Thursday, January 7, 2021

‘Outer Russia’ Far Larger and More Diverse than It was at Start of Putin’s Reign, Troitsky Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 5 – Because most Russians who move abroad do not give up or lose their passports, it is far more difficult to say just how many are permanent emigres and how many are temporary residents who will return, but Artemy Troitsky points out that their number is far larger than 20 years ago and far more diverse as well.

            Estimates of its size range from official claims of two million which understate the number up to ten million or more, the expat music critic says. And the increase in recent years reflects the fact that for many “life in Putin’s Russia is unattractive and for some even toxic” (

            According to one study, in recent years, more than 6,000 chemists, almost 11,000 physicists, and more than 12,000 biologists have moved abroad, a sizeable brain drain, but over the same period, Troitsky says, not a single policeman has left, an indication of who can live well in Russia today.

            If one recognizes that few of the siloviki are likely to leave and that many of the poorest can’t afford to, the spectrum of those involved in this massive flight is extremely broad, “from political refugees to the families of Putin oligarchs,” a reality that many Russians do not recognize because the official media does little to call attention to this phenomenon.

            But because the new emigration is so different than the one in Soviet times, the music critic observes, and because Russians abroad are forming “a certain national-historical and geographic community,” a new term for it is needed. He proposes the awkward in English but reasonable in Russian one, “Outer Russia” (Vneshnaya Rossiya).

            “The majority of both emigres and expats … are simply people of Russian language and culture who have moved abroad to live but are not indifferent to the fate of their historical motherland and maintain with it various kinds and levels of ties, Troitsky says. At the same time, most but not all are critical of what is happening there.

            They see Putin’s Russia for what it is – an incompetent, archaic and repressive state – which they don’t want to live in but nonetheless are concerned about. Only a tiny minority of those in Outer Russia support the Kremlin leader and glorify the “neo-Soviet” order that he is imposing.

            “As in any real country, the population of Outer Russia is diverse and stratified, both economically and ideologically. And there are clearly expressed regional differences: the North American Kray with its Canadian autonomy, the Israel national district, the Australian Far East, the Spanish South, as well as the Czech, Montenegrin and other oblasts.”

            In this last, “London, New York and Berlin can aspire to the status of capitols.” Each has its own media, although most of its people rely on outlets from Russia itself. There are no parties as Russians join the traditional national ones. “And in general, there is in Outer Russia, no state,” although some talk about one being created, especially after Crimea.

            Perhaps the best way to think about Outer Russia is this, Troitsky says, is “as only a pressure cooker and a temporary stopping place on the path from ‘the Russian world’ to the larger ‘outside world.’” Few in the second generation will remain in it, and almost none in the third. They will assimilate.

            Of course, there will be exceptions and include those in “’Soviet-style’ Chinatowns” like Brighton Beach in New York, the Marzahn district in Berlin, and Narva in Estonia. There residents will retain Russian habits and interests far longer. But demography works against even them, with new people coming in, the older dying off, and the young assimilating.

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