9 Russian Cultural and Sporting Figures Who Emigrated in a Year of War

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine triggered an exodus of cultural and sports stars, many of whom publicly expressed their opposition to the war.

From pop legend Alla Pugacheva to five-time Olympic gold medalist and synchronized swimming champion Anastasia Davydova, since Russian tanks rolled over the border, there has been a steady exodus of the country’s luminaries.

These emigrants have fled to destinations ranging from Turkey and Latvia to the US and Israel. Few are expected to return while the war rages on.

After their departure, many were labeled “foreign agents” by the Russian authorities or criminal proceedings were instituted against them.

The Moscow Times has compiled a list of nine prominent figures in sport and culture who left the country in protest of the war in the past year:

Rapper Oxxxymiron

Rapper Oxxxymiron Alexander Avilov / Moskva News Agency
Rapper Oxxxymiron
Alexander Avilov / Moskva News Agency

Miron Fydorov, 37, better known by his nickname Oxxxymiron, is one of Russia’s most popular rappers. Shortly after the war began, he cut short his trip to Russia and left his home country, calling the invasion a “disaster and a crime.”

The musician is no stranger to moving – he moved to Germany with his father at the age of 9 and to the UK at 15, where he finished school and studied English at Oxford University. Since leaving Russia he has given anti-war concerts in cities across Europe and the former Soviet Union.

Oxxxymiron was investigated by Russian police last year for “extremist” texts and fixed a “foreign agent” in October. He was ordered was fined 70,000 rubles ($941) by a Russian court last month for songs containing “separatist” sentiment that “discredits the Russian army.”

Ballerina Olga Smirnova

Ballerina Olga Smirnova Moskva News Agency
Ballerina Olga Smirnova
Moscow news agency

Prima ballerina Olga Smirnova, 31, left Russia’s Bolshoi Ballet in March and said she was “against this war with every fiber of my soul”.

After leaving Russia, she quickly joined the Dutch National Ballet, where she made her debut in Marius Petipa’s Raymonda in Amsterdam in April.

Born and raised in St. Petersburg, Smirnova studied at the Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet with Lyudmila Kovaleva. In 2016 she became a prima ballerina at the Bolshoi.

Smirnova will play the lead role of Nikiya in La Bayadere in Rome on February 25, one day after the anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Singer Alla Pugacheva and comedian Maxim Galkin

Comedian Maxim Galkin and singer Alla Pugacheva Igor Ivanko / Moskva News Agency
Comedian Maxim Galkin and singer Alla Pugacheva
Igor Ivanko / Moskva News Agency

After the invasion of Ukraine, Soviet pop legend Alla Pugacheva, 73, and her husband, comedian and TV presenter Maxim Galkin, 46, traveled to Israel with their nine-year-old twins.

Throughout 2022, Galkin toured Israel and Europe with stand-up shows criticizing the war; he finally was fixed a “foreign agent” through his home country. Pugacheva briefly returned to Russia in the fall, but soon declined to Israel after publicly criticizing the war and her husband’s labeling as a “foreign agent”.

With a music career spanning nearly six decades, Pugacheva is one of the most celebrated figures in the Russian-speaking world. Galkin began his career as an impersonator, even occasionally playing an impersonation of President Vladimir Putin.

The couple left a huge void in Russian pop culture. This was especially noticeable on New Year’s Eve, when many Russians expected to see both Galkin and Pugacheva on their television screens as part of state television’s preparation for midnight.

Olympian Anastasia Davydova

Olympian Anastasia Davydova Moskva news agency
Olympian Anastasia Davydova
Moscow news agency

Five-time Olympic champion and Secretary General of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC), Anastasia Davydova, 40, announced in late September that she was leaving Russia.

True, she did not expressly condemn the war, Russian media reports her departure indicated that she had no intention of returning home.

After a star-studded career as a synchronized swimmer, Davydova transitioned into coaching and joined the ROC after her final professional competition at the London 2012 Olympics. She coached the Russian synchronized swimming team for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

The President of the Republic of China, Stanislav Pozdnyakov, has spoken out in favor of Russia’s war in Ukraine. saying Days before Davydova’s departure, that athletes should feel honored to be drafted to fight for the Russian Armed Forces.

Davydova continues to train in synchronized swimming in her new hometown of Dubai.

Punk rave group Little Big

Punk rave group Little Big Okras (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Punk rave group Little Big
Okras (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Little Big, a popular punk band led by singers Ilya Prusikin, 37, and Sonya Tayurskaya, 31, Left Russia in protest against the war within a week of the invasion.

Four months later they released their anti-war song “Generation Cancellation” which contained the lyrics “Die or Leave, Die or Leave / I’ve got no choice”. The music video features symbolic images of political villains playing chess, TV hosts brainwashing viewers with “fake news,” and a soldier in a church blessing a man with a gun shaped like a crucifix.

The band, known for their viral music videos, were set to represent Russia at Eurovision 2020 before the competition was canceled due to the pandemic. They have lived in Los Angeles since leaving Russia. Their next concert is scheduled for March 8th in Phuket, Thailand.

Maria Alyokhina from Pussy Riot

Maria Alyokhina from the Pussy Riot Moskva news agency
Maria Alyokhina from Pussy Riot
Moscow news agency

Maria Alyokina, 33, one of the public faces of punk protest group Pussy Riot, made the decision to leave Russia in May after a court ordered her effective house arrest commuted to jail. To leave Moscow, they disguised herself as a food courier and took a ride with a friend to the Belarusian border.

After two unsuccessful attempts to cross from Belarus to neighboring Lithuania, she finally made it did it crossed the border with a European Union identity document that an acquaintance in the west was able to smuggle to Minsk.

While Alekhina spent two years in prison for the 2012 anti-Kremlin performance of Pussy Riot at Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior, Alekhina remained in Russia and continued her activism in the years after her release. However, the war in Ukraine was the last straw and prompted her decision to leave.

“I understand there has been a lot of noise about my so-called escape, but I have no plans to emigrate. I just want to help Ukraine and that’s it,” she said called in a subsequent interview.

Since leaving Russia, Alyokhina has toured extensively with Pussy Riot, with proceeds from ticket sales benefiting Ukraine. They performed in the UK in November and will be traveling to venues in the United States, Mexico, Germany and Sweden this year.

Film critic Anton Dolin

Film critic Anton Dolin Sergei Vedyashkin / Moskva News Agency
Film critic Anton Dolin
Sergei Vedyashkin / Moskva News Agency

Within two weeks of the start of the Ukraine war, prominent film critic Anton Dolin had moved to Riga, the capital of neighboring Latvia.

In a lengthy Facebook post March 6, Dolin said denounced the “criminal war in Ukraine”, the censorship and the complicity of the Russians, who went about their daily lives as if there were no war. He also posted a photo of his apartment door in Moscow vandalized with the letter “Z” – a symbol used by the Russian army in Ukraine.

Since his departure, Dolin has been included in Russia’s growing list of “foreign agents.”

Actor Artur Smolyaninov

Actor Artur Smolyaninov Irina Bujor / Kommersant
Actor Artur Smolyaninov
Irina Bujor / Kommersant

Russian actor Artur Smolyaninov, 39, known for starring in action films loved by Putin himself, has publicly spoken out against the war in one interview in April – a move that resulted in his being dropped from several state-funded projects. Shortly thereafter he left Russia.

Last month he was bitterly criticized for this by many in Russia interview with the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, in which he said he would fight on the Ukrainian side against the Russians if he had to go to war. Shortly thereafter he was fixed a “foreign agent” and the head of the Russian investigative committee, Alexander Bastrykin, ordered that criminal proceedings should be instituted against him.

Smolyaninov is often referred to as “Russia’s Rambo” for his action hero roles. Since leaving Russia, he has taken part in the Citizen Poet project and starred in an anti-war film alongside actor Chulpan Khamatova Video by the rock group Nogu Svelo.

Figure skater Mikhail Nazarychev

Pair runners Yulia Artemyeva and Mikhail Nazarychev Sergei Bobylev / TASS
Pair skaters Yulia Artemyeva and Mikhail Nazarychev
Sergei Bobylev / TASS

21-year-old top figure skater Mikhail Nazarychev left Russia for the United States in June. He won bronze along with his former partner Yulia Artemeva at the 2020 World Junior Figure Skating Championships and was crowned Russian Junior Champion in 2021.

His emigration meant the split from Artemeva, his skating partner of decades, who has since teamed up with a new partner, Alexei Briukhanov.

Leave a Comment Upon leaving, he said he no longer felt “safe” in Russia and that the invasion was a “point of no return.”

Nazarychev now lives in Miami and performs in US ice dance shows. In a September Instagram posthe lamented the effects of the war on his chances of success in sport.

“It’s very sad that the war coincided with my career,” he said.

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