Dreaming of Russia: Western Ideological Emigration to Russia

April 8, 2024
  • John Chrobak

    The George Washington University
John Chrobak unveils the plans for an "American Village" in Russia, a haven for conservative Western expats disillusioned by liberal values, sparking debates on cultural and ideological migration.
In early 2023, reports began to circulate of a plan to build an American village for western expats interested in moving to Russia. According to the reports, the village would welcome approximately 200 families, ideally orthodox believers, who were frustrated with life in the liberal west. The details of who is organizing this project, what sort of individuals are interested in joining, and what attention the project has managed to attract from Russian authorities reveals the concrete results of Russia’s efforts to present itself as a defender of traditional family values.

For a small subset of conservative Westerners, life in Western liberal democracy exists in conflict with their firmly held beliefs. Such individuals may move because they find themselves ideologically opposed to what they believe to be imposed acceptance of so-called “gender ideology.” Many specifically cite their opposition to what they describe as the promotion of LGBTQ+ “ideology” in Western schools and society at large, expressing concern that these ideas may be forced upon their children. For these migrants, Russia’s official opposition to LGBTQ+ rights and legislation prohibiting the “promotion” of LGBTQ+ values to children and adults appears as a positive quality. Others are less concerned with religious reasons but may still wish to relocate due to fundamental opposition to Western foreign policy practices.

The American Village project promises to be a home for such individuals. Organized primarily by Tim Kirby, an American-born now Russian citizen from Cleveland, Ohio, the project promises expats their own dacha in a gated community outside of Moscow. Details on the project are rapidly changing but it does appear that the homes (and the land) would cost 14 million rubles and that the village would be “American” in the philosophical sense; a new village would not be constructed from scratch but a group of Western expats would live near each other within an established Russian dacha community. The project also has the support of Timur Beslangurov, a Russian immigration lawyer who has helped members of the community to navigate the Russian immigration system, and Fr. Joseph Gleason, an American Russian Orthodox priest who has lived in Russia with his family since 2017. Together with a third American expat, Joseph Rose, and his wife Svetlana Anokhina-Rose, the group has traveled across Russia to promote western ideological emigration to Russia before multiple audiences.

The group has testified before the Moscow Civic Chamber and has spoken on two panels at the Saint Petersburg Economic Forum. Their messaging to Russian authorities and the public is clear: there are productive Westerners, ideologically in harmony with Russia’s traditional conservative values who seek to emigrate, and Russia should work to change its immigration laws to facilitate their move. To that extent, they have managed to secure an exemption from Russia immigration quotas to facilitate the settlement of migrants.

The project remains small in scope, but the outsized attention that it has garnished from Russian authorities is notable. If nothing else, the project has successfully united a community of individuals interested in permanently moving to Russia for ideological reasons and it has successfully shown the Russian government one thing: at a fundamental level, for some audiences, Russia’s positioning as a defender of traditional family values works.
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