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Young Russians Are Flocking to Ko Samui

Photographing the diaspora who've left the Motherland behind for the Thai island.

It seems as though, these days, the subject of Russia is on the tips of everyone's tongues. Russia's territory is as huge as its ambitions, which would make one believe that - at least as long as they aren't gay - Russians are having the time of their lives. Yet the Facebook generation of Russians is constantly discussing migration possibilities; in fact, a 2013 Levada Centre survey ​showed that 22 percent of them are ready to leave Mama Russia for greener pastures. I belong to that 22 percent. I am young, Russian and on December 19, 2012, I found myself on a plane to Ko Samui via Beijing. My ticket was one-way.


Don't get me wrong; I love my country. It's just that I prefer to love it from a distance. I coincidentally bought a ticket for the very same plane bound to the very same final destination as an old friend from my hometown. He had planned to hide away on a tropical island with his girlfriend. I, on the other hand, was trying to escape a broken heart and looking for time out from a stressful work schedule. And so we landed on a beautiful island in the Gulf of Thailand, where we found ourselves immediately surrounded by about 6,000 other Russians.

There we all were: my half-naked compatriots and I, either running from something or searching for something, because basically there are only three reasons to trade life in Russia for a life unknown.

First of all, Mother Russia is famous for the cold. This means that if you don't play ice hockey, for at least three months each year you become a grumpy, fur-wrapped ball of cabbage. This involves complaining about your depressing life, hiding from the cold with croissants and coffee in the daytime and drowning your sorrows in a couple of vodka shots in the evening (the cold makes stereotypes unavoidable).

Then there are the prices: for a room in Moscow we pay an average of £399, £15 for dinner at a restaurant and £8 for a McDonald's. The average salary in Moscow amounts to about £800.

And thirdly, on top of everything, Russia has in the past few years become more and more socially antagonistic. The Presidential elections of 2012 gave birth to a couple of loud political performances, like the backlash against the anti-gay propaganda bill and the arrest of Pussy Riot.


That's why young Russians leave, that's why they come - that's why they don't hesitate to rent their apartments in Moscow to do all kinds of freelance work from afar or start random tourist-orientated business.

In beautiful and peaceful Asia - Thailand, Bali, Vietnam, China; with delicious food, cheap everything and gorgeous seaside views - there's no stress, ambitions that push and pull, political conversations or risk. Because Russia basically tastes like risk.

Here are some photos I took of the young Russian diaspora living in Ko Samui.

Inga has lived in Ko Samui for four years and owns an events agency. In St Petersburg, she worked in Management.

Yevgeny has lived on Ko Samui for one year and works in Digital Marketing. In Krasnodar, where he's from, he worked in e-commerce.

Lusya has lived in Ko Samui for three years and works as a DJ. In St Petersburg, she worked in IT.

Illarion has lived on Ko Samui for one and a half years and works for a tour firm called Thaistar. In Vladivostok, he was a reserve officer.

Masha has lived on the island for 14 months and works as a consultant for a pharmacy supplying Thai folk medicine. In Moscow, she worked in the hotel business.

Sergey has lived in Ko Samui for two years and works as a cook. He did the same job back home in St Petersburg.

Olga has lived on Ko Samui for three years and works as a photographer. In Moscow, she worked in HR.

Renat has been living on Ko Samui two years, working for a tourist company called Samuidays. In Vladivostok, he worked as a Commercial Director.