Sunday, February 10, 2019

Ever More Non-Russian Groups from Russia Forming Diaspora Communities Abroad

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 9 – The combination of relatively open borders, increasing repression, and the loss of hope in Russia itself is leading to the rise of a phenomenon so far little noted in the West: the appearance of significant non-Russian diaspora communities in Europe, Asia and North America.

            Among the largest of these are the Chechens, the Circassians, Finno-Ugric nations, the Siberians and Ingrians. In a few cases, such as the Circassians and the Cossacks, the new emigres are linking up with pre-existing communities; but in most, they are creating their own new ones, closely linked via the Internet with their national base at home.

            This represents at least the third wave of such groups coming out of Russia. The first, following the Bolshevik revolution and Russian Civil War, resulted in the formation not only of vibrant non-Russian communities in Europe and elsewhere but the formation, under the aegis of the Promethean League, of cooperation among many of them.

            The second wave, which arose as a result of World War II and the displaced populations that resulted, became the basis for the formation of new émigré groups, some of which cooperated to help launch projects like Radio Svoboda and the Captive Nations Week in the United States.

            Now a third has begun. The Chechens and new Circassian diasporas have received some attention, but the others have not. Given that they seem certain to continue to grow as long as repression and stagnation dominate Putin’s Russia, they deserve to be tracked both in their own right and as important sources of information about their co-ethnics still within Russia.

            In many cases, these new emigres are operating “below the radar” of the governments of the countries in which they are living and of the international organizations of their nations that have existed up to now. That makes any report about them especially valuable. One such, about the Chuvash of Berlin, is offered by IdelReal’s Ersubay Yangarov (

                 The journalist describes a meeting of 15 people in the German capital at which Viktor Chugarov, a Chuvash filmmaker, talked about his work and his hopes to use it to promote the Chuvash language. “If only school child who sees my film decides to learn Chuvash,” he says, he will consider that a victory. 

            The Chuvash community in the West is still relatively small and almost completely without organization. Perhaps more seriously, its members lack ties with other Middle Volga diaspora groups such as the Tatars, the Maris, the Mordvins, and the Udmurts, all of whom exist and some of whom have an active Internet presence.

            Nonetheless, meetings like the one Chugarov hosted are how such organizations begin; and this one, held at the end of January, won’t be the last, he and others at it suggested. Consequently, one can say that yet another non-Russian diaspora is taking shape, will soon have its own webpage, and thus will make a contribution both to its nation at home and to the understanding of others abroad.

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