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How Russia Killed its Tech Industry

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Cracks in Russia’s tech industry started appearing well before the war. For more than a decade, the government has attempted to get a tight grip on Russia’s Internet and top tech companies.

Credit: Stephanie Arnett/MITTR

Seven days after the invasion of Ukraine, Vladimir Belugin packed up his and his family's belongings, canceled the lease on his apartment in Moscow, withdrew his kids from kindergarten, and started a new life outside of Russia. Not long after that, he resigned from his position as chief commercial officer for search at Yandex, Russia's equivalent to Google and the country's largest technology company. The war meant that everything would change in Russia, both for him and for his company, Belugin said from his new home in Cyprus: "You have to accept the new rules of having no rules at all in Russia." 

Belugin was far from the only tech worker to leave. In the months after the invasion began, Russia saw a mass exodus of IT workers. According to government figures, about 100,000 IT specialists left Russia in 2022, or some 10% of the tech workforce—a number that is likely an underestimate. Alongside those exits, more than 1,000 foreign firms curtailed their operations in the country, driven in part by the broadest sanctions ever to be imposed on a major economy. 

It has now been over a year since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine began, with more than 8,300 recorded civilian deaths and counting. The tech workers who left everything behind to flee Russia warn that the country is well on its way to becoming a village: cut off from the global tech industry, research, funding, scientific exchanges, and critical components. Meanwhile Yandex, one of its biggest tech successes, has begun fragmenting, selling off lucrative businesses to VKontakte (VK), a competitor controlled by state-owned companies.

From Wired
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