Young Russians fleeing country

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Adapted from New York Times, October 5, 2022

Below you find an adapted and abbreviated version of an article from the New York Times reported by Andrew Higgins. He describes the situation of many young Russian men who are trying to escape their home country in a desperate attempt to evade being pulled into a war they do not support.

Before reading, look at some of the vocabulary you will find in the text. Try to match the definitions and then find the words in the text. You can also read the article first and then look at the words.

Pre-reading vocabulary

remotescoresdraft dodgerinfuriate
  1. to make someone very angry
  2. a large number or amount
  3. to come together
  4. a journey by a large group to escape a hostile environment
  5. in a hurry or rush
  6. far away, in a distance
  7. a safe place to find refuge
  8. to be very happy
  9. wealthy
  10. when one country forcefully sends people from another country back
  11. someone who tries to avoid being recruited into the military
  12. the arrival of many people or things
  13. to cause severe pain or distress, physical and/or mental
  14. having or showing little or no interest, concern, or emotion
  15. revenge, especially as punishment
  16. suffering extreme poverty

Russians Fleeing the Draft Find an Unlikely Haven

By Andrew Higgins (10 minutes read)

Andrew Higgins, who was based in Moscow for more than a decade, reported this article from Bishkek and Osh in Kyrgyzstan.

Young migrants are filling the sunny streets of Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan.

After leaving often well-paying jobs and families in Moscow and Vladivostok and many places in between, tens of thousands of young Russians — terrified of being dragged into fighting in Ukraine — are pouring into Central Asia by plane, car and bus. They have hastily exiled to a poor, remote country that few could previously place on a map.

The influx has turned a country long seen only as a source of cheap labor for Russia into an unlikely haven for Russian men. Some are poor, many relatively affluent and highly educated — but all united by a desperate desire to escape being caught up in President Vladimir V. Putin’s war in Ukraine.

“I look up at the clear sky every day and give thanks that I am here,” said Denis, an events organizer from Moscow who on Friday joined scores of fellow Russians at a bar in Bishkek to rejoice at their escape. They trade tips on places to sleep, getting Kyrgyz residency papers and finding work.

They gathered last Friday to celebrate the start of a new “Russian community”. They are one small part of a massive exodus of Russians to Central Asia, Armenia, Georgia, Turkey and a shrinking list of other places that are still willing to take them in. It has become their country’s most concentrated burst of emigration since the 1917 Bolshevik revolution.

The outflow began in February, with hundreds of thousands of people leaving after Russia invaded Ukraine, but has accelerated since Sept. 21, when Mr. Putin declared a “partial mobilization” in response to battlefield defeats. In the subsequent four days, the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported, 261,000 military-aged men were estimated to have left. Tens of thousands more have fled since.

Unlike the millions of Ukrainian women and children who have fled into Poland and other European countries, these Russian men are not running away from an invading army, but from serving in one. They also do not fit the stereotype of migrants as destitute people trying to escape the developing world. (…)

 “At least I feel safe here,” said Yuri, who like most of the Russians interviewed asked that only his first name be published, fearing retribution.

Eldar, 23, a math tutor from Russia’s Sakhalin Island in the Pacific, blamed many Russians for being too apathetic about the war.

“Most people just sit on their sofas and think that if Putin goes things will get even worse,” he said. “I could not be part of this anymore and have to think about my own future,” he added.

That so many Russians took so long to start worrying about the war in Ukraine has infuriated Ukrainians, who have endured seven months of torment and bloodshed. Even now, Russians who fled rarely talk about the war, focusing on their own problems with housing, money and unfamiliar customs.

After decades of being treated as Russia’s poor and desperate country cousins, many Kyrgyz, including the country’s president, Sadyr Japarov, are happy to see the shoe on the other foot.

“This is a very new phenomenon for us,” Mr. Japarov said in an interview. Noting that more than a million Kyrgyz worked in Russia, he added that “their citizens can of course come here and work freely” and had no need to fear being extradited home.

He said he did not know how many Russian draft dodgers had arrived but added that the influx would help his country, even as it causes rents to go up and leads some landlords to kick out Kyrgyz tenants to make way for Russians willing to pay double, triple or more.

“We don’t see any harm and see lots of benefits,” he said.


Alina Lobzina contributed reporting from London.

Russians Fleeing the Draft Find an Unlikely Haven in Kyrgyzstan – The New York Times (

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