“For an ordinary person, ‘black swans’ will appear, unexpected events that will jolt him out of ‘normality,’ increasing personal and family costs. Nobody knows what costs exactly, but they will definitely come,” explains Mirkin.Not everyone will leave
The state’s attempts to regulate what its citizens do in bed will trigger a tangible flow of people leaving the country,says economist Nikolai Kulbaka, though it should not be such a huge wave
of emigration like after mobilization was announced in autumn 2022.
“The issue of relocation is a very serious economic issue. Even within Russia the mobility of the population is low, to say nothing of moving abroad, when the issues of getting a foreign passport, having money, speaking the language and gaining employment immediately arise. These issues create a serious barrier even for people who are aware of the level of personal risk,” he explains.
Therefore, Kulbaka believes, the next outflow will be spearheaded by the most qualified specialists, “those who have a profession that is in demand abroad, such as hairdressers, cosmetologists and manicurists – they are already leaving without any problems – and highly educated specialists, such as IT workers,” says Kulbaka.
The majority, in his opinion, “will rather freeze up, like a bug being poked by a stick.” “Even in freer times in Russia, there were practically no coming-outs of LGBT+ people, excluding certain worldly or creative people. The rest lived and continue to live very closed lives,” says Kulbaka. A separate issue, he says, is that now, against the backdrop of very low unemployment, each departure can become a headwind for an employer – especially if it is some kind of niche role or a critical employee.
The current “creeping mobilization,” with raids
not only on warehouse and store workers but also students, does not yet pose a massive threat, and the risks for each individual citizen are relatively low, Kulbaka believes.
“There is not widespread discussion of such cases, so a student at some university may not know that students from a neighboring university are being grabbed and taken to an assembly point. Such information is seriously suppressed,” he adds.
But people will continue to leave, parents will try to send their children somewhere. “Some will return, although overall few come back. Those leaving now are doing so in a more calculated way than last September, when tens of thousands fled the mobilization
– perhaps now they will get ready [to leave] more quickly. So, this process might just stretch out over time,” summarizes Kulbaka.At-risk groups
While the authorities are in an ideologically inspired legislative frenzy – trying to create either an Orthodox caliphate or a mythical USSR, where every woman has many children, love exists only for heterosexual people and the economy somehow grows by itself – both individuals and businesses are beginning to weigh the risks.
The biggest problems, Kulbaka believes, are in store for small business. “Let’s not talk about the shadow economy… which is about 20% [of the whole economy] in Russia. Medium-sized business, which generally is not very competitive relative to firms that rely on government money, is at risk.”
“People will be lured from there to firms where there is state support or protection from being mobilized. The service sector will suffer first of all. This will most likely affect Moscow less but will be very noticeable in small cities, where the loss of even one or two employees can sharply reduce a company’s profitability,” says Kulbaka.
In general, in his view, businesses need to take a closer look at online work opportunities wherever possible. Moscow and St Petersburg, Kulbaka believes, will try to plug the gaps with specialists working remotely, including from abroad.
“Employers will be chasing blue-collar workers – there are already not enough of them. The service sector will be slowly disrupted, and a shortage of both migrants and local workers will remain. Most likely, we will see older and older cashiers, salespeople, security guards and so on,” sums up Kulbaka.