This is what’s hurting Russia most and no one expected it

Alexei Sorokin
3 min readMar 5, 2022

To fuck up like Putin has done in less than a week requires a special kind of talent.

The horror that Ukraine is going through is heartbreaking, but let me focus on Russia in this story.

For one thing, Putin completely repainted Russia’s reputation in history books. Russia’s history is complex but Russia’s role in World War II is unambiguous — it’s that of a tremendous sacrifice that helped to win over the Nazis. Over twenty million people lost their lives. Please think about that figure. More than twenty million.

The problem with history is that it’s dynamic, notwithstanding the meaning of the word “history”. Russia’s evil war against Ukraine, orchestrated by one delusional dictator, is like a fresh layer of paint. The older layer gets hidden. It is this layer that will be visible to many future generations.

The second problem is that the country is collapsing, less than a week after the war began.

I witnessed the 1990s in Russia — they were painful. Because the transition to the market economy was painful. There was no “blueprint” for switching from the socialist system to an open economy.

Putting aside Putin’s various controversial acts during his many years of reign, it had taken the country thirty years to overcome its various struggles and mistakes to become a relatively meaningful economy. I don’t want to go into the analysis of what “meaningful” is. I don’t even want to critique Russia for things like oil dependency. By meaningful I mean that it’s relatively stable and attractive for foreign investment; it has a middle class that can enjoy the levels of consumption — or consumerism if you wish — that’s typical of developed economies.

Now, onto my point, have a look at this image:

This is mind-blowing. One week and all these companies left Russia. They’ve spent decades building their businesses, brands, and franchises. Now they are gone.

When I lived in Moscow, I lived close to a shopping center that had Ikea. I have many memories of shopping at or just passing Ikea.

Ikea is closing. Look at all these people trying to get their last experience of Ikea.



Alexei Sorokin

A Russian immigrant in America, father of 4, Cambridge and Harvard Business School alum. I run and write every day.