The Russian émigré as a historical phenomenon appeared a hundred years ago, when General Wrangel made a unique decision: he proclaimed that the White Army, which had been defeated by the Bolsheviks, would leave Russia together with a significant part of the citizens of non-existent Russian Empire.
The scene of evacuation was truly biblical in scale: hundreds of ships with encumbered decks, wounded soldiers, ladies with children, agitated priests, groans, crying. Defeat in any war rarely looks pleasant, but here, let’s say, ordinary criteria were intensified by a new then ideological madness.
Enthusiastic Baron Wrangel symbolised Russia, which from now on would only be spoken of in the past tense. As if it was suddenly gone. White emigrants would mistakenly believe for a long time that this was the case. It apparently added an aura of something “otherworldly”, mystical, “inhuman” to their completely understandable political and military defeat. As if they fought against an invincible “satanic force”, but not against the Russian soldiers and officers being similar to them. The Red Army included much more former “tsarist” officers than the White Army.
The “Russian émigré” as an ecosystem consisted of two or three million ordinary people. But when thinking about it, we usually recall only several writers, artists, composers, theologians who lived and worked far from their Motherland. By the way, many of them were before – and then remained – pre-revolutionary “modernists”: they did not honor the “Father the Tsar”, nor did they love the church, but they greeted the February Revolution as the act of liberation from autocracy. There were many Februaryists in emigration. And there were few monarchists. Often when they were asked: “What were you fighting for? Is it really for the Provisional Government?” – they moodily evaded an answer, saying: “For Russia!” So, let us avoid chasing their souls.
The Publishing House “Russian Mind” expresses thanks to the Foundation for Supporting and Protecting the Rights of Compatriots Living Abroad for the support and financial aid provided to the “Russian Mind” magazine for the purpose of the Special Issue devoted to the 100th anniversary of the Russian Exodus.