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Durham University

School of Modern Languages and Cultures: Russian Studies

Staff in the Department of Russian

Publication details for Professor Andy Byford

2018 (co-authored with Bronnikova, Olga) 'Transnational Exopolities: Politics in Post-Soviet Migration', Revue d'Etudes Comparatives Est-Ouest 49, pp. 5-25

Author(s) from Durham


The long history of emigration from the Russian empire and the Soviet Union has been consistently political in nature. It was mostly governed by political decisions and events, irrespective of whether those migrating were explicitly engaged in political action, embroiled in it by default (e.g. because of class or ethnic belonging), or randomly affected by large-scale political upheavals, such as revolution or war. What is more, politics was never confined simply to the cause or motivation for departure; living elsewhere (especially in the context of the Cold War) remained political as such—it carried with it a politically significant relationship to the country left behind, again, regardless of whether this involved overt forms of political engagement abroad or nothing of the sort.
The collapse of the USSR—another momentous political development— instigated a further massive movement of people, much of it “ethnic”, much of it within the territory of the former Union, or else a continuation of earlier ethnic waves to the West, such as the German or the Jewish, which had begun in the Soviet period (de Tinguy, 2004; Rainer & Rainer, 2003; Brubaker, 1998). However, by the mid-1990s, observers started to speak of the “normalization” of processes of migration from the former Soviet area, by which was meant principally this migration’s de-politicization (Polian, 2005). From this point on, the vast majority of those departing from the region were seen as doing so of their own free will and for broadly economic reasons, essentially in search of a better life elsewhere—a move which in itself did not carry ideological connotations as it had done in Soviet times…