Friday, July 22, 2022

Divisions among Russian Émigrés Deepening and Moscow is Exploiting Them, Kirillova Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 29 – Divisions among and within the various waves of Russians who have left their country for a variety of reasons are deepening, the entirely natural result of the traumatic experiences many if not all have experienced, Kseniya Kirillova says. But the Kremlin is exploiting these splits to “marginalize the opposition in the minds of the majority of Russians.”

            Putin’s war in Ukraine has produced deep divisions within Russian society, the US-based Russian analyst says; but “this split is not only between supporters and opponents of the war but also however surprisingly between various groups of the Russian opposition” (

            She points to three major divisions and argues that the Kremlin is working overtime to exploit them as part of its efforts to discredit any opposition to itself. First of all, there is a conflict over whether emigration is an appropriate response to the war in Ukraine, with some saying they have no choice and others who remain arguing that it is ceding the field to Putin.

            Second, there is the divide between those in the emigration who say Russians abroad must unite on the Ukrainian war and organize to defend themselves as a single community and others who argue that the diaspora is just as diverse as the Russian people and that efforts to impose a single structure on it will prove a Procrustean bed that will destroy it.

            And third, there is the divide between those who left Russia before the war started and those who left after February 24. The two groups in many cases have very different reasons for having left and have very different ideas as to how they should proceed and even whether they should return to Russia either now or in the future.

            In seeking to undermine the emigration by exploiting divisions, the Putin regime is following the same playbook as its Soviet predecessors who viewed emigres as especially important and perhaps more important than they could ever be in the future because the Bolshevik regime arose from the activities of Russians abroad.

            But even more than the Soviets, Kirillova makes clear, what the Putin regime is doing regarding the emigration reflects its belief that discrediting the new Russian emigration and its political views is part and parcel of its desire to discredit any opposition to itself either at home or abroad. 

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