Monday, May 22, 2023

Russian Emigration Should Aim for Loose Alliance Rather than Tight Union, Kynyev Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 17 – Many commentators are critical of the Russian liberal emigration for failing to form a tightly organized and ideologically defined movement to promote its values, but Moscow political analyst Aleksandr Kynyev says there are compelling reasons why the emigration must aim for a loose alliance around a few common themes rather than a tight union.

            Emigrations inevitably find themselves operating in three dimensions – political, legal and economic – that often contradict one another and mean that the pursuit of one of them to the exclusion of the other two leads to disaster, the analyst continues (

            Politically, the emigration must keep focused on Russia itself rather than become trapped by its ties to any outside sponsors. There have been cases when outsiders have imposed an emigration on a country but Russia is too large and too powerful for that to happen. Consequently, the emigration must not allow itself to ignore the Russian people.

            That is often difficult because the environments within which the emigres live often lead those who have left their country to become far more radical and at odds with the population at home. And if these people try to unite rather than reflect this diversity, their chances for eventual success are even less.

            Economically, emigres always face problems, especially when they want to engage in political activity. Just maintaining oneself is hard; maintaining an organization or much activity is harder still. And legally, host countries make demands on them for either agreement or silence that limit what emigres can do.

            Given all this, Kynyev says, it is no surprise that emigres often take positions increasingly at odds with the Russian people and also with each other, thus making them irrelevant in the first case and more likely to be fissiparous in the second.  Émigré oppositions are almost never united, and the Russian one is no exception.

            “What then should be done?” he asks. The first thing is to recognize this reality and accept it even though having a single organization can play several useful roles along all three dimensions. And that means that emigres should seek cooperation in broad terms but not an organization that insists on tight unity. That will only promote new divisions.

            Articulating general principles such as the freeing of political prisoners and the ending of repression is a good thing, but going much beyond that will likely prove counterproductive because it will further isolate the emigration from Russia and further divide its members in ways that will make it less influential not more.


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