Meanwhile, it is Moscow, St Petersburg and other megacities where opposition to the war is most widespread.
For many of the dissenters remaining in Russia, the current situation is difficult and painful, yet they remain at home. Researchers have yet to shed light on these people; for now, they largely remain outside the scientific and social discourse. They feel lonely and invisible, almost nonexistent, in a society where supporters of the “special operation” or people with a neutral stance prevail. Often, they are confronted with the perception that all dissenters have already left Russia and only those who support the “special operation” and the emergent political situation remain. This notion is often found on the internet and social networks, where acquaintances who have long left the country shame those who remain for staying in the aggressor country, for not suffering enough and even for allowing themselves a semblance of a normal life – for going to the theater or admiring flowers and beautiful sunsets. On top of this, the dissenters who remain face a real or potential danger of persecution by the authorities.
This is why I decided to conduct a study among this cohort, to find out what worries them, how they feel, what they intend to do and why they decided to stay. I posted a survey on the internet, sent out a link and invited everyone to both respond and pass it on among friends and acquaintances. The reaction was impressive, and the link was copied and reposted by dozens of people on their own pages or in various groups. This in itself showed that the topic is important and relevant, but the fact that I had touched some kind of social nerve became clear when 500 completed questionnaires arrived in just a day and a half (May 10-11), after which I closed the survey. In the end, a great many people wanted but missed the chance to take part in the study; quite a few wrote me about it in the week after I had closed the survey. These people really wanted to speak out, to move out of the social shadows, to show that they exist and that they are many. They also wanted – as many indicated in letters to me – to understand themselves, as well as their motivations, feelings and plans.
To some extent, this survey was a continuation of my study on dissenters who had left Russia, hence it was important to keep the pool of respondents limited to those with a high level of education and living in Moscow and other megacities. The way the questionnaire was promoted rather contributed to this, though it also restricted the sample to active internet users. Among my 500 respondents, two thirds were Muscovites, about 10% were from St Petersburg, 2% from Saratov and 1.5% from Yekaterinburg.
By occupation, the largest group (one third) was made up of teachers, university professors and researchers, while another quarter had a humanities background (e.g. editors, translators, journalists, philologists, lawyers) and 8.5% were employees of NGOs and charitable organizations. Other respondents included doctors, students and pensioners. The preponderance of people with humanities-related professions led to the fact that there were twice as many women as men among the respondents. These professions are hard to transfer abroad, especially for those who work in the Russian language, which explains why the initial wave of emigration was strongly skewed toward the IT sector and why IT specialists made up only 9% of the respondents in this survey (moreover, many IT workers who wanted to leave Russia have already done so, including relocating with their companies). Among the new wave of emigrants, IT specialists are rightly considered the most successful and in demand abroad.
The age of the respondents spanned 18 to 70: 20% were 29 or younger, 21% were 30-39, 32% 40-49 and the rest 50 or older.
Though at the time of the survey they were all in Russia, 68% had thought about emigrating, while only 25.5% had never considered it. In addition, only 37% had definitely decided against leaving, while 28% had not yet made a final decision (they are waiting to see how the situation in the country develops) and 19% think that sooner or later they will end up having to leave (the rest couldn’t say). The majority of respondents said they had friends and acquaintances who had left the country, and 42% of these respondents had rather many people close to them who had left. Thus, it seems natural that most study participants have considered or are considering leaving – this is viewed as a normal option.