Dima Karmanovsky had just finished his second DJ set of the night on a recent weekend, and was catching his breath before dashing off to another club for his next job.
“I haven’t had this much work since before the pandemic,” the 35-year-old disc jockey said at Blanc, a popular bar in Russia’s capital.
As the invasion of Ukraine enters its fifth month, there are relatively few outward signs in Moscow and St. Petersburg of a war that has killed thousands and displaced millions.
Bars are filled to the brim in Russia’s biggest cities. Film and jazz festivals are sold out. And while the police patrolling Moscow’s streets are now armed with assault rifles, they are busier handing out fines for public drinking than putting down dissent.
The Russian capital has taken on a carnival feel reminiscent of the summer it welcomed hundreds of thousands of tourists for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. The difference now, other than the soccer games: There are few foreigners in sight.
“Some people went to fight, but what should the rest do—sit around and cry?” said yoga instructor Natalya Rakhmatullina after finishing an outdoor class in the city center. “This is normal adaptation. We live in a different world now and we have to keep living.”
A few signs of the war are visible around Moscow. On some buildings, vehicles and clothing are the letters Z and V—symbols of Russia’s invasion. A highway into town is lined with billboards showing Russian soldiers and the text “Glory to Russian heroes,” without referencing Ukraine.
There are some signs of the impact of Western sanctions, which will take time to percolate through the economy. In at least one Moscow shopping mall, bins for collecting clothes for soldiers stood amid the empty storefronts that previously displayed foreign brands that exited the country following the invasion. [Continue reading…]