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Russian diaspora

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Russian diaspora

The term Russian diaspora refers to the global community of ethnic Russians. The term "Russian speaking (Russophone) diaspora" (русскоговорящая диаспора, russkogovoryaschaya diaspora) is used to describe people for whom Russian language is the native language, regardless of whether they are ethnic Russians or, for example, Ukrainians, Tatars, Jews or Chechens. The number of ethnic Russians living outside the Russian Federation is estimated at roughly between 20 and 30 million people (depending on the notion of "ethnicity" used), the majority of them in countries of the Former Soviet Union; about 30 million native speakers of Russian are estimated to live outside the Russian Federation (compared to 137 million living within the Russian Federation).[1]

The largest overseas community is found in the United States, estimated at some 3 million people. The next largest communities of Russian speakers outside the Former Soviet Union are found in Germany and in Israel, both of unknown size but estimated in the five-figure range. In addition, in Canada, Brazil and Argentina, several hundred thousand citizens each identify as of partial Russian descent.


  • History 1
  • Statistics 2
    • Former USSR 2.1
    • East Asia 2.2
    • Americas 2.3
    • Other 2.4
  • References 3


Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois Russian Cemetery near Paris, the foremost necropolis of the White émigrés.

A significant ethnic Russian emigration took place in the wake of the Old Believer schism in the 17th century (for example, the Lipovans, who migrated southwards around 1700). Later ethnic Russian communities, such as the Doukhobors (who emigrated to the Transcaucasus from 1841 and onwards to Canada from 1899), also emigrated as religious dissidents fleeing centrist authority.

Ethnic Russians migrated from Russia proper throughout the Russian Empire, and later the Soviet Union, sometimes at the encouragement of the government. After the Belavezha Accords of December 1991, many ethnic Russians found themselves in newly independent states outside of Russia, notably the Baltic states, Ukraine, and in Central Asia. They represent the largest number of ethnic Russians living outside Russia. Russians distinguish these "migrations," however, from several bursts of emigration in the twentieth century.

A sizable wave of ethnic Russians emigrated in the wake of the October Revolution of 1917 and Civil War of 1917-1922. They became known collectively as the White émigrés. This emigration is also referred to as the "first wave", even though previous emigrations had taken place, as it was comprised the first emigrants to have left in the wake of the communist revolution, and because it exhibited a heavily political character.

A smaller group of Russians, often referred to by Russians as the "second wave" of Russian emigration, left during World War II. They were refugees, Soviet POWs, eastern workers, or surviving veterans of the Russian Liberation Army and other anti-communist armed units who had served under the German command and evaded forced repatriation. In the immediate postwar period, the largest Russian communities in the emigration settled in Germany, Canada, the U.S., United Kingdom and Australia.

At the beginning of the 1990s, Russia experienced one of the most dramatic periods in its history; as a result, the former administrative Russian republic of the Soviet Union became a separate sovereign state. The collapse of the USSR resulted in an upsurge of international migrations to and from Russia, and the overwhelming number of them involve population movements between Russia and other post-Soviet states.[2] Israel and Germany received the largest shares of Russian-speaking immigrants (Israel, predominantly Jews; Germany, predominantly ethnic Germans and Jews) in the 1990s, because of incentives provided by the governments of both countries.


Some 20 to 40 million ethnic Russians are estimated to live outside the bounds of the Russian Federation (depending on the definition of "ethnicity"). Official census data often only considers nationality. The number of native speakers of the Russian language who reside outside of the Russian Federation is estimated as close to 30 million by SIL Ethnologue.[3]

In the Former Soviet Union
Country ethnic Russians
Ukraine 8.3 million (2001)[4]
 Kazakhstan 4.5 million (1999)[5]
 Uzbekistan 1.6 million[6]
Belarus 0.8 million[7]
 Kyrgyzstan 0.6 million[8][9]
Latvia 0.57 million[10]
Moldova 0.37 million (2004)[11]
Estonia 0.31 million[12]
 Turkmenistan 0.3 million [13]
Lithuania 0.18 million[14]
 Azerbaijan 0.14 million[15][16]
 Tajikistan 68,200[17]
 Georgia 67,671[18][19]
 Armenia 14,660[20]
Outside of the Former Soviet Union
Country ethnic Russians
United States 3.1 million[21]
Germany 1.213 million[22]
Israel 938,500[23]
Canada 550,520[24]
Brazil 200.000[25]
Finland 50,000 (2009)[26]
France 200,000 to 500,000 [27]
 Australia 67,550[28]
 United Arab Emirates 56,600[29]
 Cuba 50,200[29]
 United Kingdom c. 35,000 (2013)[30]
 Venezuela 34,600[31]
 Austria 30,249[32]
 Romania 30,000[33]
 Belgium c. 20,000[34]
Italy 20,000 (2006)[35]
 China 15,600[36]
 Bulgaria 15,595[37]
 Norway 13,914[38]
 New Zealand 10,235[39]
 Qatar 5,000[40]
 Serbia 3,290[41]

Former USSR

Ethnic Russians in former Soviet Union states according to the most recent census

Today the largest ethnic Russian diasporas outside of Russia exist in former Soviet states such as Ukraine (about 8 million), Kazakhstan (about 4.5 million),[42] Belarus (about 1.2 million), Latvia (about 620,000), Uzbekistan (about 650, 000)[43] and Kyrgyzstan (about 600,000).[44]

The situation faced by ethnic Russian diasporas varied widely. In Belarus there was no perceivable change in status. While in Estonia and Latvia[45] they were labelled foreigners or non-citizens if none of their ancestors had been a citizen of these countries before Soviet occupation and if they did not request Russian Federation citizenship during the period it was available.

East Asia

Russians (eluosizu) are one of the 56 ethnic groups officially recognized by the People's Republic of China. There are approximately 15,600, living mostly in northern Xinjiang, and also in Inner Mongolia and Heilongjiang. In the 1920s Harbin was flooded with 100,000 to 200,000 Russian White émigrés fleeing from Russia. Some Harbin Russians moved to other cities such as Shanghai, Beijing, and Tianjin. By the 1930s, Shanghai's Russian community had grown to more than 25,000.[46]

There are also smaller numbers of Russians in Japan and in Korea. The Japanese government disputes Russia's claim to the Kuril Islands, which were annexed by the USSR in 1945 after Japan's surrender in World War II. The Red Army expelled all Japanese from the island chain, which was resettled by Russians and other Soviet nationalities. A few Russians also settled in the Korean peninsula in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.[47] The population of Russians in Singapore was estimated at no more than a thousand by the local Russian embassy in 2008; they are a largely professional and business-oriented expatriate community, and count among their numbers more than a hundred company owners or local heads of branches of large Russian multinationals.[48]


Russian settlement in Mexico was minimal but well documented in the 19th and early 20th centuries. A breakaway sect of Old Believers of the Russian Orthodox Church, the Molokans arrived in Baja California in the 1880s-1920s to escape persecution from Tsarist Russia. The Molokans received a land grant in the Guadalupe Valley south of Ensenada to establish a few villages and maintained their Russian culture for a few decades before they were abandoned; cemeteries bearing Cyrillic letters remain. Dissenters of the official Soviet Communist party like the Trotskyites along with leader Leon Trotsky found refuge in Mexico in the 1930s, where Trotsky himself was assassinated by Ramon Mercader in 1940.

Russian Orthodox Church in Belgrade, Serbia


Finland borders Russia directly (Finland was autonomous Russian Grand Duchy 1809-1917, but not part of Soviet Union) and has 31,000 Russian Federation citizens, which amounts to 0.56% of the population,[49] and 66,000 (1.2%) speak Russian language as their mother tongue.

There are also small Russian communities in other European nations. These communities may identify themselves either as Russians or citizens of these countries, or both, to varying degrees.


  1. ^ native speakers of Russian do not necessarily identify as ethnically Russian; notably, in Ukraine, 5.5 million native speakers of Russian self-identified as ethnic Ukrainians in the 2000 census (see demographics of Ukraine); in Israel, up to a million Russian speakers may or may not identify as "ethnic Russians" on top of self-identification as Jewish.
  2. ^ Uma A. Segal Professor of Social Work University of Missouri; Doreen Elliott Professor of Social Work University of Texas at Arlington; Nazneen S. Mayadas Professor Emerita University of Texas at Arlington (13 December 2009). Immigration Worldwide : Policies, Practices, and Trends: Policies, Practices, and Trends. Oxford University Press. p. 47.  
  3. ^ reporting 137 million native speakers within the Russian federation as of 2010, out of 167 million native speakers worldwide. Lewis, M. Paul, Gary F. Simons, and Charles D. Fennig (eds.). 2014. Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Seventeenth edition. Dallas, Texas: SIL International
  4. ^ out of 8.3 million Ukrainian residents who identified as ethnic Russians, 0.3 million identified Ukrainian as their primary language; conversely, out of 37.5 million who identified as ethnic Ukrainians, 5.5 million identified Russian as their primary language. (2001 census)
  5. ^ (1999 census)
  6. ^ "Демоскоп Weekly - Приложение. Справочник статистических показателей.". Retrieved 5 April 2015. 
  7. ^ CIA Factbook in 2014 estimates 8.3% ethnic Russians out of a population of 9.61 million.
  8. ^ "Демографические тенденции, формирование наций и межэтнические отношения в Киргизии". Retrieved 5 April 2015. 
  9. ^ "The World Factbook". Retrieved 5 April 2015. 
  10. ^ CIA Factbook in 2014 estimates 26.2% ethnic Russians out of a population of 2.16 million.
  11. ^ 369,896 or 9.39% of total population according to the 2004 census
  12. ^ CIA Factbook in 2014 estimates 24.8% ethnic Russians out of a population of 1.26 million. (2013)
  13. ^ Turkmen pledge on Russian rights, BBC News
  14. ^ 5.8% of the total population according to the Lithuanian census of 2011.
  15. ^ "The World Factbook". Retrieved 5 April 2015. 
  16. ^ "Southern Caucasus: Facing Integration Problems, Ethnic Russians Long For Better Life". Retrieved 5 April 2015. 
  17. ^ "Итоги переписи населения Таджикистана 2000 года: национальный, возрастной, половой, семейный и образовательный составы". Retrieved 5 April 2015. 
  18. ^ "Statistics - Mathematical Insight". Retrieved 5 April 2015. 
  19. ^ Georgia: Ethnic Russians Feel Insulated From Tensions, Radio Free Europe
  20. ^ (2002 census)
  21. ^ self-reported ethnicity as of 2007; 0.4 million Russian-born.
  22. ^ Russian migrants residing in Germany—this includes current and former citizens of the Russian Federation as well as former citizens of the Soviet Union.
  23. ^ [3]
  24. ^ self-reported ethnic origin as of 2011; 107,300 gave Russian as single ethnic origin; an additional 443,220 gave Russian as one of several ethnic origins im "multiple ethnic origins responses". [4]
  25. ^ (2005)
  26. ^ Immigrants and the difficulties of integration and getting into the cultural mainstream. "According to the Population Register Centre, a total of 155,660 foreign citizens lived in Finland at the end of 2009. The largest language-groups are Russian-speakers (51,683), Estonian (25,096), English (12,063), Somali (11,681), Arabic (9,682), Kurdish (7,135), Chinese (7,078), and Albanian (6,736)." An estimated 70,000 people in Finland speak Russian as their first language.
  27. ^ """La communauté russe en France est "éclectique. Retrieved 5 April 2015. 
  28. ^ "Australian Bureau of Statistics". Retrieved 5 April 2015. 
  29. ^ a b "Créditos". Retrieved 5 April 2015. 
  30. ^ "Nationality and country of birth by age, sex and qualifications Jan - Dec 2013 (Excel sheet 60Kb)".  . 35,000 Russian nationals and 39,000 Russian-born residents estimated for 2013 (based on 2011 data).
  31. ^ Joshua Project. "Country - Venezuela :: Joshua Project Joshua Project". Retrieved 5 April 2015. 
  32. ^ Statistik Austria. "STATISTIK AUSTRIA - Bevölkerung nach Staatsangehörigkeit und Geburtsland". Retrieved 5 April 2015. 
  33. ^ Informatii utile | Agentia Nationala pentru Intreprinderi Mici si Mijlocii
  34. ^ Belgian residents from the ex-USSR countries that resided in Belgium in 2008: 21,655. An estimate of 50,000 was given by diaspora organisation, based on extrapolation of naturalization data, online polls among their members, and a loose definition of "Russian" as anyone who has been exposed to the Soviet education system or who speaks Russian.
  35. ^ 20,459 citizens of the Russian Federation registered in Italy as of 2006
  36. ^ (2000 census)
  37. ^ "National Statistical Institute". Retrieved 5 April 2015. 
  38. ^ Statistics Norway
  39. ^ "3. Facts and figures – Russians, Ukrainians and Baltic peoples – Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand". Retrieved 5 April 2015. 
  40. ^ "Qatar's population - by nationality". bq Magazine. Retrieved 5 April 2015. 
  41. ^ Миграциони профил Републике Србије за 2013. годину
  42. ^ Robert Greenall, Russians left behind in Central Asia, BBC News, 23 November 2005.
  43. ^ Uzbekistan: People: Ethnic Groups. World Factbook of CIA
  44. ^ John Pike. "KYRGYZSTAN: Economic disparities driving inter-ethnic conflict". Retrieved 5 April 2015. 
  45. ^ "Russians beyond the Limits of Russia", O.I. Vendina, Geography newspaper, no. 11, 2001 (Russian)
  46. ^ Tales of Old Shanghai - cultures - Russians
  47. ^ Clark, Donald N. (1994), "Vanished Exiles: The Prewar Russian Community in Korea", in Dae-Sook Suh, Korean Studies: New Pacific Currents, University of Hawaii Press, pp. 41–58,  
  48. ^ Drankina, Yekaterina (2008-03-10), "Сингапурский десант", Kommersant Den'gi 9 (664), retrieved 2009-07-30 
  49. ^ Tilastokeskus: Ulkomaiden kansalaiset (Statistics Finland: Foreign Citizenship) in Finnish, 2013
  • Russia Abroad: A comprehensive guide to Russian Emigration after 1917 Biographical databases. Photoarchive. Research results accompanied by original documents, paper extracts.
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