Russian elections outside Russia

Polling stations were set up all over the world for Russian citizens who choose to reside elsewhere. In London, there are almost 300,000 of them, and I don’t know a single one. It’s not that I’m prejudiced against my former compatriots; in fact, I have Russian friends all over the world, in LA, New York, Houston, Paris, Amsterdam, Auxerre. But not in London. My first sightings of New Russians arriving at these shores made me shun all venues where this vacuum in my social life could be filled. This was mostly an intuitive response; I couldn’t justify it in any rational way. Now I can.

Putin’s United Russia ended up third in London, not first as it did in its native habitat. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the parties that finished above alpha dog’s gang were the communists and the ultra-nationalists. On the other hand, the Russians living in the USA and Germany solidly voted for the liberals who didn’t finish in the medals elsewhere.

I can offer an explanation based on personal observations over many years. In any large Russian community abroad there are those who are integrated into the ambient life, and those who cling to the old ways. The former overwhelmingly go along with the dominant ethos. Thus such Russians in Texas are staunchly conservative Republican voters, while in New York they are predominantly leftwing Democrats. In New York the watershed ran along the language barrier: fluent speakers of English believed everything they read in The New York Times, while those whose English was poor to nonexistent (the majority) believed that political debates are best settled with large-calibre firearms.

Overhearing Russians in the streets of London, one gets the impression that it’s the other way around. Most of those living here can speak English, but they haven’t absorbed the values that tend to be expressed in that language. An outpouring of antediluvian Russian chauvinism, laced with anti-Semitism is ever-present. Sometimes it’s irritating, at other times funny, such as the other day, when a middle-aged Russian woman, constantly jumping between the two languages, told her companion, ‘He’s a Jew in the worst sense of the word.’ I fought hard not to laugh at the way she put it, and not to cry at the sentiment.

Now the London Russians have voted for the Russian parties that hark back to Comrades Lenin, Stalin and, presumably, Hitler. Something for the Home Office to consider, methinks.

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