By Paul Goble
Most Russians at risk of persecution because of their opposition to the war in Ukraine and who have decided to move abroad have gone to countries like Armenia, Georgia and Turkey where Russians don’t need visas. But now they have a new option: three EU countries, Estonia, the Czech Republic and Poland are offering special humanitarian visas.
These visas, which in the Estonian case are part of a larger effort to assist democratic and European-oriented Russians are also being extended to Belarusians who are at risk of jail for their opposition to the Lukashenka regime (valitsus.ee/ru/novosti/pravitelstvo-razreshit-rabotat-v-estonii-bezhencam-iz-rossii-i-belorussii-kotorym-byl and region.expert/humanitarian/).
In contrast to the more than 40,000 refugees Estonia has absorbed from Ukraine, the number of emigres that Baltic country has absorbed from the two other Slavic countries is quite small, certainly fewer than 100. But it is important intellectually and culturally for the future, Vadim Shtepa of Region, Expert says.
On the one hand, many of those wanting to leave Russia and Belarus are IT professionals who will find it easy to integrate into digital Estonia. And on the other, many of those coming from the east are members of Finno-Ugric nationalities who have the chance to develop their culture and its links with the broader Finno-Ugric world.
The center of this new emigration in Estonia is the Reforum Space located next to the Estonian parliament at Toom-Kooli 1.
The two other Baltic republics have also been welcoming to Russian and Belarusian emigres although they do not have the same kind of humanitarian visas in place as yet. Vilnius is the headquarters of the Free Russia Forum, and Latvia has given long-term working visas to Russian journalists whose employers have been shuttered in Putin’s Russia.
As a result, the Dozhd television channel and Novaya Gazeta Yevropa have reopened in Riga.