Friday afternoons at the Chop-Chop Barbershop in central Moscow used to be busy, but at the beginning of a recent weekend, only one of the four chairs was occupied.
“We would usually be full right now, but about half of our customers have gone,” said the manager, a woman named Olya. Many of the clients — along with half of the barbers, too — have fled Russia to avoid President Vladimir V. Putin’s campaign to mobilize hundreds of thousands of men for the flagging military campaign in Ukraine.
Many men have been staying off the streets out of fear of being handed a draft notice. As Olya came to work last Friday, she said, she witnessed the authorities at each of the four exits of the metro station, checking documents.
Her boyfriend, who was a barber at the salon, has also fled, and the separation is taking a toll.
“Every day is hard,” acknowledged Olya, who like other women interviewed did not want her last name used, fearing retribution. “It is hard for me to know what to do. We always planned as a couple.”
She is hardly alone. While there are still plenty of men in a city of 12 million people, across the capital their presence has thinned out noticeably — in restaurants, in the hipster community and at social gatherings like dinners and parties. This is especially true among the city’s intelligentsia, who often have disposable income and passports for foreign travel. [Continue reading…]