Monday, October 1, 2007

Window on Eurasia: Kremlin’s Efforts to Control Compatriots Spark Protests

Paul Goble

Vienna, October 1 – The Kremlin’s effort to organize and direct what the Russian officials call “compatriots” abroad – a term many of them apply collectively to Russian citizens living abroad, Russian emigres of all waves, and former Soviet citizens living outside the CIS – has provoked protests from both emigres and domestic groups.
Many Russian emigres and domestic nationalist groups object to the Kremlin’s lumping together such disparate groups. Others complain Moscow’s involvement opens them to charges of being a Russian “fifth column.” And still a third group, otherwise sympathetic, object to the heavy-handed way Russian officials are carrying it out.
Earlier this year, Russian officials said that they hoped to create “coordinating councils of Russian compatriots and former citizens of the USSR” around the world. A week ago, Russian emigres staged a demonstration in Prague against the effort to set up the first of these bodies for Western Europe.
According to a Russian nationalist site in Moscow, the emigres said that they objected to “the administrative command methods [used by the Moscow organizers], the depoliticization of the Russian diaspora in Europe,” and the subordination of its activities to the Russian government (
A small group of emigres assembled outside the Russian Center of Science and Culture in the Czech capital. Among the slogans on their signs was “”No to an all-European Coordinating Council of Russian Compatriots! Yes to a European Russian Forum! Yes to a constantly acting World Russian Assembly.”
Other slogans included “The Coordinating Councils of Russian Compatriots are an experiment in offering to Europe a Supra-National Identity—the [non-ethnic] Russian people” and “The Multi-national Russian people is a utopia! Like the utopian idea of the Soviet people [which] lead to the destruction of the USSR.”
And still another banners said, “Coordinating councils of Russian compatriots are a propagandistic, administrative measure for the liquidation of an independent Russian diasporas in Europe!” and “No to the neo-bolsheviks and neo-communist from United Russia.”
Inside the Cultural Center where the meeting was being held, participants heard Konstantin Kosachev, the chairman of the Duma International Affairs Committee, say that the pro-Kremlin United Russia Party would “in the near future” develop its own conception for the support of compatriots abroad.”
Moreover, the Russian news agency,, reported on September 24th that Moscow plans to organize six more regional compatriot conferences and some 60 national conferences over the next year alone, all of them on the model of the Prague session and intended to lead to the creation of coordinating councils.
Given Moscow’s support for this effort, such organizations almost certainly will be created. But the protests in Prague and the anger among some Russian nationalists at home make it likely that this will be yet another brainchild of the Kremlin that will prove to be stillborn.

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