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“Minsk is fit for normal living”

I moved in February this year. I’ve never been neither to Belarus nor any other former Soviet Union country before. It’s funny, but I doubted whether they take bank cards here, and didn’t know whether I can pay in Russian rubles. As for the Belarusian IT, I’ve heard only about MSQRD because I once worked as a journalist and did a news piece about it.

But the shape of the Belarusian IT sector exceeded expectations. It’s not just about the conditions you’ve created to foster it. It’s the kind of companies and investors choosing to come here that is important.

“You can launch a project in SKOLKOVO or in Saudi Arabia—given similar initial investment, the result will be different”

A lot depends on the people, too. In Belarus, other things being equal, IT professionals work way better than many of their foreign colleagues.

I find Minsk more comfortable than Moscow. It seems to me that the city is better fit for normal living. Cleaner, neater, not choking in endless traffic. True, many consider Moscow a city of opportunities: a huge number of vacancies, space for growth. This is the case indeed. But a rhythm that tough doesn’t suit everyone. Moreover, it is not always productive: you only work your hands to the bone because that’s the way things go down there.

“And Minsk has all the advantages of large cities—but less stress and fewer other drawbacks”

Moving to Minsk proved easy—except having to do the paperwork for the dog. The company helped with the apartment. However, later we moved to another office—had to look for a new place closer to work myself. The demand for housing isn’t as insane as in Moscow: you don’t have to pay four months’ rent upfront and worry that the apartment will get rented out to someone else right after you request 15 minutes to consider. Special cordial greetings go out to Belarusian realtors—they are more humane and trustworthy than in Moscow.

I spent six months in Minsk but already react to Moscow prices like this, ‘How come it can cost this much?’ There’s plenty of entertainment here, although I’m the type of person who prefers quiet atmosphere. Usually I just walk around the city with my dog or drive around Belarus. I like that, say, in a mere few hours you can see tons of exciting stuff: small towns, villages, attractions, distinctive Belarusian nature. For example, you come to Grodno and find yourself in a slightly different world: different urban architecture, rhythm, spirit. It would seem I only drove 170 miles (270 km).

I really like the feel of Europe in Minsk: in signs, signposts, architecture, food. By the way, this manifests in business too: Belarusian companies mainly service the European and American markets. One reason is geography; the other, to my mind, is that the Russian market is much larger and triggers a desire to target it as a priority. Up to a certain point, Russian companies face no need at all to go international.

Check out the open positions at Flo Group 9 Created with Sketch.

I can’t say that something is holding me back from staying in Minsk forever, because I value having a cool job higher than geography. I advise my friends to land an interview in Minsk or simply come to check it out. Until you’ve done that, Minsk might not be a priority, although everything is much more exciting in real life than in pictures or someone’s stories.

Upsides
Comfortable rhythm of life.
Proximity to Europe.

Downsides
I had to do the paperwork for the dog.