MOSCOW — As the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine approaches, life in the capital is largely normal, with most Muscovites saying the prevailing mood is one of indifference to the ongoing fighting.
“I don’t really feel like there’s a war going on,” a Muscovite in his 30s told a Moscow Times reporter earlier this week.
“Easily adaptable to any situation – the longer this conflict lasts, the more people accept the situation.”
Apart from scattered billboards supporting the Russian armed forces and a few shuttered – or renamed – Western-brand shops, the capital offers few visible signs of a war that has killed tens of thousands of people 500 kilometers away. All Ukrainian towns and cities were razed to the ground.
No significant opposition protests are expected to take place on the anniversary of Friday’s invasion.
“Generally speaking, it’s not our concern,” Svetlana, a pensioner in her 60s, told The Moscow Times when asked about the war. He also said that he was not interested in politics.
Like others interviewed for this article, Svetlana requested anonymity to speak freely.
At the same time, the concept Surveys Surveys by independent and state-run agencies show 75% of Russians support the war, with experts warning against the crippling effects of the country’s political repression and harsh wartime censorship laws.
One of the few acknowledgments of the war’s upcoming anniversary was seen in central Moscow’s Gorky Park, traditionally associated with the capital’s trendy youth.
Along with celebrations of the traditional Maslenitsa folk festival, visitors to Gorky Park can stop at pro-war stands and record a video message for Russian soldiers or make donations to the armed forces.
Although The Moscow Times did not see any visitors sending such gifts on Sunday afternoon, staff at the stand said “several people” had already recorded video messages.
Under a nearby tent, a few dozen supporters of a war had gathered ConcertThey listened to military songs and wrote postcards to Russian soldiers.
Despite such events — all organized by City Hall — visible displays of support for the invasion have been rare in this city of nearly 12 million people.
Indeed, the empty shops and the proliferation of pawn shops on the streets of Moscow are the most obvious signs of the war’s fallout, which includes the withdrawal of major Western firms and Western sanctions.
Many Muscovites told The Moscow Times that they were worried about the economy and had noticed significant price increases on everyday goods, making life more difficult.
In contrast, others claimed that they could still afford Western goods—imported via third countries—allowed and maintained their pre-war standard of living.
This was perhaps the most important outcome of the war for the Muscovites Installation of air defense systems that appeared in the Russian capital last month.
Even so, most Russians see the war as “something that doesn’t directly affect them,” said Denis Volkov, head of the independent Levada Center poll.
“It’s a coping mechanism for stress, especially when people think they can’t change anything,” Volkov, unlike many independent experts in Moscow after the invasion, said in a telephone interview.
In general, according to Volkov, officials have succeeded in portraying the war as a broader conflict with Western countries seeking to weaken Russia.
“Of course, I feel sorry for them,” said Svetlana, a retiree who combined her pension with cleaning work, when asked about the residents of Ukraine.
“But I don’t really like Ukrainians.”
Although the war may not seem to have had a significant impact on daily life, some key events during the conflict have fueled turmoil.
Russia’s “partial” mobilization of hundreds of thousands of men into the armed forces in September and October was particularly disruptive.
Although poorer Russian regions – as well as the country’s ethnic republics – bore the brunt of mobilization, thousands were called up from major cities, including Moscow.
“Of course, if they take your son away, you’ll go crazy,” another pensioner strolling through downtown Moscow told The Moscow Times.
According to Volkov of the Levada Center, the mobilization was one of the events that brought Russians face to face with the reality of war – albeit briefly.
“Before the mobilization in September, people would say: ‘Volunteers and professionals are fighting there, thank God, it’s not us, let them fight, the authorities know better, we are ordinary people. It’s bad that people die, but it could not have been avoided,'” Volkov told The Moscow Times.
The mobilization also intensified the exodus of hundreds of thousands of people – as people fled to avoid political repression or being sent to the front.
The effects of people fleeing abroad are particularly noticeable in big cities like Moscow, where people with disposable income and the job flexibility to settle at short notice are concentrated.
“For me, the biggest and most important change is that all my closest friends have left Russia – it feels like the entire middle class is gone,” said one Muscovite.
By the end of last year, however, the impact of the mobilization seemed to have faded, and many had returned to ignoring the ongoing war.
Even major military reversals, such as the withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine’s Kharkiv region and the southern city of Kherson, did not register.
Beneath the surface, some Muscovites — albeit a minority — struggle to cope with daily reports of death and destruction in Ukraine, including apparent atrocities by Russian soldiers in places like Bucha and Mariupol.
“I put my life on hold when the war started,” a woman sitting in a cafe in central Moscow said in an interview this week.
“I’m still trying to learn how to live with the current situation.”