Russian World: Steering Towards Consolidation

On November 5, the Fifth World Conference of Compatriots will open in Moscow. The conference is called on to become an important stage for consolidating the Russian world still further. The upcoming forum is a good opportunity to sum up the results of the work conducted over the past few years, and to chart plans for the future.

The Russian community abroad has about 30 million people and ranks among the four largest communities worldwide. It began to emerge in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and this stage-by-stage process was linked to crucial events of national history.

The First World Conference of Compatriots, held in 2001, became an important milestone in its activities. At that time, memories of the Soviet Union’s breakup, as a result of which over 25 million compatriots found themselves outside Russia, were still fresh in people’s minds. Most compatriots considered it extremely important to carve out their niche in the new conditions, to preserve their ethnic-cultural identity and to maintain ties with their historical Motherland. And the country’s leaders responded to their expectations.

The provision of support to the Russian world is an unconditional foreign-policy priority for Russia, as formalised by Russia’s Foreign Policy Concept. President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly confirmed that we will continue to energetically defend the rights of compatriots, using the entire arsenal of available methods, stipulated by international law, for this purpose. Over the years, we have managed to elevate our work in this area to an entirely new level and to create effective cooperation mechanisms in close contact with representatives of foreign communities. Apart from gaining our own experience, we meticulously assessed practical cooperation between our foreign partners and their ethnic communities abroad.

The Russian world has become more consolidated in the run-up to the Fifth World Conference of Compatriots, and it boasts democratically functioning bodies at the national, regional and global levels. The anti-Russian actions of Washington and Brussels, including the introduction of unilateral restrictions, have not impacted our dialogue with communities that have duly responded to these developments and voiced their support to Russia.

The Russian world is an important resource of strengthening the atmosphere of trust and mutual understanding in relations between Russia and countries where our compatriots live. We continue to explain to our partners that the existence of Russian communities in their states is an important factor for expanding mutually beneficial and multifaceted ties in various areas.

The Government Commission for the Affairs of Compatriots Abroad coordinates this work. Its 2013-2014 programme was implemented completely. The Russian Government has approved a new programme for 2015-2017 which is now being implemented. As usual, Russian regions are contributing to joint efforts.

Russia is a multiethnic country, and we constantly focus on support for the traditions of the Russian people and the Tatars, Jews and other ethnic groups of Russia, while implementing this programme. For example, there are plans to hold a European Sabantui holiday in the United Kingdom, in cooperation with the World Tatar Congress, which unites representatives of the multi-million strong Tatar communities of Russia and other countries. The Alliance of Tatars in Europe, established as part of the World Tatar Congress with the support of the Government Commission for the Affairs of Compatriots Abroad, held its second meeting in Paris in October 2015. In 2016, Kazan is to host the Seventh World Forum of Tatar Youth, and there are plans to provide organisational and financial assistance to this event.

The Russian Foreign Ministry provides all-round assistance to the Fund to Support and Protect the Rights of Compatriots Living Abroad, established in January 2013. The Fund has won a reputation as a popular mechanism for defending the legitimate interests of compatriots and neutralising attempts to discriminate against them, primarily in the Baltic states. The Fund is making a useful contribution to combating the revision of the results of World War II, the glorification of the Nazis and their accomplices, and any forms and manifestations of xenophobia, aggressive nationalism and chauvinism.

Annual themed forums are playing an important role in uniting the compatriot movement. The 2013 global themed conference, Compatriots and Their Contribution to World Culture, involving hundreds of delegates, famous cultural figures and artists, sparked great interest. The themed global conference, World War I and the Destinies of Russian Compatriots, became the main event of 2014. A monument to Russian soldiers who were killed during World War I was unveiled in this connection.

Certainly, conference delegates will focus on the celebrations of the 70th anniversary of the Great Victory that became a powerful consolidating factor for Russian communities. We are sincerely grateful to them for their contribution to holding the celebrations, for the fact that they are not forgetting about the heroic pages of our history, for their agreement on the need to defend the truthful interpretation of events of that period and for their active involvement in various projects, including the St. George Ribbon and the Immortal Regiment. In May 2015, the Alexander Solzhenitsyn House of the Russian Abroad hosted the first international academic conference, Russian Emigrants in the Struggle against Nazism. During those dark years, most Russian emigrants supported their historical Motherland, denounced collaborationism and made a weighty contribution to the defeat of Nazism.

The implementation of the State Programme to Assist the Voluntary Relocation to the Russian Federation of Compatriots Residing Abroad proves the effectiveness of our efforts. In all, over 367,000 people have relocated to Russia under this programme. Ukrainian developments are actively influencing this process. A total of 1.2 million Ukrainians have entered Russia as a result of the war unleashed by Kiev in Donbass. Ukrainian citizens account for over 50 per cent of all compatriots who have relocated to Russia.

It is hard to overestimate the role of media outlets in our cooperation with these communities. The work of the WARP Foundation for Cooperation with Russian-Language Media is in particularly high demand. The Internet portals of Ruvek and the Fund to Support and Protect the Rights of Compatriots Living Abroad are working successfully. The Russky Vek (Russian Age) magazine, as well as three regional magazines for compatriots – Baltic World, Unity in Diversity and Shire Krug (Join Us) – continue to come off the press. Currently, there are over 3,000 foreign Russian-language media outlets.

We see our cooperation with the communities’ youth wing to be very important. We have started holding many more youth conferences and conventions in Russia and abroad, as well as organising trips for young compatriots to Russia’s historical landmarks. In 2013, the Government Commission for the Affairs of Compatriots Abroad organised the Oh Sport - You Are Peace! forum of young compatriots in Moscow. In 2014, Kazan hosted the Young People, Science, Innovations meeting. Sofia annually hosts the Young People Are Building the Future forum for compatriots from European countries and post-Soviet republics that involves young people from all continents.

We are not planning to rest on our laurels. Much work lies ahead, and we will discuss this work in great detail at the upcoming conference. It will involve over 400 delegates of compatriot organisations from 97 countries, heads of federal government agencies, specialised ministries and departments, and a number of Russian regions, as well as other influential guests. Eight people from eight countries will receive the Honorary Compatriot Badge and the Honorary Certificate of the Government Commission for the Affairs of Compatriots Abroad.

I am confident that we will successfully accomplish our objectives through joint efforts in the interests of unlocking the huge potential of the Russian world still further.

This article was originally published in Russian in Rossiyskaya Gazeta and in English on
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.