:

  • Do not judge those who stayed. Leaving is a privilege.
  • Do not generalize – “dirty journalists”, “hypocrite priests”, “sell-out state employees”. Marina Ovsyannikova came out with an anti-war poster on air on Pervyi (main Russian governmental channel). Priest Johann Burdin read an anti-war sermon. More is yet to come.
  • Do not criticize the protesters, that they don’t protest enough. Those who criticize are usually those who have never spent a night in detention.
  • Do no nag that Russia is doomed, and we will meanwhile create something fluffy and without borders here. We will create it for sure, but together with and for those who stayed.
  • Do not accuse those who got fooled. Your mom is fantasizing about Nazis in Kiev? It only means you haven’t talked to her enough.”

By Ekaterina Komova

In the article were used photo's from the Instagram of Evgeny Babushkin and Gleb Stepansky

“I feel ashamed, hurt and scared”. Russian-speaking emigrants in Europe

“I feel ashamed, hurt and scared”. Russian-speaking emigrants in Europe