Near Antalya’s Mediterranean Sea beach is a small park known as Matryoshka Park, for its large sculpture of traditional Russian nesting dolls. More than half the sculpture’s dolls are missing now, since vandals destroyed them after Russia invaded Ukraine.
Turkey is one of the countries where Russians are fleeing conscription, following Russian President Vladimir Putin’s plan to mobilize an additional 300,000 troops to bolster his war in Ukraine. The exodus can be felt acutely in Antalya, a large city on Turkey’s southwestern coast. It’s a longtime Russian tourist destination that’s now becoming a refuge for those who don’t want to fight in the war.
Anti-war Russians began moving here in March, shortly after their country’s invasion of Ukraine. The current influx is larger and known as “the second wave” among the local Russian community. Whole neighborhoods in the area near Matryoshka Park are mostly Russian now. It’s the language heard on the streets and seen on signs and restaurant menus.
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