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Russian community responds to pressure by supporting Russian government

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Russian community responds to pressure by supporting Russian government


Igor Gashkov

Russian-speaking community is one of the largest communities in the world. Emigrants, bound by the church parishes and cultural centres used to live peacefully and stay away of the politics. However, after the sanctions were introduced in 2014, life of Russian communities changed a lot. Our ex-compatriots complain that the informational pressure of global mass media is growing. They acknowledge that despite this, the Russians still sympathize with the current Russian government.

The Immortal Regiment invades Paris

There have been several emigration waves out of Russia. The first one included mainly the White movement and formed clusters of Russian culture abroad back in the beginning of 1920s. Those communities centered around churches and veterans’ associations. The emigrants gathered at religious holidays and recalled the Russian arms victories during the Emperors rule.

“Only the White Russians, their children and grandchildren used to come to our meetings. These were the events for just a certain group of people. Now everything is different and more diverse,” explains Dmitry Koshko, one of the leaders of the Russian community in France. He says that the emigrants have been celebrating the 9th of May with enthusiasm since 1990s. The holiday unites everyone whose relatives participated in the war. So, the Immortal Regimen campaign turned out to be quite widely spread in Paris.

The Immortal Regiment in Paris. Picture:

We didnt expect 1.5 thousand people to turn up. This allowed us to have a full-scale parade. We marched from Place de la Republique to Pere Lachaise Cemetery, where the monument to the Russian soldier is located. We were especially moved by the warm way people greeted us. When they found out what was happening they supported us in every possible way, says Mr. Koshko.

Meanwhile, the community is not so happy with the public opinion in France. Most Russians are annoyed with the mass media campaigns against Russia. In my opinion, the mass media is disturbing facts systematically. Personally I am irritated with what President Emmanuel Macron is doing. He bans Russian media from his press-conferences, having absolutely no right for it, complains Koshko.

In 2014 the first wave emigrants descendants signed an appeal in support of our country, which had just experienced the sanctions. Sociologists registered a change in political views of the expatriates caused by dramatic events. Six years ago Mikhail Prokhorov, the opposition candidate, won the presidential elections in France. However, in 2016 our compatriots voted for the United Russia.

Our children are persuaded that Russia is the Evil Empire

Based on the number of Russians settled in Western Europe, Germany shares the top position with France. In Germany there are about a hundred Orthodox churches, several large cultural associations, including Tchaikovsky State House and Russian Orthodox Church Cultural Center in Hamburg. Just like everywhere, the core of the Russian community was founded by the first wave emigrants. Their descendants gather in Weimar, where daughter, sister and aunt of the Russian Tsars, the princess Maria Pavlovna had been buried.

After the terroristic attack of 2017 in St. Petersburg the German authorities refused to light the Brandenburger Tor in Berlin with the colours of Russian flag despite the tradition. This looked like a challenge. The Russian-speaking citizens of West Germany were offended with this decision.

Tchaikovsky House in Hamburg. Picture:

Just like in other Western countries, introduction of the sanctions in 2014 changed the life of the Russian community. Constant blames by the mass media made the Russians react, because they heard the same blames from their friends and acquaintances later. The informational pressure was combined with original conservative attitude of the expatriates, which resulted in the growing popularity of Vladimir Putin, who had von the Russian elections in Germany back in 2012.
We, being Russian-speaking people, are really depressed. We have to admit that most of our German neighbours still treat us well. By as soon as one turns on the radio, opens up a paper or the German Internet. There is nothing but blaming towards Russia, says Yuriy Eremenko, the editor-in-chief of the Russian Field website.

According to him the pressure over our country exceeds all limits. Can you believe that there is a political news program for children on the federal TV channel KIKA? There Russia is the Evil Empire too. It is difficult for us, because we have children who were born here. They will have to go to school where everybody will know that their parents are Russian-speaking, complains Eremenko.

The response of the Russian community to pressure resulted in the support of Russian government. I think most of our countrymen abroad will vote for the current president, he comments.

Maidan of discord

Russian and Ukrainian communities were separated back in 2014. In many foreign countries they used to gather and celebrate common holidays. After the events at Maidan our former brothers became self-centered.

In South Korea, where I live, a separate Ukrainian community appeared only after the second Maidan, says Ekaterina Popova, the head of Russian Communities coordinating council. Now they dont even visit Days of Slavonic Writing, traditionally uniting the two nations. This isnt our fault. We tried not to discuss the politics with them as far as possible, explains Popova.

According to our compatriot Natalia Vorontsova, relations with the Ukrainian community in the Netherlands were on the verge of an open conflict. They complained about us to our employers that we were holding meetings, sent trolls to our webpages, there were even threats. There were some minor troubles as well, like throwing garbage into the humanitarian aid that we were collecting. There is no open conflict now, but the relations have not been restored yet.

Meeting in support of Crimean people in Hague. Picture:

The cold truce between the two communities is facilitated by economics. Most of the USSR ex-residents support Russia. This fact is reckoned by some business owners. In the Netherlands there are several shops for Russians, the owner of one of them in Rotterdam openly supported the Maidan movement. They went even further starting to collect humanitarian aid for the participants of Kievs anti-terror operation. So they lost customers. The business owners decided to keep quiet. Now, in 2018, they say they steer clear of the politics, says Vorontsova.

The anti-Russian sanctions and the attacks of Western mass media on Moscow influence political preferences in the community. Vorontsova says, I am going to vote for Putin. Whenever I go the only thing I hear is Who else can we vote for?

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