Russia Abroad vs Russian Diaspora in the Interwar Period




Russian emigration in the 1920s–1930s, diaspora, Russia Abroad, refugees, identity, mythmaking, M. N. Girs, Council of Former Ambassadors


This article considers a relevant issue of modern historiography, i. e. the expediency of introducing the concept of “Russia Abroad” in the study of Russian emigration of the 1920s–1930s, along with the definition of “diaspora”. The task is complicated by the lack of a unified categorical apparatus and a variety of interpretations. The problem is solved based on structural and constructivist approaches, as well as comparative analysis. The authors propose their own classification of identifying features of the diaspora, highlighting the geographical (territorial), social, political, cultural, and mental blocks. The phenomenon of Russia Abroad is analysed through the prism of diasporisation. The article shows the process of institutionalisation of the Russian emigration of the 1920s, which brings it closer to the diaspora. However, its composition, unlike that of diaspora, was polyethnic. The dominant trend was the preservation of not ethnic but cultural and civic identity, which determined the structure-forming leitmotif of activity aimed at constructing its “Russia Abroad”. However, having renounced the citizenship of Soviet Russia/USSR and recognising the Soviet government as illegitimate, the emigrants unsuccessfully tried to consolidate a legal connection with the state that had disappeared from the political map of the world, trying to defend the old passports. The vectors of reflexive activity with a myth-generating potential were an ostentatious opposition to all things Soviet, the preservation of national identity and traditional values (unlike those born in the revolution), the “ethical code”, social norms, and the justification of the missionary role of emigration. Of the many institutions that claimed to have become a successor authority, the Council of Former Ambassadors headed by M. N. Girs stands out. He concentrated human, financial, material, and organisational potential in his hands and had representation at international organisations, including the League of Nations, in Geneva. The foreign diplomatic corps became the guardian of the idea of all-Russian statehood. Well-established communication links helped him to carry out tasks that were not typical of him, adapted to the new situation and focusing primarily on the settlement of the legal situation of refugees. The article concludes about the consolidating function of both mythmaking and activities aimed at reproducing the attributes of statehood. The Russian “state-like form of being” contributed to the preservation of the Russian language, national identity, and the creation of a system of Russian educational institutions and institutes of historical memory. The doom of Russia Abroad was due to both its conservatism and confrontation with the motherland. The division into two Russias could not carry a positive potential. Foreign Russia can be characterised as a diaspora, but this phenomenon goes beyond even the wide range of identification features that are given to the diaspora today.

Author Biographies

Zoya Bocharova

Dr. Hab. (History), Lomonosov Moscow State University.

1, Leninskie Gory, 119991, Moscow, Russia.

ORCID 0000-0002-1739-1197

Irina Kuptsova

Dr. Hab. (History), Professor, Lomonosov Moscow State University.

1, Leninskie Gory, 119991, Moscow, Russia.

ORCID 0000-0002-7047-1639


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How to Cite

Bocharova, Z., & Kuptsova, I. (2024). Russia Abroad vs Russian Diaspora in the Interwar Period. Quaestio Rossica, 12(1), 321–338.



Conceptus et conceptio