What’s Happening to the Fleeing Russians?

Misha, a young Russian restaurant manager, was having a cigarette on the balcony of a guesthouse on a cobbled street near Istanbul’s renowned mosques and churches.

Many Have Left

Misha abandoned his work on the day Russia attacked Ukraine, packed his belongings, and flew out of Moscow with no idea when he would return.

He has been sharing a $10-a-night bunk bedroom with three other males for the past few weeks, despite the fact he is only 24 years old. His money, he calculates, will last roughly a month.

Misha isn’t a frequent traveler; in fact, this is his first international journey.

Misha expressed his dissatisfaction with his country.

Vladimir Putin was only a baby when he became leader, and he has spent his whole life in the Russia that Putin established throughout his 22 years in charge.

Last year, Misha attended rallies in favor of Kremlin opponent Alexei Navalny, who was imprisoned after organizing a pro-democracy campaign that exposed Putin’s huge corruption.

The Russian government has strengthened its assault on the alternative and independent media in recent years.

Young Russians are Fleeing

At least many young Russians who did grow up in Putin’s Russia are emigrating as a result of the war in Ukraine.

Some are true refugees, fleeing Putin’s onslaught on opponents and the journalists in Russia, where resistance to the war is practically criminalized.

Some are academic refugees who no longer want to reside in a country that intrudes on a neighboring country or backs a dictator.

Because Russian aircraft can reach Turkey without passing into European territory and Russians do not require Turkish passports to visit, thousands of people have arrived in Istanbul.

As a consequence, Russians can now be heard on the street and in lines forming in front of ATMs. Russian debit cards are blocked and Russian immigrants are surviving on whatever cash they can get from ATMs.

Russians can be overheard exchanging suggestions about cheap places to stay, how to create a bank account, and the best places to change cash in coffee shops.

They are only allowed to stay for 90 days under Turkish law. What will occur to them then is a topic of conversation in cafés, bars, and hostel lobbies, where they also discuss political happenings in their country.

Most people still have friends and family in Russia.

Putin’s youth came up in the midst of thrilling post-Soviet upheaval. They had McDonald’s for dinner, read Harry Potter, and performed for Rihanna. They, unlike their parents, have no idea what it’s like to live behind Iron Wall and have no desire to learn.

Putin, for one, does not want them, labeling self-exiled Russians a “fifth column” attempting to destabilize their homeland.

Putin called Western-thinking Russians “national traitors” who can’t live with “oysters and sexual freedom” in a televised speech.