The past nine months have been tumultuous for Russia’s IT sector, according to Anastasia, a 24-year-old web designer from Moscow.
After the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, her studio was forced to tighten project budgets and deadlines.
Yet the biggest change by far is a feeling of uncertainty about the future.
“No one really knows what tomorrow will hold,” she said.
Following three decades of quiet development, the IT sector has suddenly found itself on the defensive.
Sanctions and the mass exodus of multinational corporations have eroded the industry’s access to foreign capital and technology.
And tens of thousands of Russian IT specialists have left the country since the beginning of the conflict.
President Vladimir Putin has admitted that the Russian IT sector will face “colossal” difficulties as it seeks to contain the fallout from international sanctions.
At the same time, however, some industry insiders argue that the crisis could present an opportunity for Russian tech companies to reconquer the domestic market and ease their technological dependence on the West.
In a world where advanced technologies reign supreme, the ability of the Russian IT industry to adapt to new realities will likely be key in determining whether Moscow can keep up economically and militarily with the rest of the world in the long run.
The sector found itself estranged from the West almost overnight after the outbreak of the war in Ukraine in February.
The United States and 37 other countries imposed export controls that restricted Russia’s access to strategic technologies such as semiconductors, microelectronics, telecommunications equipment, sensors, lasers and aircraft components.
US President Joe Biden’s administration also blacklisted more than a dozen Russian tech companies and institutions.
Even measures not directly aimed at the IT sector have impacted the industry’s work.
Financial sanctions have made it difficult for IT companies to send or receive payments from abroad. Logistical sanctions have made it more expensive and complicated for foreign tech vendors to ship their hardware to Russia.
All these difficulties, combined with the threat of reputational damage, prompted a mass exodus of Western tech giants from Russia.
Some companies that have quit Russia in recent months include Microsoft, IBM, Oracle, Intel, SAP, Cisco Systems, Adobe and Nokia.
Anastasia, who requested Al Jazeera uses only her first name to protect her identity, said that before the war, her design studio earned “very big money” from projects for Western firms.
Their sudden departure has forced the studio to scramble to find new sources of revenue, a difficult task given that Russian companies are not willing to pay like the Western giants.
At the same time, Anastasia said, Russian specialists are gradually adapting to life under sanctions.
She explained that many companies were still able to access Western software through VPNs and pay for them using cards issued by foreign banks.
In other cases, it was possible to replace Western systems with domestic alternatives.
“At first it seemed that everyone would leave and we wouldn’t be able to do anything, but we are finding ways to continue working and living as before,” Anastasia said.