A Diaspora in Diaspora? Russian Returnees Confront the “Homeland”

Hilary Pilkington, Moya Flynn

Abstract


The term “Russian diaspora” is used to refer to the twenty-five million ethnic Russians who in 1991 found themselves politically displaced beyond the borders of the Russian Federation and resident within newly independent states. This paper firstly reviews the problematic “classification” of these communities as a “diaspora.” More specifically, by drawing on narratives of “home” and “homeland” among those Russians “forced” to return to the Russian Federation since 1991, it focuses on a central pillar of diasporic identity: the relationship to “homeland.” By exploring the everyday interactions with and articulated narratives of Russia on “return,” the paper argues that it is upon confrontation with “the homeland” that Russian returnees develop a sense of “otherness” from local Russian residents and a connection with other “returning Russians.” The question is raised as to whether, rather than “coming home,” Russians returning from the other former Soviet republics become a “diaspora in diaspora"?

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