Friday, December 2, 2022

Vilnius ‘Optimal’ for Attracting Ethno-Regionalists and Liberals from Russia, Almanis Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 30 – By virtue of its history of hospitality and multi-culturalism and its anti-Moscow policies, Vilnius offers “an optimal mix” of characteristics that has attracted ethno-regionalist and liberal activists from Russia, according to Andrius Almanis, a Lithuanian political scientist who heads the Institute of the Regions of Russia there.

            As he points out, it stands out as a center of activism because unlike the places the majority of Russians have fled since Putin’s war began, Lithuania is quite restrictive in admitting people from Russia with a tough visa policy and accepting only those who have been persecuted at home and are seeking sanctuary (

            Indeed, Almanis continues, Lithuania by its example of recovering its independence and democracy can serve as a model and inspiration for others even though the situations of the ethno-regionalists and liberals from Russia are very different and even though Lithuanians are not inclined to give advice on exactly how they should act.

            One of the non-Russian activists who now lives in Vilnius is Ruslan Gabbasov, a leader of the Bashkir national movement. He came to the Lithuanian capital to attend a meeting of the Free Russia Forum and then decided to apply for political asylum. He now working as a furniture mover and is learning Lithuanian.

            He says most Lithuanians are quite welcoming because they see in the Bashkirs and others like them people who are struggling for freedom and democracy just as the Lithuanians themselves have done. There are a few exceptions but mostly they are ethnic Russians who watch Russian television.

            “National activists of the peoples of Russia,” Gabbasov continues, “undoubtedly have something to learn from the Lithuanians,” from their longstanding commitment to their ideals and their willingness to sacrifice their comfort and even their lives for independence and a democratic way of life.

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