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The term Russian diaspora refers to the global community of ethnic Russians. The largest number of Russians living outside Russiamarker can be found in former republics of the Soviet Unionmarker;Russian-speaking populations also exist in the USA, in the European Union and in Israelmarker. According to Russian government data, there are almost ten million Russians in Central Asian countries (over half of them in Kazakhstanmarker see Russians in Kazakhstan), 11 million in Ukrainemarker (see Russians in Ukraine), about one million in the independent republics of the Caucasus, 1.3 million in Belarusmarker, 200,000 in Moldovamarker, and a million and a half in the three Baltic states that were formerly part of the Soviet Union (800,000 in Latviamarker, 330,000 in Estoniamarker and 340,000 in Lithuaniamarker). The rest of the European Union is home to roughly 200,000 Russian speakers; as many as 850,000 live in the United Statesmarker. Many Russians also live in the United Kingdommarker (300,000), Canadamarker (158,850), Brazilmarker (70,000), Chilemarker (70,000), and Argentinamarker (50,000), as well as Australia and New Zealandmarker (20,000). Russians are officially one of the 56 ethnic minorities in Chinamarker, many Russians live in Mongoliamarker, although some left the country following the withdrawal of economic aid and collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.


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) is used to describe people for whom Russian language is the native language regardless whether they are ethnic Russians or Ukrainianmarker, Tatars, Jews, Chechens etc.


The earliest significant wave of 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.

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 emigres. 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 carried on a heavily political character.

A smaller group of Russians (often referred to by Russians as the Second wave of Russian emigration had also left during World War II, they were refugees, 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 post-World War II period, the largest Russian communities in the emigration were to be found in Germanymarker, Canadamarker, the U.S.marker, United Kingdom and Australia.

In the 1970's a number of Russian-speaking Soviet citizens (predominantly Jews) emigrated to Israelmarker and the U.S. due to political and economic reasons, and also to escape antisemitism. Some Soviet dissidents were forced to emigrate by KGBmarker which threatened them with arrest. This group is often called The Third wave of Russian emigration.

Immediately before and after the collapse 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 Germanymarker have received the largest shares of Russian speaking immigrants (Israel - predominantly Jews, Germany - predominantly ethnic Germans and Jews) in the nineties, because of incentives institutionalized by the governments of both countries.

It should be also noted that before and during the Soviet period ethnic Russians migrated from Russia proper throughout the area of the former Russian Empiremarker and the Soviet Unionmarker, sometimes encouraged to re-settle in borderlands by Tsarist and later Soviet government. That is why after the Baltic states regained independence and after the dissolution of the USSRmarker many ethnic Russians found themselves in the independent states other than Russia. As noted above, they represent the largest number of ethnic Russians living outside Russia.

By country

Country Russian population
5,114 (2007 cenus)
3,514 (2002)

Former USSR

Ethnic Russians in former Soviet Union states in 1994

Today largest ethnic Russian diasporas outside of Russia live in former Soviet states such as Ukrainemarker (about 8 million), Kazakhstanmarker (about 4.5 million), Belarusmarker (about 1.2 million), Latviamarker (about 700,000), Uzbekistanmarker (about 650, 000) and Kyrgyzstanmarker (about 600,000). There are also small Russian communities in the Balkans, Eastern and Central European nations such as Germanymarker, as well as in Chinamarker and Latin America. These communities may identify themselves either as Russians or citizens of these countries, or both, to varying degrees.

The governments and the majority public opinion in Estoniamarker and Latviamarker, which has the largest share of ethnic Russians among the Baltic countries, hold the view that many of the ethnic Russians arrived in these countries as part of a Soviet-era colonization and deliberate Russification by changing the countries' ethnic balance. Among the many Russians who arrived during the Soviet era most came there for economic reasons, or in some cases, because they were ordered to move.

People who had arrived in Latviamarker and Estoniamarker during the Soviet era, mostly Russians, were only provided with an option to acquire naturalised citizenship which required passing a test demonstrating knowledge of the national language as well as knowledge of the country's history and customs. The language issue is still contentious, particularly in Latvia, where ethnic Russians have protested against plans to educate them in the official language instead of Russian. Since 1992, Estonia has naturalized some 137,000 residents of undefined citizenship. 118,800 person (mainly ethnic Russians) or 8.7 per cent of the total population, are of undetermined citizenship. In Latvia, non-citizens are approximately 415 000 or 17 % of the population.

According to a report by Amnesty International, there are "disproportionately high levels of unemployment among the Russian-speaking linguistic minority" in Estonia. "This in turn has further contributed to social exclusion and vulnerability to other human rights abuses. In consequence, many from this group are effectively impeded from the full enjoyment of their economic, social and cultural rights".

Both the European Union and the Council of Europe, as well as the Russian government, expressed their concern during the 1990s about minority rights in several countries, most notably Latviamarker. In Moldovamarker, the Russian-dominated Transnistriamarker region broke away from government control amid fears the country would soon reunite with Romaniamarker. In June 2006 Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the plan to introduce national policy aiming at encouraging ethnic Russian immigration to Russia.

In Estoniamarker, Nochnoy Dozor is a political pressure group made up mainly of ethnic Russians non-citizens living in Estoniamarker. The group was set up in the summer of 2006 to rally against the removal of the monument to the Bronze Soldier of Tallinnmarker from the heart of the Estonian capital, Tallinnmarker.

East Asia

Russians are one of the 56 ethnic groups officially recognized by the People's Republic of Chinamarker. There are approximately 15,600, living mostly in northern Xinjiang, and also in Inner Mongolia and Heilongjiangmarker. In the 1920s Harbinmarker 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, Tianjinmarker. By the 1930s, Shanghai's Russian community had grown to more than 25,000.

There are also smaller numbers of Russians in Japan and Russians in Korea. The Japanese government dispute Russia's claim to the Kuril Islandsmarker, 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 settlement in Mexicomarker 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 Californiamarker the state facing Californiamarker, USA in the 1880s-1920s to escape persecution from Tsarist Russia. The Molokans received a land grant in the Guadalupe Valleymarker south of Ensenadamarker to establish a few villages and held onto a Russian culture for a few decades before they were abandoned and 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 he was assassinated by Soviet agents in 1940.


  1. (2001 census)
  2. (1999 census)
  3. The numbers collected by the National Census are based on the country of origin and include among ethnic Russians significant amount of Jews, Ukrainians, Tatars and other people who stated Russia as the country of their ancestry
  4. (2000)
  5. (1999)
  6. (2007)
  7. (2005)
  8. (1999)
  9. 13.5% of the population -
  10. (2007)
  11. Turkmen pledge on Russian rights, BBC News
  12. (2001)
  13. (2004)
  14. (2005)
  15. (2003)
  16. Russians in Multicultural Canada
  17. CIA - The World Factbook
  18. Southern Caucasus: Facing Integration Problems, Ethnic Russians Long For Better Life
  19. [1]
  20. Embajada de la Federación de Rusia en la República de Chile. Los primeros rusos en Chile.
  21. (2000)
  22. (2002 census)
  23. Georgia: Ethnic Russians Feel Insulated From Tensions, Radio Free Europe
  24. Category No. 2068.0 - 2006 Census Tables
  25. Créditos
  26. 2005
  27. Russians in the United Kingdom
  28. [2]
  29. (1956 census, US govt. estimate)
  30. (2002 census)
  31. Informatii utile | Agentia Nationala pentru Intreprinderi Mici si Mijlocii
  32. (2000 census)
  33. (2002 census)
  34. (2002 census)
  35. Demographics of Greece
  36. [3]
  37. [4]
  38. Joshua project - Ethnic groups of Sweden
  39. Russians in Japan
  40. [5]
  41. Immigration_to_Portugal
  42. (2002 census)
  43. (2009 census) []
  44. Joshua Project - Ethnic People Groups of Venezuela
  45. [6]
  46. [7]
  47. Date census 2002
  48. (2006 census)
  49. (2002 census)
  50. Orthodox Church of the South Africa
  51. [8]
  52. [9]
  53. [10]
  54. Robert Greenall, Russians left behind in Central Asia, BBC News, 23 November 2005.
  55. Uzbekistan: People: Ethnic Groups. World Factbook of CIA
  56. KYRGYZSTAN: Economic disparities driving inter-ethnic conflict
  57. Latvia: Ethnic Russians Divided On Moscow's Repatriation Scheme
  58. Petition of Nochnoy Dozor
  59. Tales of Old Shanghai - cultures - Russians

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