They were sure that as long as there was the freedom to come and go, things were still tolerable – Putin’s regime, no matter how harsh it might become, could be tolerated.
Thus, as soon as mass rumors surfaced at the beginning of March that the borders were about to be closed, with exact dates (March 4 or 5) named, a real frenzy began as thousands and thousands of people bought plane tickets to any country where they could be bought (the destination country was practically not a concern) and ticket prices skyrocketed overnight. After some time, when the fear of an immediate closing of the borders had subsided, the flow of people out of the country somewhat receded.
The second most popular reason for leaving in those days was the fear of martial law and a mobilization being declared. Young men fled the country en masse, even those older than conscription age, alongside families with sons who are teenagers or of conscription age. These two reasons proved the leading ones during the massive outflow in March. In many cases, flight was impulsive and very poorly prepared.
The third motivation for leaving was political. This was either those who considered it ethically unacceptable to remain in Russia during the war with Ukraine or those who had previously been engaged in activism (had gone to protests, had been election observers, etc.) and believed that, with the level of repression intensifying every day, they could become a target. There was also the case of two respondents who, witnessing almost universal support for the “special operation” – not only in polls, but also among their friends and relatives – realized that they had become strangers in their own country and were not ready to stay.
Almost all respondents were certain that the situation in the country, both political and economic, will only get worse. That said, these were mostly people who didn’t leave Moscow in the very first days, but sometime later, having made some preparations. Currently, many people are clearly in the process of preparing for and awaiting their departure, while the outflow has become much calmer as people are now thinking about how to get to not just any country, but to one where there is work and where they want to live in the long term, not just for a couple of weeks or months.