Thursday, February 2, 2023

Soviet Treatment of Emigres who Returned Makes Moscow’s Task of Attracting ‘Relocators’ Extremely Hard, Pavlova Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Jan. 31 – Few who have seen the brilliant 1999 film, “East/West,” starring Catherine Deneuve, will ever forget the scene in which some Russians who have returned to the USSR after World War II are shot on the docks after being brought to their homeland on a Soviet passenger liner where they were wined and dined and others are treated as prisoners.

            That scene tragically is all too typical of the way the Soviets treated many emigres who did return; and memory of that continues to cast a dark shadow on discussions about what Moscow should do to attract back to the Russian Federation those who have chosen to “relocate” abroad because of Putin’s war in Ukraine.

             But because the exodus of many IT professionals now just like the exodus of educated professionals a century ago is harming the Russian economy, some in Moscow today are thinking about what they can do to bring people back and recalling the selective approach of the Soviets in 1923 (

            According to Viktoriya Pavlova, a journalist for Novyye izvestiya, the Russian authorities recognize that they won’t get many takers by offering high salaries or special benefits, not only because they can’t compete with the West or the memories of those who left about what happened earlier but also because Russians who never left would be outraged.

            That latter factor, she says, is encouraging some in the Russian capital to think about reviving another Soviet practice, the special working facilities within prisons known as sharashkas and described in devastating detail in Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s classic novel, The First Circle.

            The very fact that that is being discussed is certain to make it even more difficult to attract back the so-called “relocators” unless and until Moscow’s policies in Ukraine and elsewhere change fundamentally, something that doesn’t seem likely to happen as long as Putin is in the Kremlin. 

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