21 June 2022
Source: Witnesses Against War
Witnesses Against War is an anonymous international group of journalists, writers, historians and translators, who live in Moscow and London. For reasons of security, their project is anonymous. In addition to the above websiste, you can also find them on Instagram / Инстаграм and Telegram / Телеграм.
Architect, Moscow – ‘small architectural bureaus…have benefited from sanctions…’
Recently, I’ve been trying to perceive everything that is happening not in a political, but a universal human context. The first reaction to the outbreak of war was an unwillingness to believe – all day on February 24, I could not or did not want to believe that this was happening. The next reaction was panic, it was not clear what to do, especially when everyone around was panicking. It is very easy to give in to this state of mind. Some of my friends and close acquaintances panicked, people abandoned everything and left, now some of them have returned, but it’s possible that they will leave again soon, now for a long time. Ten of my friends and close acquaintances left Russia after the start of the war.
My elderly parents back the so-called “military operation”, they watch state propaganda on TV and support the war, the current regime. Most of my friends and acquaintances from my close circle do not support what is happening or the current government, but to my surprise I recently met up with someone who does. I was very surprised, I did not expect this from him. This person argues the case for the war saying that “Russia has knelt down for long enough,” some kind of Russophilia, state nationalism, if you like.
I’m hoping for the best and do not believe, or rather do not want to believe in the most terrible scenarios for Russia that some predict. So far it is affecting me personally only in the sense that the stores of many brands have closed, the price of almost everything has risen and continues to rise. Of course, I don’t know when this will peak. History is happening now, before our eyes, and we cannot accurately predict or know what form all this will take in the future. The future will be what it will be.
It’s just that the next question is – do you want to participate in this, or not? Do you want to engage with it or not? Moreover, decline happens gradually, not in a day. We also had thoughts of leaving, somehow future-proofing, having escape routes, hiding in a dacha in the forest. It is clear that if something very bad happens in Russia, there will be no point in staying. I love Russia, I love Russian people, but only up to a certain point. I think anyone would understand this. At least that’s what people in my inner circle think.
At the same time, those who have long wanted and planned to leave, who were tempted to, but had put it off until a future date, have left. They knew from the beginning that sooner or later they would leave, because for them contemporary Russia was an uneasy environment, some had specific reasons why that was so – for them the outbreak of the war was a trigger, an impulse for leaving – they had been planning it for a long time, and now it’s definitely time.
I belong to another group of people who were not planning to leave. It is clear that many people here have values, their own small businesses, work, customers, many have something to lose. These people can’t just drop everything and leave. So as long as we roll along by our own momentum, everything is relatively good, very relative, yes … What will happen in the autumn – no one knows. So far, personally, in my field, there are no implications that things will get worse or the screws tighten — I don’t feel this. McDonald’s has closed, but it’s all the same to me, I don’t eat that kind of food. Ikea closed – yes, it’s a pity. But of course overall the future is unclear, foggy and bleak.
As for the architectural industry, sales of apartments in new buildings, of course, plummeted. But in this spring-summer season there is a noticeable rise in individual residential construction. Many of those who have money are now trying to quickly invest it in the construction of individual houses, because it is not clear what will happen to this money – roubles – in the near future. Therefore, many are now trying to invest in their own real estate, while the rouble still has purchasing power, and not keep it in paper form or as figures on the accounts. Now they are building a lot, more than last year or the year before.
At the same time, over the spring, the cost of construction noticeably rose; building materials, equipment, tools – everything has become 30% more expensive, sometimes a little less, sometimes a little more. At the same time, the cost of construction work itself has not yet risen in price, but most likely it will soon. So, in the short term, it can be said that individual Moscow architects and small architectural bureaus, however terrible and cynical it may sound, have benefited from the war and sanctions. There have been many small private orders in the spring and summer of 2022, but they are all for the next six months, and no one knows what will happen after that, in the autumn or next year.
Of course, I am against the war and this regime, but I believe that staying in Russia now, in your place, doing your usual business, is creatively constructive. For me personally, this is the only meaningful action that can be performed now. If we turn away from Russia, run away, renounce it – it will not increase our strength, and we will one hundred percent make a mess of everything, and it will not help Russia become a thriving, democratic, free country.
In my opinion, the most terrible thing now is that during these more than three months, war has already become the norm. If in the early days we agonized, cried, were beside ourselves, and couldn’t sleep, now all this has turned into everyday life, and news about the war has morphed into faraway informational background noise.
Say no to war!