The Russian propaganda machine has kicked into high gear these days, as it tries to convince the world (and its own citizens) that Russia’s economy is fine, there are no Russian soldiers fighting in Ukraine, and today, to top it all off, that Russia is a better place to live than the rest of Europe.
The main propaganda tool of the Soviet state — the news outlet Pravda — remains a favorite method of mass disinformation in Russia today. Pravda.Ru published an interview on March 4th with the executive director of the nonprofit organization “Russian European Community” Sergei Petrosov who sings the praises of Russia as a safe and prosperous place to live. An unsuspecting person might actually believe Petrosov as he waxes eloquent about the many wonders of Mother Russia, at least until he makes the preposterous claim that “Now, Russia is a lot freer than the majority of European countries. This applies to expressing one’s views on various issues, expressing opinions about the government and so on.”
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“Russia takes care of its compatriots”
When asked about the quality of life of Russians who moved to Europe, Petrosov was less than sanguine, noting that many experience considerable difficulties. According to Petrosov, the good news is Mother Russia always takes care of her own. “Fortunately, Russia takes care of its compatriots. A special foundation was established to support and legally protect Russian compatriots abroad. The organization helps such people. This is our primary goal. We opened an office in Brussels, there are centers in other countries too, where people can come and receive consulting services free of charge.”
Problems faced by Russians emigrating to Europe
Petrosov highlights several problems faced by most Russian emigres to Europe. “Basic problems are primarily associated with the fact that they do not know a foreign language. This leads to a lack of understanding of how the legal, administrative, educational and other systems work… They have big problems when it comes to employment and education, they may have conflicts with neighbors, difficulties with accessing medical services and so on.”
In typical Russian fashion, Petrosov blithely asserts blatantly false, xenophobic propaganda like it was established fact. “A psychologist, who works with divorce cases between Russia and foreign nationals, told me once that the mentality of Russian and European people is so different that it is nearly impossible for mixed families to exist, unless the foreigner had an experience of living in Russia.”
“I would not be so dramatic about the situation. I know from my own circle of friends and acquaintances that many Russian women find very good, loyal and affectionate spouses in Belgium and other European countries. They have very good families, they raise children. Yet, they have different problems.
“Nevertheless, the problem of divorces does exist, of course. I would say that it is associated with the way the Russian people were raised in their home country. Many people were raised thinking that life is so much better in the West. Many Russian women were dreaming of marrying a foreign man – not for love, but simply to solve some of their problems. They had no idea of what it is like to live in a foreign country.”
Russian migration policy
When asked about Russians migrating abroad, Petrosov focused on the need for a national migration policy. “What is happening now is a mess. During the times of the Soviet Union, it was obligatory for a Russian person to have a consular registration in the country of arrival.”
He explains: “I do not mean that borders should be closed. I believe that it is direct responsibility of any state to know whereabouts and occupation of citizens. Unfortunately, today we have the problem that stemmed from the 1990s, when freedom was seen as total absence of authority. Standards for consular registration were abolished. As a result, Russian consulate offices and governments have no information of how many people stay in foreign countries. For some people, it can be very difficult to return to Russia because of expired documents.”
He argues for a consular registration program: “I am convinced that those people, who leave Russia to a foreign country for permanent residence, must have consulate registration. This would be enough to know the quantity of such people, who they are and where they live, how to contact them and help them if something happens.”
What kind of people should move to Europe?
When asked “What kind of people do you think should move to Europe and who should stay?”, Petrosov replied with a discouraging warning: “During my short life in emigration, I can see and feel that life has been getting worse and worse. The much talked-about crisis is here in real life. Life does not get better, it becomes harder. Unemployment is a very serious problem. It’s hard for many not only to succeed, but at least to save what they have. The standard of living has been declining, especially for migrants. I do not think that people should move to a foreign country recklessly. Any such move must be very well motivated and calculated in advance.”