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Monday, December 10, 2007

Going home

Haaretz reported this morning that the Russian government is secretly trying to lure Russian emigrants back to Russia:
The Russian Embassy in Tel Aviv is operating a branch of a government body, under the guise of a cultural center, whose goal is to persuade Russian emigrants to return, according to Israeli intelligence sources.

The cultural center, which opened about two months ago, is headed by a Russian intellectual, who the intelligence sources believe worked for the Soviet secret service, the KGB. Senior government officials have reportedly expressed concerns recently over the development of "competition" between Russia and Israel over where former Russians choose to reside.


More than three million Russian-speaking Jews are living on five continents. Just over one-third live in Israel. They mostly came in the large wave of immigration that took place after the former Soviet Union opened its gates. After Putin was elected in 2000, he established the Sons of the Homeland to maintain communication between Russia and its emigres, and eventually Putin charged the group with bringing back as many Russians as possible, with an emphasis on those in skilled professions.

The high level of education among many of the Jewish emigres and the fact that they are concentrated in large communities have made them a desirable target for the organization. Putin's goal is not only economic; the millions who have left Russia since the fall of communism are a blow to national pride.

Putin also wants to counter the image of Russian anti-Semitism, by showing the country as a place that attracts Jews.
But the Russians have competition and it isn't just from Israelis:
Israel and Russia are not the only countries seeking to court as many Russian Jews as possible; Germany is also encouraging Russian Jews to settle there by giving individual grants and special funding to communities to assist in settling the newcomers. According to government officials in Berlin, the arrival of some 200,000 former citizens of the Commonwealth of Independent States is an opportunity to rebuild the great pre-Holocaust Jewish community. Canada and Australia also have programs to encourage Russians with professions in demand to immigrate.

According to Absorption Ministry statistics, more than 100,000 Jews who came to Israel from the CIS have returned to Russia and Ukraine, and an estimated 70,000 Israelis are currently living in Moscow.

It was decided that, in light of the competition for Russians, the program approved by the cabinet yesterday to bring back Israelis living abroad would be marketed as early as next week in Russian and tailored to Russian employment needs.

The Russian cultural center activity gives the government organization Nativ, in charge of contacts with the Jews of the former Soviet Union and under the aegis of Strategic Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman, a reason to undergo a controversial expansion to other countries with large groups of Russian Jews.
The Russians are more than welcome to take back people like this Russian immigrant:


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