Staunton, January 31 – Over the last five years, something remarkable but often unremarked has been happening in the Baltic states: thousands of Russians, faced with oppression in their homeland, have fled to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania where they are not only making a home but working to transform the political situation in Russia itself.
One Russian who passed through Riga suggests that as a result the Latvian capital has become “an intellectual Hong Kong” for Russia much as Hong Kong has for China in recent years and as Riga itself did for the Soviet Union in the 1920s and 1930s (svoboda.org/content/transcript/27354348.html
In contrast to most media discussions of the phenomenon of Russian flight, the two journalists provide statistical information from each to back up their arguments, thus highlighting a trend that undercuts Moscow propaganda about the Baltic countries and shows that Russians oppressed at home increasingly view these three NATO and EU countries as safe havens.
In Estonia, 7731 Russian citizens live on the basis of a temporary residence permit. (Those with permanent residence permits are mostly ethnic Russians who have been in Estonia since the times of the Soviet occupation. Since 2013, 3474 Russians have received temporary residence permits there, and 5319 have extended theirs.
Troitsky is perhaps “the most notable Russian ‘émigré’” in Estonia, the Delfi journalists say. But there are many others: Filipp Bakhtin the former editor of the Russian version of “Esquire,” Filipp Dzyadko, the former editor of “Bolshoy gorod,” actresses Chulpan Khamatova, Viktoriya Tolstoganova, and Alisa Khasanova, actor Yevgeny Stychkin, director Boris Khlebnikov “and many others” from the world of art and the media.
Just under a year ago, ecologist Yevgeniya Chirikova who became famous for her defense of the Khimki forest, fled to Tallinn to escape persecution in Russia. Blogger Maksim Yefimov who got in trouble at home for criticizing the Russian Orthodox Church has had political refugee status in Estonia since 2012.
And the list of Russians who have decided to make Estonia their home goes on and on,