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Author Topic: Russia Calling Russians Home  (Read 1586 times) Average Rating: 0
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ialmisry
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« on: June 16, 2009, 11:33:00 PM »

I don't know if this has been posted before (didn't see it):
NEW YORK TIMES
March 22, 2009

By CLIFFORD J. LEVY
VLADIVOSTOK, Russia — Vasily Reutov had never set foot in Russia until a few months ago, but the moment he did, he knew he had finally made it home.

His ancestors, members of an ascetic offshoot of Russian Orthodoxy known as Old Believers, fled this region in the 1920s after the Communist Party violently suppressed religion. They settled in cloistered villages in South America that they turned into Little Russias, as if by preserving the ways of the past, they would somehow, someday, be able to return.

Now, with Russia itself beckoning and sturdier than before, that time has come.

The government is trying to head off the country’s severe population decline by luring back Russians who live abroad as well as their descendants. Mr. Reutov and several dozen other members of his religious community from Uruguay have become among the most striking examples of this policy.

Moscow has spent $300 million in the past two years to get the repatriation program started, and officials estimated that more than 25 million people were eligible, many of them ethnic Russians who found themselves living in former Soviet republics after the Soviet collapse in 1991.

But the government is not limiting itself to Russia’s neighbors, sending emissaries around the world to sell the program. One even went to Brazil last month to meet with residents of several countries who, like Mr. Reutov, are Old Believers, whose followers have some similarities in lifestyle to the Amish. Diaspora Old Believer communities exist worldwide, including in Alaska and Oregon.

Mr. Reutov, 36, was not at the meeting in Brazil because he was already here, having decided to enroll in the program and move with his wife and five children from Uruguay. Others from two villages there are to follow soon, he said.

Their story is one of the last unfinished chapters of the Russian Revolution, and it speaks to the changes in Russia in the post-Soviet era. Even with the global financial crisis, Russia is more stable and prosperous than at any other time in its history, and Mr. Reutov said that only now was his community confident enough in the country’s future.

And so they are ready to uproot themselves and begin anew, back where it all began — in this windswept coastal area in Russia’s Far East.

“We have always felt like we belonged to Russia,” Mr. Reutov said. “We are Russian, and we need to be here.”

Yet their return also points to Russia’s disquieting population drop. The United Nations predicts that the country will fall to 116 million people by 2050, from 141 million now, an 18 percent decline, largely because of a low birthrate and poor health habits. (The government is trying to increase the birthrate by paying families to have more children.)

So far, only 10,300 people have moved back under the government repatriation program, which has faced criticism that it is overly bureaucratic and unpersuasive. But Russia’s Foreign Ministry said the program needed time to generate interest, and officials said they hoped that many more would soon take advantage of relocation and employment assistance, which can amount to several thousand dollars a person.

It is unclear how the financial crisis will affect the program’s appeal. While Russia has been hit hard, many of its neighbors are faring even worse, so people might choose to try their luck here. On the other hand, some might be deterred because they cannot find jobs in Russia, particularly in its hard-hit Far East.

Vladimir G. Pozdorovkin, a Foreign Ministry official who oversees the program, has visited several countries in the past year to promote it, including Germany and Egypt. At the meeting in Brazil last month, he said, he was peppered with questions from Old Believers about the quality of life and the business climate in Russia.

“Their desire to return to the historic homeland is there,” Mr. Pozdorovkin said. “Their fathers and grandfathers always told them that they had to return to Russia. But to what Russia, what conditions are there — they want to find that out beforehand.”

After several weeks roaming the Vladivostok region, Mr. Reutov said he was convinced. He and his brother-in-law, Aleksei Kilin, 26, have been looking for a relatively isolated area where they can set up a farm.

They located distant relatives and went to the villages of their forebears, who escaped in the 1920s to Harbin, a major city in China’s northeast that was a center for Russian refugees, before ending up in South America.

Mr. Reutov said he was pleased with the help that he had received from regional officials, who seem equally pleased that he is returning. Russia’s vast and sparsely inhabited Far East has fallen in population to six million, from eight million in 1991. Tens of millions of Chinese are just over the border, but Russia does not want to allow them in.

The program is not open to just any descendants of Russians. In general, applicants must speak Russian and be comfortable with the country’s society and culture.

Mr. Reutov and Mr. Kilin were thus ideal. Russian is their first language — Mr. Kilin said he barely spoke Spanish — and they easily blended in here. Only their beards and homemade white dress shirts, both characteristic of Old Believers, attracted attention.

Still, not all Old Believer communities are as enthusiastic. The Rev. Nikolai Yakunin, a priest who leads one in Nikolaevsk, Alaska, said he was often asked whether he yearned to live in Russia.

“We are not moving back,” he said. “They are still Communists there, even if they call themselves democrats.” Yet, Father Yakunin conceded he was worried that young people in his community were quickly assimilating, failing to learn Russian and losing cultural ties.

Mr. Reutov had lived in the United States for a time before deciding to return to South America, in part because he, too, was concerned about his children.

“It is really hard to keep up the traditions,” Mr. Reutov said. “The young people in the communities in the United States don’t speak Russian at all. And for us, that is not acceptable.”

He said some people in their villages in Uruguay and Brazil considered returning to Russia in the 1980s and 1990s but concluded that the country was too volatile. Now, he and his brother-in-law are reporting more positive impressions to family and friends in South America.

“They are all now calling me and asking me how it is,” he said. “They are saying, ‘If you can find a place for us, we are ready to move.’ ”
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« Reply #1 on: June 17, 2009, 11:27:35 AM »

I read in a journal on Russian areal studies not long ago that this programme was more or less a failure. Even if Russia is succeeding in winning a few tens of thousands of emigrants back, it doesn't compensate for the sheer numbers of Russians that are leaving now. I wonder if annual emigration to Israel alone outweighs the people coming in.

Russia's demographic nose-dive and the spectre of rising Islamic influence against Orthodox decline is due entirely to the Russian bureaucracy's fantatical centralism and disregard for minorities. Instead of missionizing non-Christian minorities like the Mari (pagans) and Tatars (Muslim, but often not very), the Russian Orthodox Church directed to some extent by state organizations treats them as if they were the damned enemies of the holy Russian people. As a result, these minorities, which often have higher birthrates than Russians, come to dislike Orthodoxy because they perceive it as just an ethnic Russian thing. The Russian government could take great steps to improve the reputation of Orthodoxy among non-Russians, but it is unwilling to do so because acknowledging the minorities as worthy human beings instead of hostile demographics would mean a devolution from centralism to federalism..
« Last Edit: June 17, 2009, 11:30:31 AM by CRCulver » Logged
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« Reply #2 on: June 18, 2009, 05:32:30 PM »

I think that I read something about this when it first was introduced, and it also sounded like they were receiving a lukewarm reception to it.  Russia still is struggling with a lot of issues, and I wouldn't imagine that most Russians would want to move back to Russia at this time if they are settled somewhere else.  The motivations to go back, I would believe, for most Russians would be to be able to "go home" and to be economically successful.  However, as many of these Russians have been settled for at least a couple of generations somewhere else, there is less of the feeling of "going home", and as the economic and political situations of Russia are shaky, at best, most people motivated by being successful would be hesitant to return either.  The example of the Old Believers in South America would sound like a better fit, being as they have more of a connection of "home" and they have less of the financial motivation.  South America attracted a lot of groups to it back in the day in the hope of establishing more civilisation there, but even many of the Amish colonies gave up there. 

Having dealt with the Ukrainian diaspora for a long time, although many people were enthusiastic about going back in the beginning, the reality of the situation there had many of those changing their minds, though one does see more recent immigrants (less than 15 years or so) going back with skills they learned here.
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« Reply #3 on: June 25, 2009, 04:49:04 PM »

God speed!  laugh

I don't think this movement is of any significance, though. Ukrainian joke:

"-Mykolo!
-What? ("Sho?")
-Russians went to space! ("Moskali u kosmos poletily!")
-All of them? ("Sho, usi?")
-No, just one. ("Ta ni, odyn")
-Phew! If only all did... ("Tju! Ot aby zh usi...")
"
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« Reply #4 on: February 29, 2012, 10:40:46 PM »

Can't stand Old Believers with their beards, headscarves and superior isolationist attitude.  They're like Russian Hasidic Jews (with all due respect to my dear neighbors Hasidic Jews).
« Last Edit: February 29, 2012, 10:46:06 PM by Nadege » Logged
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« Reply #5 on: March 01, 2012, 02:41:55 PM »

Can't stand Old Believers with their beards, headscarves and superior isolationist attitude.  They're like Russian Hasidic Jews (with all due respect to my dear neighbors Hasidic Jews).

I always thought they were more like the Amish.
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« Reply #6 on: March 01, 2012, 02:47:19 PM »

Can't stand Old Believers with their beards, headscarves and superior isolationist attitude.

Beards, headscarves and superior isolationist attitude? Funny, sounds like Orthodoxy to me.
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« Reply #7 on: March 01, 2012, 03:08:38 PM »

Can't stand Old Believers with their beards, headscarves and superior isolationist attitude.  They're like Russian Hasidic Jews (with all due respect to my dear neighbors Hasidic Jews).

Beards and headscarves are Orthodox, why can you not stand them? The superior isolationist attitude is a valid argument, but why the others?
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« Reply #8 on: March 01, 2012, 04:15:52 PM »

Can't stand Old Believers with their beards, headscarves and superior isolationist attitude.  They're like Russian Hasidic Jews (with all due respect to my dear neighbors Hasidic Jews).

Beards and headscarves are Orthodox, why can you not stand them? The superior isolationist attitude is a valid argument, but why the others?
I don't like long unkempt beards and huge headscarves pulled down to the eyebrows, even if they're 100 times Orthodox.
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« Reply #9 on: March 01, 2012, 05:44:56 PM »

Can't stand Old Believers with their beards, headscarves and superior isolationist attitude.  They're like Russian Hasidic Jews (with all due respect to my dear neighbors Hasidic Jews).

Beards and headscarves are Orthodox, why can you not stand them? The superior isolationist attitude is a valid argument, but why the others?
I don't like long unkempt beards and huge headscarves pulled down to the eyebrows, even if they're 100 times Orthodox.

We all must learn to put what we do not like behind the will of he who gave us the glorious gift of the Orthodox Church.
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« Reply #10 on: March 02, 2012, 12:19:51 AM »

You're right...

By the way I looked at your blog - it's beautiful.
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« Reply #11 on: March 02, 2012, 12:39:37 AM »

You're right...

By the way I looked at your blog - it's beautiful.

Also, we should always make sure we take out the log from our own eye before we remove the twig out of our brother's or sister's. 
« Last Edit: March 02, 2012, 12:39:50 AM by serb1389 » Logged

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« Reply #12 on: March 02, 2012, 09:18:20 AM »

You're right...

By the way I looked at your blog - it's beautiful.

Thank you!
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« Reply #13 on: March 02, 2012, 10:54:50 AM »

You're right...

By the way I looked at your blog - it's beautiful.

Thank you!

Unsolicited comment . . .

That font is rough on my eyes at least for reading more than a sentence. Looks nice. Reads difficultly. Could be the logs getting in the way of my vision, who knows.
« Last Edit: March 02, 2012, 10:55:18 AM by orthonorm » Logged

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