"What war? I'd rather go to jail."

Photo: from the archive of eyewitnesses

Artem is 21 years old. He is originally from the Bryansk region. For the last four years he has been studying programming at a university in Moscow. He is fond of music: he has equipped his own studio and reads rap music. Recently fashionable youth magazines started writing about him as the "discovery of the year." After the mobilization was announced, Artem left for Kazakhstan. He took with him a briefcase with musical equipment and Aristotle's treatise "Politics".

- I'm from Bryansk - half Belorussian, you could say. I have an aunt in Ukraine, a cousin. Belarus, Ukraine, Bryansk - everything is tightly connected in terms of population. Dad started saying six months in advance, "There might be a war. But no one could believe that such a thing was possible.

When the war started, I was a fourth-year student. Dad thought I had a couple more years to spare in order to finish my master's degree. There was less money after February 24. I could go several days without eating. I didn't really look for a job, and what my dad sent me, I put into my hobby. I read rap music. It sounds ridiculous, of course... Basically, I just started getting good at it. I got contacts, outlets, a studio of my own. All sorts of trendy music magazines started writing about me. They said what a great guy he is, how well he's doing! But in the end - I've gone nowhere. Because there is no future in this country.

Artem. A still from the clip

I left now, because there was a chance that the borders would close. Well, the fact that they say that mobilization will not affect full-time students and IT specialists - so they said a lot of things during this time. And so far their words don't seem to be very consistent with their actions. That was the case with pension reform, for example. And tomorrow they will say, "Well, excuse me, go to war. What war? I'd rather go to jail than go to war.

When I was walking around Moscow the last couple of days before I left, I saw that at every kilometer in the center - Dmitrov highway, Leningradka - there were traffic police cars stopping everybody. As I was told, this has never happened before. Before, they used to stop a business class Range Rover to take a bribe. But now they stop everybody, even cabs. And if you happen to find a "dodger" there, the police just drive up, take him under their arms - like in the song "Fountain of Black Dolphin," with his back to the top - and take him away for further clarification or to serve a summons. I have personally seen two such cases. And friends told me about them after I left.

Photo: from the archive of eyewitnesses

I understand that the first wave of departures was after the war began. Now either those who have no money or who simply do not think (critically) about what is going on stay... Those who left with me were all smart, educated. They all had businesses of some kind, projects. I did not meet a single fool during this time. When the smartest and richest are fleeing your country, and those who don't leave and go to rallies are being packed into police vans, those who can't or don't want to say anything against it are left behind. And something tells me that such people can be pressured indefinitely - military camps, gulags, even more repression...

When I came to Kazakhstan, it was as if I was in another dimension. Everyone is so friendly... I chose Kazakhstan because it's easy enough to enter. It was not the most popular country to move to in the past. It was relatively cheap. Until recent events.

Yekaterinburg. Photo: from Artem's personal archive

I flew from Sheremetyevo to Yekaterinburg. From there I took a train to Kurgan. Then I came to Petropavlovsk. As we were passing through the border, a border guard with a big cap and a full-face mask walked in. I don't know why they wear masks - there don't seem to be any restrictions. Apparently, it depersonalizes them somehow. Next to him stood a woman. She was wearing - literally! - four cameras. In all directions, 360 "fish-eye" view. The border guard, shouting, would go into the wagon, "Okay, documents!" And if they sensed that the person was nervous, they just took him off the train. So, in front of me they took off a young guy - I could see he was nervous. The reason was, as the border guard said on his phone: "Requires additional verification. He shouted, "Hurry up and get ready. Got everything packed?" Talked from top to bottom, if I may say so.

Photo: from the archive of eyewitnesses

I moved into Kazakhstan okay. The only problem is that there is a very high demand for housing here, and prices have gone up. In Alma-Ata from 300 to 500 thousand tenge per month are asked. That's about 40 to 70 thousand rubles.

I don't know how long I will stay in Kazakhstan. My cousin from Ukraine went to live in Germany after the Crimean events, and now she has a residence permit. When the war started, her aunt went to her place as a refugee. They sent me an invitation by mail. I hope they will give me a visa. I will go there and look for a job. Not in my profession, most likely. I am planning to make music.

I could work remotely for a while. The pay, however, was not very big: about 1,000 rubles for an hour and a half. I was studying to be a programmer. Before I left, I got a job telling kids about Python. To teach them on one platform, which the Ministry of Finance financed. Apparently, they wanted to raise a new generation of IT people to replace those who left the country. I was called to work at the end of August. During this time I have not yet conducted a single lesson. Because while the platform was being set up, there were some consultations and webinars, and the children did not sign up for lessons...

Kazakhstan. A queue at the TsON. Photo: from Artem's personal archive

Why does Putin need Ukraine? One can be simply the president of Russia. Or he could go down in history as the great emperor who annexed Ukraine to Russia or joined the CIS back together. The Crimea was forgiven him, the West turned a blind eye, a little sanctions were only imposed. In essence, it was such an "anschluss of the Sudetenland." And aggression is only stopped by counter-aggression...

To be honest, I think that the protests that are now taking place in Russia make no sense. Because they are toothless. Unlike, for example, the actions that can be arranged by "near-football fans" or ultras. Remember how in 2010 one fan (Yegor Sviridov - editorial note) was killed and thousands of people simply felt the need to get out... no matter how people feel about right-wing structures, pluralism is better than the dictate of one ideology. Because pluralism at least leads to discussion. And when every opinion is cut out - the right-wing because it is so easy to lump them under extremists, then the liberals because "the opposition" - there are no opponents left in power. Even Navalny - what about his rallies? We'll go out and stand... What will change? The current government doesn't care. They respond to a peaceful rally with a barricade...

Photo: from Artem's personal archive

I took a book from a friend to read on the road - Aristotle's Politics. I decided to get acquainted. Very much - a fancy word - "insights" when an epiphany occurs. Generally speaking, I am surprised that a man who lived 2,500 years ago understood everything that is going on now.

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