Thursday, June 28, 2018

A New Siberian Emigration Takes Shape

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 27 – After the Russian civil war, when many anti-Bolshevik Russians emigrated, one of the most important if typically neglected groups consisted not of people from Moscow or St. Petersburg but those from Siberia who viewed themselves not only as members of the White Movement but as descendants of the Siberian regionalists of the 19th century.

            Initially, the most important center of this politically and intellectually active group was in Harbin; but over time, most of the Siberians in the first emigration either settled in or looked to the great Siberian publishing effort centered in Prague  (,, and

             Today, when commentators do talk about emigration from Siberia, they are referring to the migration of people from that region to North America in pre-historic times or more often to the movement of Siberians from their home area to European portions of the Russian Federation (e.g.,

            Those are important topics, but they should not be allowed to overshadow something even more important: the formation of a new Siberian emigration, the product of Russian repression that is driving “a very large group of people” from that land just as it has done with those from other regions like Ingria and the Urals.

            That makes an interview Kseniya Smolyakova of Radio Svoboda’s Sibreal portal with Sergy Gorr, one of their number, especially important not only because he details the kind of repression he and others like Aydar Kudirmekov from the Altai Republic have suffered but about their thinking as Siberians in emigration (

                Gorr, who worked with the Navalny campaign in Siberia, says that people there “with each passing day see that everything in Russia is becoming worse. The political and economic crisis in the Russian Federation, creatd by the current powers has grown over into a sharp phase of struggle not only with opposition movements but with independent minded people.”
            Indeed, it appears that the Kremlin has taken North Korea as its model for the future of Russia.

            “The criminal rulers with Putin at the head want to make out of Russia a raw materials slave holding ghetto by destroying everything showing signs of intelligence, honor and independence.” That is driving people out, and “the number of newly arrived political emigres from Russia over the last month has sharply increased.”

            Many of these new émigrés are Navalny supporters but others are representatives of the numerically small peoples of the Russian Federation and especially of Siberia and the North, he continues. Some of them now live in tents but “no one is starving. They are studying languages and of course following and discussing what is happening in Russia.”

            “I do not consider that we are an opposition,” Gorr continues. “Just the reverse, the Putin regime is in opposition to the people.” And “as soon as the situation begins to change and it becomes obvious that the regime will fall,” he says he and those like him plan to return to “build our common new free Russia” where they were born and grew up.

             Like the Siberian emigration of nearly a century ago, this group is not or at least not yet extremely large nor are its members marching together in lock step. Some want to see Siberia as an independent country; while others favor its inclusion in a genuinely federal Russia. But they are acting as Siberians rather than simply as Russians.

                And for Moscow that must be a source of concern, especially because the new Siberian emigration has far greater opportunities to send its ideas back home than did the first, which was typically forced to limit itself to sending back tamizdat before the name, pamphlets and texts printed abroad and smuggled into Siberia in the 1920s and 1930s.

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