Russians in exile: the motherland is choking

Many Russian citizens have moved to Armenia since the war. But many will probably return soon.

A woman holds a hand over a Russian passport

People with a Russian passport face many questions Photo: Sergei Bobylev/picture alliance

YEREVAN taz | In Tbilisi, at a richly set Georgian table, on which there are also Ukrainian flags between khachapuris, all conversations revolve around one person: Katja, a Russian citizen from Armenia, came to Georgia for two days to have a stamp in her passport, which proves that she has crossed the Armenian border. Russian citizens are only allowed to stay in Armenia for six months at a time without registering. Then they have to cross the national border, if only for half an hour.

At the beginning of March, Katja came to Armenia from Russia, taking with her her hangover, the war, feelings of guilt and a depression that made her unable to get out of bed for weeks. Katja comes from the IT sector. A few days after the start of the war, she decided to leave her homeland, with which she could not identify. The choice of destinations was limited: Armenia or Georgia. She did not have a visa for the Schengen area.

“And why not Georgia?” ask the Georgians at the table with a smile, “It’s definitely much better here than in Armenia. We have low taxes, better conditions for investors and no war.

“There is nowhere better for me. The only thing I want right now is rest. I’d like to be where I’m not accused of being Russian. Where I don’t have to fill out any silly papers at the entrance, in which I assure you that I will not take part in Putin’s propaganda. I don’t want people to hate me. My self-hatred is enough for everyone,” says Katja.

30,000 Russians

After dinner Katja and I set off for Armenia. At the Armenian-Georgian border there are many Russians, who came here for the “border crossing”.. Armenian Minister of Economy Vahan Kerobyan says that “according to our calculations” since the beginning of March almost 30,000 Russian citizens have come to Yerevan for long-term stays and have founded over 1,200 companies. More than 70,000 accounts have already been opened in Armenia’s banks by citizens of the Russian Federation.

However, it is unclear how the minister came to “our calculations”. At the same time, the Statistics Committee of Armenia stated that 142,117 Russian citizens came to Armenia in the first quarter of 2022, of whom 138,111 left the country after some time. So far there are no estimates for the second quarter.

Katja wants to buy cigarettes at the border crossing. As usual, she takes out her bank card at the checkout, but then immediately remembers that her card is no longer accepted anywhere. In the car we talk about Yerevan, which has changed after the arrival of the Russians. I say that in cafes you can’t find free seats anymore because there are Russians everywhere. That won’t be the case for much longer, Katja replies. “Do you think the war will be over soon?” I ask. “No, it won’t be over anytime soon, but Motherland is calling! They will have spent all the money they could bring from Russia and then they will be forced to go back… You know the song ‘The motherland will not let go, it itself gave birth and will strangle itself’‘ says Katya.

From Russian: Gaby Coldewey

The project is financed by the taz panther foundation.

The publishing house edition.fotoTAPETA will publish an anthology with the diaries in September.

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