Unlike people who left, they do not have their own communities, they are often surrounded by people with different views, and they want to talk about themselves and their problems, doubts and concerns.
In May, I launched a survey of people remaining in Russia who have a university degree and are against the Kremlin's policies, to give them the opportunity to speak up. The survey was conducted online through snowball sampling, with a link to the questionnaire actively promoted by a variety of people on social media. In less than 48 hours, I received 500 completed questionnaires, after which I closed the survey.
Six months passed, the partial mobilization came and went (or was stopped), and I decided to return to this same social group. Some questions were repeated in the questionnaire, some were new, and it was sampled in the same way. This time, interest in participating turned out much higher: in 48 hours, 1,300 completed questionnaires were sent in. Judging by the volume, if the survey had been left open, many thousands of people could have participated.
What do they think of themselves and people who left? Will they stay in Russia forever or might they leave in the future? How, in their view, has the mass exodus of their political allies affected the situation in the country and how will it affect it? These questions were put forward in the latest stage of the study.
Survey participants: A brief overview
One thousand three hundred people participated in the survey, with 48% living in Moscow, 19.4% in St Petersburg and about 4% in Moscow region and Yekaterinburg each, followed by residents of other million-plus cities (Nizhny Novgorod, Novosibirsk, etc.), while residents of various regional centers were also represented. Other, smaller areas accounted for 9% of respondents.
Almost all respondents have higher education or study at university now. The age distribution is relatively uniform: exactly a third of survey participants are younger than 30 years old, 21% from 30 to 39, 20% from 40 to 49, 18% from 50 to 59 and 8% 60 and older.
They have a variety of professions. Most work in education and science (15.4%), followed by the IT sector and engineering (11%), culture, literature and art (10%), and administration and management (10%). There were also students (9%), along with advertising, marketing and mass media specialists (about 5-6% here and each of the following groups); pensioners; bankers and auditors; doctors; lawyers; and editors and translators. Since humanitarian areas are more represented, there are more women than men. Perhaps another reason for the smaller proportion of men is that men who remain in Russia are trying to attract as little attention to themselves as possible.
In the February survey, 60% of participants thought about leaving the country but for various reasons stayed. In September, with the beginning of mobilization, a quarter of respondents considered it, while almost half said with confidence that they would not leave. Sometimes it is a personal choice, while sometimes leaving is impossible due to personal circumstances, like a lack of finances, doubts about finding a job, responsibility for sick or elderly relatives, etc. Meanwhile, there are people who have been preparing to leave all this time and are very much planning to in the near future or long term.
How people who leave and who remain interact
Most of the study participants have relatives and friends who left Russia during these months. Almost half of the respondents claim that quite a few or most of their social circle has left. Almost a third said that less than half of their relatives and friends are now outside of Russia. Only 18% reported that not any or very few of their friends and relatives had left.
Naturally, respondents continue to regularly communicate with their relatives and friends in other countries, which has shaped their impression of how successful their emigration is. This has to a large extent affected their decisions to leave or stay. They compare their financial possibilities, the likelihood of finding a job in another country and other factors versus people who left. Eight percent of respondents consider the emigration of people from their social circle to be quite successful – often it is people who left a long time ago, long before the start of the military operation. The option of “probably successful” was chosen by 28.7%, with the rest divided about equally between those who indicated that emigration has been difficult for friends and those who found it hard to answer the question. The high share of the latter category is attributable to the fact that too little time has passed since leaving, and it is too early to draw conclusions.
Half of the study participants had to explain to their departed acquaintances their decision not to leave. This is more often the case with people whose emigration respondents consider successful. They give different explanations, with 33.4% citing a lack of resources (money, work) and 30.7% pointing to responsibility for other people (elderly, sick) or pets that for various reasons cannot move.
Fewer respondents made a decision based on principles. Those who gave answers such as “this is my home, my country, why should I leave?” and “the country is not the same as the state, I want to fight what is happening, I am needed here” accounted for 17.2 % and 13.7%, respectively.