Prison or War? Why Readers Are Choosing to Stay in Russia, and What They Plan to Do Next

The Jordan Center stands with all the people of Ukraine, Russia, and the rest of the world who oppose the Russian invasion of Ukraine. See our statement here.

A version of this piece originally appeared in Paper Media on 10/6.

Those choosing to leave versus those staying in Russia on principle: who has the majority? Are people prepared for criminal prosecution for objecting to mobilization? What do people fear most right now?

On the third day of mobilization in Russia,’s investigative unit surveyed our readers to find out if they’re trying to avoid being drafted, asking about their perceptions of the risks facing their families. Here’s what we found out about our subscribers’ thoughts and plans.

We received 849 responses: 38.4% were from men; 5.9% were from women with a military occupational specialty; and 55.7% were from women who responded on their partners’ behalf.

Most of our respondents risk being drafted

For most of our respondents, mobilization is an immediate concern. One respondent in five belongs to the first category of the army reserve; one in three to the second or third categories. 7 percent received military training as reserve officers at a university and do not know their category, while a quarter deferred obligatory conscription. The majority of respondents are under 35 years old, but only a few are older than fifty. The prevalence of respondents under 35 can be attributed, among other things, to the overall profile of’s readership.

Just 1.4 percent received a draft notice during the first few days of mobilization. Another 1.9 percent already had a mobilization order in hand. However, two thirds expect to get drafted soon or at a later time.

Less than 5 percent believe in the 300 thousand mobilization cap. Almost a third of respondents plan to leave

Our readers do not believe that mobilization will be over by the end of 2022. Nearly everyone is convinced that more people will get drafted than was officially announced on the first day of mobilization. Just 4.5 percent think that only 300 thousand people will actually get drafted.

Despite the mobilization campaign, over 90 percent of participants were in Russia at the time of the survey. 15 percent of them are adamant that they will stay in the country. A small proportion had already left urgently because of mobilization, while a third of respondents planned to leave in the near future.

Two-thirds of respondents staying in Russia will watch the situation unfold and have no immediate plans. “That I’ll deal with if I do get drafted,” as one respondent put it. Almost a quarter of participants plan to hide.

17 percent of readers still don’t want to leave Russia. 41 percent say they are ready for criminal prosecution

Many respondents expect to avoid conscription on medical grounds or are counting on exemptions available to students and essential workers. Some hope to get into alternative civil service.

Some responders don’t want to leave, even at the risk of getting drafted. This answer option was chosen by 17 percent. 10 percent of those staying said they would like to leave, but their partner is against it (this answer was given by both men and women).

Why’s readers are staying

  • Among other reasons cited by respondents, the most frequent were studies, debt, lack of foreign language skills, mortgage, a large family that is difficult to take along, lack of travel documents, need for medical treatment, lack of remote work, and the education of children. “We have no opportunity to move as a family, and my husband says he won’t leave our son and me behind. Even if he left on his own, we would be profoundly affected, since our jobs can’t be done remotely,” one respondent explained.
  • Some eligible participants are not avoiding the draft for altruistic reasons. “I am a medical worker, so I won’t have to kill,” one man said. “They’ll take conscripts, kids who are 18 or 19 years old. I’m over thirty: if I hide, how will I live with it later?” “Who will defend our borders, if not us?”
  • 41 percent are ready to face criminal prosecution for objecting to mobilization.
  • Among our respondents, IT workers comprise the largest professional group, at 23 percent. One person in ten works in commerce and roughly as many work in the production sector. Two respondents are military professionals; there were no career reservists or their wives among those surveyed.

Our readers fear death and compromising their conscience

Dozens of our readers said they feared death: their own or that of a loved one. Many feel threatened by the unpredictability of life in Russia and the new laws; inequity; unemployment; and the necessity to compromise their conscience. Other reasons for anxiety include the war lingering on and Russians’ submissive acceptance of mobilization: “the way people just go there without even trying to do something.” is an independent media outlet based in Saint-Petersburg, Russia. We’ve been reporting on Russia’s war against Ukraine since the day it began. As a result, our website was blocked by the Russian government.

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