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“I take a sick leave” How mobilization affected workers

Antifond — is a common project of Antijob, Feminist Anti-War Resistance and Antiwar Sick Leave (Antivoenny Bolnichny), organized after beginning of the invasion. The project focuses on supporting strikes and protecting labour rights, including from harassments at work for anti-war stances. We publish translation of its text on action against mobilization with sick leaves.

At the 26th of September we, the Antifond project, were calling Russians not to go to work, as a form of protest and an instrument of sabotage against mobilization. The working place is one of the most important spaces of resistance, as it is only thanks to the work of ordinary people that the social system and with it the state are able to function. By obligating the employers to deliver the draft notes, the state is destroying its own capability to function. When going to work becomes a matter of life and death, many would rather risk their well-being and their relations with employers, just not to kill and get killed. Especially since almost anyone can hide behind the sick leave. The reasons why the railroad depo doesn’t have enough workers don’t matter. What matters is that the trains are standing and don’t carry military equipment and soldiers.

We decided to help the regime with this self-destructive activity and issued a call on social media. Some of those who decided to participate in the “sick leave strike”, wrote to us on our bot. Those were people from completely different regions and industries: railroad workers from Leningrad oblast and sales person from Krasnodar, workers from Tyumen, Cherepovets, Tula and Sverdlovsk oblast, a marketer from Moscow and a miner from Severouralsk.

We asked them to tell us about the situation at work: what their colleges are thinking and how the war affects the functioning of their enterprise. Their voices are of particular importance because those are the people that couldn’t promptly pack and leave the country, and were left inside. This unites them with those they are working with – with those brought together not by friendship or common interests, but by the necessity to put bread on the table. Discussions on the working place is a step outside the “bubble” of social media and manipulations of public opinions by surveys.

We asked our responders to indicate their industry and region. Their answers were divided in four groups: specialists from megacities, specialists from the regions, workers of older age groups from the regions and workers of “mobilization” age from big cities.

Specialists from megacities against the war

Predictably, teams of specialists from Moscow, Saint Petersburg and other big cities are found to be the most negatively disposed towards the war and mobilization. In some cases, the management itself is eager to save its employees from the draft board. Apart from a personal ethical position, it is worth considering that the loss of an integrated into the work specialist is costly to any enterprise.

Senior marketer of a PR company from Moscow:

“Luckily, our team is quite adequate. From the very begging of the war we were all shocked – we were sending humanitarian aid to civilians, managers knew about our guys who went to protests and were trying to get them out of police stations. Now, many have left: someone in March, others in September… The atmosphere is heavy, as if everything lost its meaning at once, any activity became pointless. But we try not to give up – currently, the heads of departments try to issue us sick leaves and vacations to those working by the Labour Code – since the military commissioner has already visited our main office-, help with migration and transfer to remote work. It’s important to remind that the life and activity of each of us is important and necessary”.

Office employee:

“Out business centre is huge and a good half of it stopped coming to work. From yesterday, I also don’t go. But until 22 (September) all conversations were whether about evading mobilization, or leave the country. Opinions were greatly divided. There is a tendency among fierce supporters of the war to turn from loud words to silence”.

IT Specialist from Yaroslavl:

Basically, everyone, apart from the management, is reasonable. Therefore, nothing has radically changed for us – from the 23th we are horrified. There is one douchebag: he was screaming that he will volunteer. I told him to go – for some reason he didn’t go anywhere. The situation in the affiliated firms: everyone is crushed, silent, act as if nothing has happened. I didn’t check the schedules, but I think no one will work as usual, with that spirit. So, the economy is fucked”.

A similar situation with business processes describes an employee of a construction material firm from Saint Petersburg:

“One left (the country), one is from Belarus, the other from Ukraine (can’t be mobilized), the rest are women. I’m on a sick leave. Even before your initiative. The war affects our work directly. There are no orders from clients”.

And an employee of an IT company from Ufa:

“It has definitely become harder to work, since everyone is occupied with mobilization paperwork and everyone is afraid about what is going to happen tomorrow. We’ve lost contact with our clients. In the team, everyone has his own opinion, but, unfortunately most often it’s in support of the war, or “what can we do, we’re ordinary people”. Therefore, there’s no much diversity. Again, maybe that’s because people are simply afraid to speak against. They need their job. The young ones speak freely against the war, the old ones watch nothing else but the TV.

Older workers from the regions believe the TV

The situation is diametrically opposite among workers in the regions, occupied in material production. Many of those who wrote to us feel themselves in the minority among workers of older ages – stupefied by the TV propaganda.

A worker from GAZ, Nizhny Novgorod:

“Greetings! As scary as it is to admit, but for the most part people think of the war whether neutrally, or “if they sent me, I will go”. They can’t search and analyse alternative information, are politically illiterate even on the very basic stuff, listen only to whatever they are “pouring” in their ears. It’s quite embarrassing and sad”.

The situation is much worse in places where older workers prevail.

A factory worker from Cherepovets:

In the vast majority, my co-workers are men above 50 and of course they support the war. I am afraid to voice my negative view, as there is a possibility that they will snitch me to the police. As a whole, the enterprise is facing a crisis. Practically, there’s no work. A once powerful production enterprise decays each day”.

A similar alienation experiences a worker of a valves plant from Tula:

“The war didn’t affect plant’s work, since the mobilized were replaced with outsourced workforce from Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Ukraine. Co-workers, at best, tolerate and talk about the necessity of going to the war, at worse, are incapable to estimate critically the situation and support the war (predominantly the elderly)”.

In the regional offices, they ignore “politics”

Well, “white collars’” attitudes to what is happening is not significantly different from those of older workers. They don’t feel threatened by mobilization and whether support the state, or want to close their eyes to the dangers the war brings along.

A worker in the sales sector from Leningrad oblast:

From our relatives, only 1,5 people share our views. At work, they all make jokes, half of them is certain that things are not that serious, while the other half supports all this nightmare. To be honest, it’s quite scary to live next to that type of people.

A worker of advertising firm in Russian Far East:

“Mostly everyone is in disbelief. On Friday, my last day at work, they were still joking, as if this can’t affect them since they are 35+ years old. The company is small, so, my absence will definitely have an effect, at least, on one department – they may close it”.

Non-food retail sector, Krasnodar Krai:

“The ration is about – 70% supporters, 30% opponents. We have a lot of work, so there’s no time to fight among us. Therefore, conflicts don’t arise. Attitudes towards mobilization among opponents are calmer. I guess, we were more prepared because we were understanding where all this eventually leads at the end. We’ve already experienced the main moral breakdown in February. Now, it’s easier to get ourselves together.

Among co-workers, one had her son taken. She was crying. The rest, try to protect those close to them, but their actions are ill-timed and naïve from my point of view. Nobody runs to enlist and no one sends their husband by force”.

The fear of workers of draft age – a recourse for politicization

But the situation is far from clear for workers of draft age, particularly in big cities. Perhaps, the accessibility to alternative sources of information and the draft age make one to evaluate the dangers of being send to war differently. This fear hasn’t led to radical revaluation of political views yet, but in the future it can become a driver for the increase of opposition sentiments.

A man, who asked to introduce himself as “machine operator of one of Leningrad oblast’s factory”, writes: “They send the draft notes at work. I take a sick-leave. The morale at the factory is low, nobody wants to go, but also don’t want to do anything about it”.

Worker at a mechanical factory of Russian Railroads from Leningrad oblast describes a similar picture: “Many were reacting positively to the war, but even back then they were against mobilization. Now, most of them are in disbelief and denial, but that’s largely a non-complaining phenomenon. Strongly opposed to the war – with readiness to fight against it – is one in fifty workers. It didn’t have any effect on company’s work because the management, even before the war, was engaged in theft. So, the equipment is being ruined, one more year and there won’t be any left…”

For now, fear doesn’t give rise to action, but it strengthens the positions of opponents of war and undermines the positions of loyalists. A worker of a defence company from Nizhny Novgorod Oblast writes: “In short, the numbers of patriots has been significantly reduced from the begging of mobilization. Before, they were about 90%, now you won’t hear those “(we’ll take) Kiev in three days”. Now, I make fun of them, they say nothing. At the end of February, the balance was different”.

The regions have started to realize what is happening

Despite the fact that, at the moment the majority of people in the regions haven’t grasped yet the full extent of the catastrophe, this process can have a fast-moving nature. Particularly, against the background of imminent economic collapse and casualties among the mobilized. A striking illustration of such process is a discussion in a provincial city’s social media group, which shared one of our subscribers from the city of Kozmodemyansk in Mari El Republic: “I’d like to share my observations. From our city, they send three waves of mobilized men: in 26, 28 and 30 of September. The first post about the mobilization appeared in local public groups of VK on the 26th. It was made by a local archpriest Alexey Sushchev. On the 26th the reaction to the post in the comments was clear – God, bless. On the 28 the reaction is different – Sushchev and all the patriots received heat. On 30th – the post was gone. Can you imagine how weak the power is in the regions, how they are afraid of criticism! I predict that the good will triumph!”. At some point the ration between opponents and supporters of the war will shift places and then completely different perspectives, for the fighting on the streets and at workplace, will emerge.

We will finish with the words of one of participants of “sick-leave strike”: I fear that due to epidemic my job will collapse. But, I’m glad you asked. We will win this schizophrenic imperialism!”


Special attention deserves an account of the situation in Novovoronezh’s city-building industry – the nuclear power plant (NPP). Due to its specificity – a closed science-city – it fits poorly an analytical model, but is a bright example of what is happening in the country, even in the most sensitive industries.

“Our city’s city-building industry is the NPP. The maintenance of such facility requires male personnel. It feels like, they were long prepared for the mobilization: lifted the reserve for junior stuff (locksmiths, linemen etc.), some were already mobilized, some took a sick-leave, some simply don’t show up at work. How will the nuclear plant function? These people are not on the decree that excludes them from drafting! There are IT specialists, bank workers…but the fact that the NPP is an object of nuclear industry, doesn’t seem to bother anyone. Men in our city are hiding, are leaving or are simply sitting in their homes. By the way, the amount of taxi drivers has decreased significantly! People don’t need this war. People started understanding that there’s nothing to fight for. This is a war of conquest and there’s no need to speculate with the Patriotic war (WW2) and grandparents”.

Anarchist Black Cross Moscow, established in 2003, has supported Russian anarchist and anti-fascist prisoners continuously for almost 20 years. When Russia invaded Ukraine, in February of 2022, we decided to widen our focus by supporting anti-war prisoners.

As of October 2022 we have run out of almost all funds to support anti-war prisoners and we launched a fundraising effort on the Firefund crowdfunding website. Please join our fundraising effort by donating and sharing our call. 

Support our fundraising campaign in Firefund  

You can find the contact addresses of all prisoners in Russia supported by us here.

This article first appeared in Автономное действие (Autonomous Action)

Image:, CC BY 4.0

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