Russian students in Groningen: They love their motherland but can’t live there anymore

Russian mobilization forces Russian students in Groningen to remain outside of Russia. And thus, as much as Russian students Anna (22) and Kirill (27) love their home country, they might not live in Russia anymore.

‘The mobilization made me feel very angry’, says Anna, Russian student at UG’s Faculty of Art. Moscow is her hometown and due to this she attended and saw many protests in the capital city. Some of her friends got arrested in the protests against Vladimir Putin. She hopes that the Russians will finally get angry and start to go against the authorities.

Another Russian student is against the war but has mixed feelings about Russia. ‘I do love my country. I’m Russian, and I will always be Russian’, says Kirill, student at the Faculty of Science and Engineering at Groningen University. He also knows all too well that the country is different from the government. ‘Our current government is like an illness to the country.’


As a PhD student, Kirill noticed that scientific research rapidly became ‘independent’ after Russia invaded Ukraine. Academic research starts with a literary review and a new theory base on existing research. You could say that scientific research sits on the shoulders of a giant number of researchers worldwide.

However, the EU countries and the USA imposed sanctions against Russia. The connections with the world have been cut down. Importing lab equipment to Russia has become more complex, and the process of publishing is harder as well. Kirill heard that a Russian PhD researcher couldn’t publish her research internationally, just because she’s Russian.

Our current government is like an illness to the country

Those reasons force Kirill to stay outside of Russia. He planned to go back to Russia to keep performing research. However, the war changed everything. He feels insecure and doesn’t trust that the Russian government will respect the transparent and independent academy environment.


Anna doesn’t plan to become a researcher. She still considers escaping to be the better way to have a safer daily and routine life. Some of her relatives and friends could be drafted because of mobilization. Therefore, her family in Moscow feels less stable, and she hopes they can leave as soon as possible.

She didn’t even go back to Russia during summer. She heard that when Russians cross the border, customs might check their smartphone and go through messages and social media posts. ‘I was quite scared because I don’t know what consequences this could lead to.’

‘I really want to leave the country and not be a part of this system, which is very broken and unjustly to the citizens’, says Anna.


The wars have triggered the younger generations in Russia to get involved in politics. In the last decade, Putin started Crimea annexation in 2014 and invaded Ukraine. Even though Anna was only 14 years old when Crimea was annexed, the wars took place during her childhood. She grew up with wars and formed her own perspective.

I was really confused. I didn’t know what to think about the invasion

Kirill used to be a person who went about his daily life, and politics were not part of his life. However, things changed after the war. ‘I was really confused. I didn’t know what to think about the invasion.’


As a researcher, he wants to know the facts. He gathered information and perspectives from con and pro war sides. Moreover, he examined the history of the conflict. He wants to know why the war is happened and how to generate his belief. He especially has families and friends who support or are against the Russian government.

This is the first time Kirill is concerned with politics. He formed his vision and became against the war. He understands why the older generation who experienced the Soviet Union support Putin. Nevertheless, he disagrees with them.


After six months of war, Kirill has tried not to discuss the war with Russians. ‘It’s useless and always leads to an argument.’ He doesn’t want to have conflicts with family and friends with opposite opinions. He wants the war to be over as soon as possible. However, he can’t stop the war by giving orders.

‘Numb could be the word to describe how I feel right now,’ Anna’s feelings are similar to those of Kirill. Also, she doesn’t see the possibility of stopping Putin, although she can’t wait for it to happen. She is pessimistic and optimistic at the same time.

Anna keeps posting information against Putin or telling protesters how to protect themselves through social media. She still believes the influence will slowly grow, and one day the Russian citizens will finally start to go against the authorities.

Kyrill doesn’t want to be called by his surname, Anna’s name is not her real name


  1. Dear radical people in the comments, I really hope your black-and-white thinking and nationalistic overgeneralisations are due to your young age and momentary anger. However rightful this anger is, it doesn’t give you an excuse for these heartless, highly biased and downright abusive comments. Each one of you now is addressing the students who are in the same situation as yours – watching your countries fall apart, and most (if not all) of you are now in the safety of another country, not at the front. It is unlikely that any of you have provided the same support for your country as you claim Russians should have in theirs, so your accusations of hypocrisy are even bigger hypocrisy. Everybody does what they can. I doubt that you would ever express these views under your real name and to the face of your friends, many of whom I am sure were (or even still are) Russians. You are actively supported by all other countries, so you are far from being “ignored” or diminished. The world is not built of good and bad countries, and people are all different in each country. Accusing the whole nation of the crimes of the few is not going to end this war, it’s going to create even more hatred and injustice.

    Many in these comments claim that overthrowing the government who have oppressed the whole nation for centuries is so easy. Millions of people across Russia have been repeatedly demonstrating throughout the last years and yes, did get arrested, punished, tortured… Even if we ignore such phenomena as learnt helplessness, it is unfair and a lie to say that Russians have not even tried to improve their political system since many have for many decades. What else can people do when the laws don’t protect their freedom of speech and don’t give any choice in even choosing their own rulers, when there is no legal ground or even resources for changing the situation – burn down the government buildings and shoot their leaders? Russian leaders use the national army to kill off their own nation — what can an ordinary, non-military-trained person actually do in such conditions except call for piece and justice and try to survive in the process? Many other countries have been in a similar regime and at war for decades (and still are), yet I don’t see people here judging and attacking them as much as Russians (and no, I am not asking to pity or entitle them, only to be human and avoid sofa criticism when you have never been in their shoes). It is a very skewed and self-centered way of viewing the reality and in the long run, only perpetuates the problem.

    It is inexcusable for UKrant to publish such poorly informed articles that lack any depth and ignore the context when the topic is bound to cause aggression and frustration in both parties who are already polarized. There was indeed a lack of any coherent articles on the situation in Ukraine, the struggles of Ukrainian students, the actions taken to support them, psychological struggles of many students from both countries, and other much more relevant topics where you could clearer express your position. Filling the gaps with articles like this one (which doesn’t even represent the Russians in Groningen not to mention those who are significantly affected by or at least informed about the war) will inevitably escalate to an emotionally charged battle, if not real-life violence against the students. The policy of the newspaper can say whatever – you are fully responsible for this inadequate way of writing and the outbreak of aggression.

    • Dear ignorant student,

      Please, tell me more on how to avoid offending occupants’ feelings.

      This article have hurt the feelings of a lot of people, including those whose friends and family are being bombed constantly in a war zone. The outburst of aggression is not just “sofa criticism”, it is a legitimate way to fight the offender and those who support this nonsense.

      “it is unfair and a lie to say that Russians have not even tried to improve their political system since many have for many decades” – how did those improvements lead to a war? Can’t call that an improvement if subsequently the majority in the country support putin (his rating went up to 81 percent according to Levada center).

      You’re writing a lot about how russians are being oppressed, however it is only a minority who is actually politically active in a right way. Reality is, the majority is untouched by the war. Most russians in the country don’t seem to care about their government invading a sovereign country and murdering civilians.

      “Each one of you now is addressing the students who are in the same situation as yours” – we are not in the same situation as russians, I beg you to stop downplaying the situation Ukrainian students found themselves in. Most of russian students did not have to worry about their relatives’ lives throughout these 217 days. They did not have to drop studies or work just because the neighbouring nation decided to start a war.

      Let me maybe elaborate more on the protests in russia.

      You asked: “burn down the government buildings and shoot their leaders?” – I would answer positively. If this means preventing an outright international war – yes of course.

      “ Russian leaders use the national army to kill off their own nation — what can an ordinary, non-military-trained person actually do in such conditions except call for piece and justice and try to survive in the process?” – the russian government does not use a regular army, but rather the police who are armed with sticks and gas, but that’s a digression. In such conditions you also have a choice to fight, because there is no sense to call for peace and justice from an institution that never showed the ability to provide those values. Multiple countries, including Ukraine, showed throughout their histories that the revolution does not usually happen when both sides are equally armed.

      I hope you get some of my points. My number is +31 6 29 23 76 54, if someone would like to lecture on how Ukrainians have to emphasize with russians. I agree with you that it is inexcusable for ukrant to publish such a poor article, but I think the comments are mostly justified.

  2. Het ergste is onverschilligheid! Onverschilligheid wanneer 7 maanden mijn land vernietigen! Het is nog erger als de onverschilligheid van de Russen verandert in hypocrisie! Als er oorlog is, zijn er geen halftonen, er is zwart of wit! Als burgers 7 maanden lang worden gebombardeerd, zie je het niet, heb je alleen mobilisatie opgemerkt?! Dit is de prijs van onverschilligheid, en hypocrisie zal je geen goede Russen maken. Russen hebben een plek in Rusland, draag zelf je kruis en verschuif het niet naar anderen, in je eigen land)

  3. So let me get this straight, this comment section is filled with hatred against Russian citizens because no way in hell any Russian can be a victim of the war and everyone should focus 100% on Ukrainians as victims? So my question is this, how do you want empathy when you don’t show any? How do you want something that you yourself won’t give? Shame on you all. You think it’s only one sided? I applaud UK to give these Russian students a voice in a time where so many people express hate against them because of their leader. Even Facebook allowed hate speech against Russians. It’s unbelievable. What a world to live in. This war is among leaders. Citizens on both sides are victims.

    • You know, for someone with a rudimentary understanding of the situation, you have quite strong opinions. And you saying “this war is among leaders” clearly shows you haven’t been paying attention at all, most of all to what all russia’s neighbours, not just Ukrainians, have to say about russia. Nice to live a sheltered life in a safe country that never had to deal with russia’s aggression, isn’t it? Nice to not have waaaay too many negative experiences with common russians including relatives, isn’t it? Also also, since you’re so concerned with hearing both sides, you gotta submerge yourself in russian internet segment and see the amount of hate poured on Ukrainians, otherwise you’re just hypocritical. But that’s too much effort, right? Much easier to lecture Ukrainians on how to feel during genocide.

    • What in the name of propaganda is this? Are you serious?
      Anyone, this is how this sh**show works. Invade a country, people support your efforts in genocide, occupation is failing, they se supporters feel sad but still persist their country is righteous to invade another, then they are being drafter to the army, then they say how dare you not think i am a victim of this war… uhm say whaaat?

  4. It makes me laugh a lot when Russians talk about their totalitarian regime, that they are afraid to go out to protests, etc. Dear russians, Ukrainians laid down their lives for the sake of freedom, in order to get rid of your pro-Russian influence. Even now, when the war has touched everyone personally (I mean mobilization), you choose not to protest, but to escape from the country, in addition, you are indignant that they don’t let you in, they don’t give you humanitarian visas. Dagestan is an exception from this situation. The population of Russia is 144 million people. You can’t put everyone in jail. You could have stopped all this back in February, but it was easier for you to pretend that nothing was happening and keep silent.

  5. “Our current government is like an illness to the country”. When you have an illness, you try to treat it. The only ones concerned about that were people who went out to protest, but 600 people in a city of 12 million, for instance, is not enough. Leads to the fact that russians just do not care

    • I did not know that negligence and stupidity are defined as interesting… Or spreading the truth is strange.

  6. First of all, I want express my complete support of Ukraine and say that all my friends in the Netherlands and family and friends in Russia condemn the war. I don’t want to shift the attention from what really matters – this war is absolutely unjustly and horrible – but it’s silly to ignore that fact that Russians do protest and are being tortured, prosecuted, and sometimes painfully killed for simply stating their views. This, of course, means that many people are afraid for their lives (and rightfully so), especially when your death won’t change anything in the country. Just look at Belarus, where more than a million pet protested, and it still didn’t help them to overthrow their potato tyrant. People who are saying that Russians should overthrow putin clearly have no idea what living under a totalitarian regime means (luckily for Ukraine, there was never a totalitarian regime, therefore the Maidan that was supported by many politicians was possible). So just saying that all Russians are willingly complicit with the regime is an oversimplification.

    Of course, I will not downplay the atrocities that Russian army commits in Ukraine, they are absolutely sick and horrendous. And many Russians, who have access to other sources of information other than propaganda, think the same (and yes, all my friends and I consider Crimea and Donbass region undoubtedly Ukrainian). I just want to highlight how disappointed I am about this article and its content. How passive and questionable at best those statements are. There are so many vocal Russians both here and in Russia, who really try help in all possible ways (by volunteering, donating stuff and money, hosting Ukrainian refugees), and many Ukrainians are grateful for that that. But instead of helping people during these traumatic times, articles like this only polarize the society without giving any meaningful or helpful information. So disappointing.

    • What you say about Maidan is nothing but an attempt to diminish the achievements of Ukrainian civil society. Yeah, some politicians were on board, but the driving force were the people, not the politicians!
      Protesters were kidnapped from Maidan, and tortured, and killed. Activists were attacked on their way home or to protests. People were arrested in the hospitals where they were treated for the injuries inflicted by riot police. More than a hundred were killed by snipers. Also, FYI, janukovich did sign a completely Draconian set of anti-protest laws (look up January 16th laws), and do you think this stopped the people?? If anything, it only added to their resolve. So don’t you dare saying it was easy for Ukraine, because it wasn’t, and those brave people never backed down and did not let the government infringe on their rights and dignity.

      • “ What you say about Maidan is nothing but an attempt to diminish the achievements of Ukrainian civil society.”
        “ So don’t you dare saying it was easy for Ukraine.”
        Wow, that’s some talent to twist someone’s words like this. Nowhere did I say anything you accuse me of and nowhere did I diminish achievements of Ukrainian people, I commend them for that. But I see that all this doesn’t matter for you, and so be it if it brings you any solace. If only all this hatred you have for Russians could help end the war.

    • “Just look at Belarus, where more than a million pet protested, and it still didn’t help them to overthrow their potato tyrant.” A nice disregard of Belarusian fight for freedom. If we want to compare Belarus and russia, then you guys are also not getting up to that level. How many people went out to protest against the war in russia? Also how many of them went out to protest against the mobilization? People of Belarus tried and I woundnt say they failed because the world knows the opinion of majority towards lukashenko. Their people died, were beaten up brutally and put into jails.
      Russians, on the other hand, think they’re entitled to empathy because they live in a “totalitarian regime”. You’re not alone in this. You’re just the only ones who don’t do anything about it.

  7. Imagine how Ukrainians, Georgians and Syrians must feel when they see their butchers being portrayed as victims in the media?

  8. Here in the Netherlands people don’t even know that Ukrainian men, not serving, not in the army, are not allowed to exit the country. But the same people say that its Ukrainian propaganda lying about the amount of Russians supporting the war. Why don’t you research, write about what matters and what is relevant?

  9. “After six months of war, Kirill has tried not to discuss the war with Russians. ‘It’s useless and always leads to an argument.’ He doesn’t want to have conflicts with family and friends with opposite opinions.”

    Why are you writing articles about the students who have nothing against people which support wars, murders, rapes, other crimes, etc? How can you keep close such a person, I’m sorry, “non-human”? Why is the author using such liberal formulation for the support of the war & crimes being “an opposite opinion”?

  10. The newspaper tries to justify Putin’s war and show us good russians. I advise those students to rebel against their authorities instead of “loving motherland”

    8 years of war against Ukraine! It’s Ukraine completly destroyed and killed …

  11. As for Ukrant, good job pretending you are trying to be objective and spinning the “both sides have it bad” while ignoring Ukrainian voices. What a disgrace. But I’ll remind you – it’s Ukraine that pays the unimaginable price for its freedom, it’s Ukrainians fighting for their home, fighting and dying, because russians don’t want to fight for their freedoms and yeah, die.

  12. A very nice article showcasing the other, much ignored part of the horrible events happening nowadays. People are still people and the ongoing incident is hurting all of us.

    • your terminology if an “incident” just clearly shows that you are not aware of the fact that it’s a war abd ruzzia is a terrorist state.

    • One can’t compare and say that the suffer is equal, when we are comparing the destroyed cities, deaths, WAR for God’s sake and the “inability” to go back to russia for russians. That is a complete nonsense. Especially when Ukrainians risk to return to Ukraine.

  13. Western Europe should stop looking and searching for good russians or they like to call them – liberals. This people are imperialist inside. When you ask them about Crimea or Donbas, they never say it’s Ukrainian, they say it’s – ’the peoples of Crimea or Donbas’ territory. (Why do they answer that moscow is russian, why doesn’t it belong to people of moscow??). Isn’t it quit interesting that these people didn’t care about the war and thousands Ukrainians dead, when they didn’t have ‘official’ mobilization. War was not of their concern. It doesnt concern them as long as they have McDonald’s and H&M in Russia. But as soon as they are at risk of being killed or lose the presence of big western consumer companies (like the aforementioned), they start begging for help from the whole world. Make of themselves the victims. This so pathetic and the highest level of hyporcracy I have ever seen. Lastly, its also quite amusing that Ukrainians managed to overthrow the authoritarian government in 2014 with snipers shooting down people in the middle of Kyiv, and people being beaten to death by police. While the only fight russians can give to their government is sit in their sofas and beg for help is social media. What a hypocritical nation.

  14. I’d like to ask anyone who says “I am against war but love russia”: what do you love about your country? What good did your country ever do? Invading other nations, committing genocides, undermining democracy all over the world, is that what you like? Your brightest minds, your great thinkers and liberals, have all expressed imperialistic views, your “great russian culture” is in its essence colonialist, is that what you like? And these russian citizens in Ukraine now killing Ukrainians in thousands, are they your government? No, they are your people, common russian guys. You can not have it both ways – love your country and refuse to recognize that your society is complicit in russian war crimes. Common russians commit them, common russians cheer on them, common russians do nothing to stop the war.

  15. In this situation, the only victims are Ukrainians, not Russians. Russians were silent all the time and nurtured the dictatorship. I was in Moscow in February, when the war had just begun. there were 20 people at the protests, which is negligible compared to the population of Moscow. They did not care about the war, the dead people from Russian soldiers. Now their indignation and slogans “we are against war” sound extremely stupid.

  16. Sometimes I wonder if WW2 happened with internet in place, would western media also sympathize with nazi Germany and write articles about the people in Germany instead of focusing on the atrocities that their army was committing and the horrible genocide against Jews. Russia is committing genocide against Ukrainians, this indeed started way back in 2014 and even some of the Russian liberals who are “against the regime” were joking about Crimean annexation as if it was the right thing to do. The people in Russia had plenty of time to do something against the regime – just like Ukrainians actually did in 2014. But nonetheless, in an unfair genocidal war that is being waged against Ukrainians, with people dying every single day, still, with Russia trying to erase our language culture and our nation, with children being forcefully taken to Russia from occupied territories to erase their Ukrainian identities, with horrendous russian tortures/rape/killings happening in occupied territories of Ukraine, for the pure sole reason that we are Ukrainians, you find a place for a spotlight for Russians. That’s sad.

  17. That’s not alright to write this kind of articles. You present russians as victims, the suffering sides, but who also feel “confused” about the invasion and consider the “pros and cons” about the war??

    It seems like both them and you forgot the fact that mobilization is announced not to “punish” russians, but to kill Ukrainians, and the fact that the war is not some kind of a blurry process and makes lives of russian citizens harder, but an actual event with russians occupying and destroing Ukrainian cities and villages, making genocide of the nation, torturing and raping the captives… This one-sided article gives very wrong ideas.

  18. “Tragic situation” russian students face is not that tragic in reality. Why have they started to stand up only after the mobilization? So it was okay when other people were dying on the battlefield, but not when actually they are going there?? They live in russia in peace, their houses are not bombarded, they do not hear rockets flying every day. They are not in danger! They should have done something way earlier, not only when it became critical for their own calm meaningless routine.

  19. How much Moscow pays your newspaper to write so many articles towards the terrorist side?

    One of the effects of the mobilisation, is that it’s created a western sympathy vacuum towards russians , deflecting away from the actual victims of genocide: UKRAINIANS.

    A reminder to these russians are not dissidents – they’re accomplices.

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