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“Minsk has been tempting from day one”

I moved from a small industrial city in Central Kazakhstan, known as the country’s coal capital. Thought about relocation for nearly a year. Was looking at Moscow, St. Petersburg and Minsk. Minsk was tempting from day one. It seemed a quiet yet big city with a considerable number of gaming companies. Not as fussy as Moscow and not as cold as St. Petersburg.

I was engaged in gamedev before the move, too. In Kazakhstan, however, this industry is not really developed, so I had to work remotely. Vizor Games people found my resume on HeadHunter. We agreed quickly, although I received concurrent proposals from Mail.ru and a the Perm-based gaming company. I think I did the right thing by picking Minsk. Minsk and Moscow salaries do not differ much, but the living costs in Belarus are much lower. On top of that, a guy I know from Russia has been working at Wargaming for several years. He also spoke well about Minsk, so I never had major doubts about the city.

Check out open positions at Vizor Games Group 9 Created with Sketch.

Took me a month to wrap things up at my previous job, and I flew to Minsk in the fall. Liked the city at once: clean, neat. Karaganda becomes gray and gloomy in September; Minsk, on the contrary, was sunny. I was enjoying the warm days. Although the weather can be different: sometimes you want more sunny days.

The company provided a room at a decent hotel for a week and a certain relocation allowance. Been searching for an apartment during that week and found one near the office, on Volgogradskaya Street. Then I changed two more places. Faced no particular problems with the search, but I wouldn’t advise anyone to contact real estate agencies—no help from them. Searched for all the apartments myself. Now I live in “Vostok-2” district. Not a bad place, but the courtyards get noisy almost every night, and there’s bar under the windows that’s open until 4 a.m.

“I’d been living in Minsk alone during the first three months, then helped my wife and two children move”

Found a school for the older child quickly but had problems with the kindergarten. They said that all the places are occupied and that I should’ve lined up since the child’s birth. A private institution is an expensive alternative: $500 a month is a lot even for an IT expert. But we’ve been able to resolve this issue quite recently.

I think Minsk prices are comparable to those in the Kazakh capital, Astana (Nur-Sultan). This is reasonable living costs. I can’t say our lifestyle is expensive. We can afford flying out on vacation twice a year; this year we went to Egypt and France. My IT salary is enough for us (I’m the only provider in the family), but it’s virtually impossible to save up.

Liked the city’s water park. Plenty of water—the nearest lake in Kazakhstan is hours and hours away by car.

“Europe is close by; recently pulled off a one-day return trip to Vilnius”

Again, in Kazakhstan the nearest borderline is 600 miles away, and that’s the one with China or Russia only. Had time for an all-family stay at two Belarusian health resorts. Those left a good impression: decent level, but you could pay just as much and get a foreign trip. Didn’t cost us much more to go to Egypt.

I knew two Belarusian IT companies before moving: Wargaming and EPAM. EPAM has an office in Karaganda, a few guys I know worked there. Back in the day, I was even interested in a chance of working for Wargaming. Heard about Vizor, too; even played the company’s popular game project, “Zombie Farm.” I can’t say I actively follow the Belarusian gamedev industry events: don’t have enough time. But every now and then I read an article or two on dev.by.

I work as a Tech Artist at Vizor Games—my job is liaising between artists and programmers. On the one hand, we do various technical things that artists aren’t really proficient in; on the other—we deal with the artwork content itself. Most of the time I work on the lighting in our games. In Karaganda, I either worked remotely or managed my own business. I used to manage my time myself, so I was concerned whether I’ll be comfortable about going to the office every day. I’d still prefer remote work, but the current schedule isn’t a pain either.

To live and work in Belarus, a citizen of Kazakhstan must obtain annual registration. Getting a residence permit is problematic, because it requires one to have registered domicile in Minsk. Therefore, my Belarusian citizenship aren’t looking too bright—even if I live here for five more years (you’re legally entitled to citizenship in case you’ve lived seven years with a residence permit). It so happens that you can initiate the process to obtain a residence permit and then citizenship only by buying an apartment in Minsk.

There’s another legal issue. My sister wanted to stay in Belarus, found a boyfriend here. But a Kazakh citizen can only stay in Belarus for three months a year. We didn’t know about this pitfall for a long time. As a result, I can’t get Belarusian citizenship, and my sister can’t move here. We’re even thinking about getting Russian citizenship—Russians in Belarus have more rights in this regard.

Upsides
A clean city.
A lot of gaming companies.

Downsides
It’s difficult to obtain a residence permit.