Friday, October 15, 2021

Kremlin Wants 500,000 Emigres to Return by 2030, But Tragic History May Give Them Pause

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Oct. 9 – Vladimir Putin wants 500,000 people who have emigrated from the Russian Federation to return home by 2030. Russian diplomats and interior ministry officials are to encourage this process, and the government will bear the costs that those who come back must take upon themselves.

            This is not the first time in the last century that Moscow has encouraged emigres to return, and memories about how those who did so were treated constitute another reason why getting those now living abroad to decide to come back is going to be anything but an easy sell, Tatyana Voltskaya says (

            The Sevreal portal writer points out that in Soviet times, many who responded positively to the siren song of Soviet propaganda of return did not have a good time of it but ended up in the camps of the GULAG or even were shot by the Soviet authorities immediately or after a relatively short time.

            One of the worst such cases involved the 31,000 Harbin Russians who returned to the USSR in 1937. Of these, “more than 19,000 were shot, and the rest received terms in the camps ranging from 10 to 25 years. Most others who returned suffered in a similar way, although a few succeeded in winning the lottery as it were, Voltskaya continues.

            To be sure, “this was another country;” and Putin’s Russia is based at least so far “not on a great terror but on a consensus with the elites” and terror is used only in a targeted manner against those who “try to play politics.” But uncertainties of what will come in the future undoubtedly will be part of the calculus of Russian emigres thinking about returning.

            Russian Historian Yuliya Demidenko says that “all Soviet campaigns about the return of compatriots had a propagandistic purpose,” to send a message that life was better in the USSR than anywhere else. She considers that “repatriation after World War II was “the most tragic.” Many who returned did not do so voluntarily and many suffered.

            All those who have seen the brilliant 1999 film, “East-West” starring Catherine Deneuve will agree.

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