The term Russian diaspora refers to the global community of ethnic Russians, usually more specifically those who maintain some kind of connection, even if ephemeral, to the land of their ancestors and maintain their feeling of Russian national identity within a local community.
The term "Russian speaking (Russophone) diaspora" (русскоговорящая диаспора, russkogovoryaschaya diaspora) is used to describe people for whom Russian language is the native language regardless whether they are ethnic Russians or Ukrainians, Tatars, Jews, Chechens, etc.
The earliest significant ethnic Russian emigration took place in the wake of the Old Believer schism in the 17th century (see, for example, Lipovans). On some occasions later ethnic Russian communities, such as Doukhobors, also emigrated as religious dissidents fleeing the central authority.
Ethnic Russians migrated from Russia proper throughout the extent of the Russian Empire, and later the Soviet Union, sometimes at the encouragement of the government. After the Belavezha Accords, 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 during a short time period in the wake of the October Revolution and Civil War, known collectively as the White émigrés. It is also referred to as the "first wave," even though previous emigrations took place, as it is the first wave to have come in the wake of the communist revolution and 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 were to be found in Germany, Canada, the U.S., United Kingdom and Australia.
In the 1970s a number of Russian-speaking Soviet citizens (predominantly Jews) emigrated to Israel and the U.S. due to political and economic reasons, and also to escape antisemitism. Some Soviet dissidents were forced to emigrate by the KGB, which threatened them with arrest. This group is often called the "third wave" of Russian emigration.
Immediately before and after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, significant emigration of citizens of the Russian Federation to various parts of the world has taken place, mostly for economic reasons. Israel and Germany have received the largest shares of Russian speaking immigrants (Israel, predominantly Jews; Germany, predominantly ethnic Germans and Jews) in the 1990s, because of incentives institutionalized by the governments of both countries.
Statistics compiled using local country statistics or best available estimates. Note that the percentages may not add up due to varying census and estimate dates.
Today largest ethnic Russian diasporas outside of Russia live in former Soviet states such as Ukraine (about 8 million), Kazakhstan (about 4.5 million), Belarus (about 1.2 million), Latvia (about 620,000), Uzbekistan (about 650, 000) and Kyrgyzstan (about 600,000).
Their situation varied widely, from no perceivable change in status, as in Belarus, to becoming foreigners or non-citizens as in Estonia and Latvia 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.
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.
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. 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.
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 held onto a 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 1920s, where Trotsky himself was assassinated by Soviet agents in 1940.
There are also small Russian communities in Eastern and Central European nations such as Germany and in the Balkans. These communities may identify themselves either as Russians or citizens of these countries, or both, to varying degrees.
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