The Compatriots

The Tricky Relationship Between the Kremlin and Russian Exiles
Seminars and Colloquia

The Russian diaspora is the third-largest in the world. The Russians fled the country in troves for more than one hundred years. First the Tsar’s crazy politics towards Jews, then the Revolution and Civil War, the Second World War and anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union forced millions to emigrate.In the 90-s, emigration was in the spotlight of society because the borders got opened for the first time in many decades. People started moving in both directions – many of them were leaving the country, but some of the emigrants came back to Russia to capture the new opportunities.

The decade of the 1990s was the only decade in Russia’s history, when the country did not have political exiles. When Putin came to power 20 years ago, he immediately reintroduced political emigration. Already in 2000, he forced the first group of his opponents to leave the country and never has stopped since then. Once out of Russia, the exiles start presenting a challenge to the Kremlin, and the Kremlin takes this challenge very seriously. But it has also created the concept of Russky Mir or Russian World – the worldwide community of Russian-speaking people whose identity is connected with Russian history and culture.

Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan are Russian journalists, co-founders of and authors of The Red Web and The New Nobility. Their latest publication The Compatriots: The Brutal and Chaotic History of Russia’s Exiles, Émigrés, and Agents Abroad was published by Public Affairs in October 2019. Both are recurrent Visting Fellows at the IWM.