Thursday, May 12, 2022

Putin’s Efforts to Absorb Ukraine Prompts New Interest Exile Governments of the Past

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 30 – Between 1918 and 1945, the Red Army by force resubordinated parts of the former Russian Empire to Moscow’s rule, sparking the creation of a series of exile governments by those who fought against that expansion and hoped to keep resistance alive from abroad.

            Now that the current Russian army appears to be seeking the same outcome as its Red Army predecessor achieved, there is growing interest in the governments in exile formed earlier because they could be the model in the event that Vladimir Putin succeeds in his revanchist goals.

            One example of this interest is an article offered by Russian Seven, a portal that combines an interest in historical topics with current events. It surveys five countries whose suppression by Moscow led to the formation of exile governments and one, Russia, that tried but failed to form such a body (

            After the Red Army occupied Belarus, remnants of the Belarus Peoples Republic formed an exile government first in Kaunas, then Prague, then West Germany and finally in North America. In 1993, it planned to hand over its authority to Minsk but reversed that following the rise of Alyaksandr Lukashenka and continues to function from Canada.

            The Georgian government fled in the face of Soviet occupation in 1921 and formed a government in exile while lasted until 1954. Leaders of the Ukrainian Directorate similarly fled, forming an exile government first in Poland and then in France. It continued to function until August 1992 when it symbolically handed the symbols of power to independent Ukraine.

            Two of the three Baltic republics formed governments in exile after Stalin occupied them. Lithuanian officials formed one first in Germany and then in the US but disbanded it in 1990 after Vilnius declared that it had recovered its independence, something it achieved de facto the following year.

            Estonian émigré leaders did not form a government in exile immediately but only in 1953. It was based in Oslo. In 1990, most of its members agreed to disband because Estonia had declared that it was on the way to recovering de facto independence, but one group refused to do so and continues to function.

As far as Russia itself is concerned, all efforts to form a government in exile failed. The only organization that had any similarity to such an institution was the Council of Ambassadors which existed until 1940 and sought to promote Russian interests against the Bolshevik occupation of Russia.

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