«Mobilization is a declaration of war on its citizens»

Author: Vyacheslav Nikolaev

Border crossing in Upper Lars
Photo from personal archive

Alexander is 32 years old. He graduated from the Moscow Aviation Institute. Worked in a company among the top 500 corporations in the world. In July, he got married. In September, right after his honeymoon, he left for Georgia. His family stayed in Moscow. Now he is trying to glue his life back together again. 

- Before the war, I was in my professional prime. I was growing, developing. I was planning a new apartment, a car, children. 

Of course, there were some "signals" coming in from the political news, saying that not everything was calm, but I didn't pay attention. What war with Ukraine? Well, come on, it's the 21st century! And on the 24th, I looked into my phone and could not believe my eyes: this was some kind of fake news. I am shocked that the people around me raised their hand against their neighbor. Although even before, if you think about it, it happened, so why should I be surprised - local conflicts with Georgia, the Crimea in 2014. 

Still, I couldn't believe it was happening to me now, when I personally have everything going according to plan. I love Moscow. It's one of the most livable cities in the world. But you look around and what you see doesn't fit with the news in any way.  

The leadership of the country and I have fundamentally different values. I believe that it is always possible to come to an agreement, to communicate normally, and to find a mutually beneficial solution. You need to have erudition, calmness, courage and openness, which people in this system do not have. They have been squeezed, suppressed. How can we talk about agreements? I was shocked by the fact that the vast majority of our country has no memory of war and repression.

I only once went to a rally to defend the journalist Golunov. They were quickly taken down, and I realized that open protest was not my thing. I would act differently. 
At the IT-conference
Photo from the hero's personal archive

After college I worked for a state company. I wanted to defend my PhD. I wrote algorithms for recognizing airborne radar stations. But when faced with the government, I realized that they did not need my knowledge. The public sector does not care about efficiency, but only about reproducing its "swampy" structure. There was nothing to do there.

 My protest had to do with the fact that I did not want to be associated with, support, and develop the state machine. I was looking for growth in private companies. 

In February and March my bride and I decided to stay. We decided to stay in February and March, so we decided to stay here, and we scheduled the wedding for July.

Alexander's wedding
Photo from the hero's personal archive

We lived like we lived. And we didn't read the news so we wouldn't go crazy. 

But the war was still catching up. There were more law enforcement officers around. I was stopped and searched several times just like that, asked about drugs, although I never used anything at all. Most of my friends left at the beginning of the war, but I didn't want to leave until the very last.

When the news about the mobilization started, I didn't believe it. We have an army of two million. The second largest in the world! 

In the first half of August we went on a honeymoon. We returned in September, and at the entrance to the country everything had changed drastically: they looked at us like an enemy of the people, the passport officers questioned us about where and why we were away. 

Why should I have to justify myself to anyone? I should be happy because I pay a decent amount of taxes, not treated like cattle.
From Alexander's honeymoon trip to Turkey
Photo from the hero's personal archive
However, I probably would have endured it, but the mobilization turned out to be exactly the line toward me that the state crossed. I saw this as a declaration of war by my country against its citizens and a violation of unspoken social agreements. 

I graduated from the MAI, passed the military department as a repair and maintenance engineer for helicopters, airplanes, and guided missiles. I am a lieutenant in the reserve. My classmates were told that they would not be mobilized. But then three out of ten got summonses. They had all been overseas for a long time. I realized that the risk of being drafted was high.

The women in the family began to worry. On Saturday we decided to gather at the dacha near Moscow as a family, and a weighty confirmation of my thoughts was the word of my military father, who said: "Sasha, it's better to go away."

I have a military family. My father is a retired officer. My brother and I were born abroad: I was born in Hungary, my brother in Germany. In 1995 my father's unit was moved to Budennovsk, Stavropol Territory.

On the day of the capture of the hospital in Budyonnovsk by Chechen fighters, my father's regiment was put on alert. He said that when the buses were brought up at night, the armory was never opened. My father was finally given a machine gun and he went later. He said it was the only reason he was alive. My father told me a lot of things about the mess in the army...

I immediately realized that it would not be limited to partial mobilization. There will be a second and third wave. The process could last until 2024, until the pseudo-elections. This means that even more people will die. They will continue to tighten the screws. No freedoms. Surveillance of people. State control of the economy. The first person may be different. But the new one will be no better.

A week after I moved, I call my wife. She says, "I hope you come back soon. I said to her: "I have nothing to do in Russia for the next 10 years". She cried... She said: "I love my hometown, I want to live in Moscow". But I can't stay there any longer. 

I feel like my country doesn't need me anymore. This feeling overlaps with ideas about family history. My ancestors are Estonians. We dug up the genealogical tree to 1720. We found out that in 1896 my great-great-grandfather Jacob Sedo went to Siberia. Then it so happened that he ended up on one of those trains, on which Kolchak took the empire's gold.

Co-working in Georgia
Photo from the hero's personal archive

I regret that the civil war was won by the Reds and not the Whites. Early 20th-century Russia should have been modernized instead of changing power with violence and blood. At that point, a huge stratum of minds was cut off. Those who could, dispersed around the world. And then, as the Soviet intelligentsia matured, they were slaughtered. And now the same thing is happening.

Russia has never needed healthy and free minds in the long term. It is as if this country is pathologically sick, intimidated, and weak at the same time. Nothing the history of generations of people teaches us. 

There can be no winner in this war. Both Russia and Ukraine will lose. Because two brothers went not just to fight, but to kill each other. This is the worst thing that can happen in a family.

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