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