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In the wake of Russia’s military interventions in Georgia and Ukraine, foreign observers have repeatedly warned of the risks posed by the sizeable presence of ethnic Russians, Russian speakers and Russian nationals – collectively referred to as ‘compatriots’, or sootechestvenniki, in Russia – in former Soviet states. In this article, Lincoln Pigman contextualises Moscow’s expansive definition of the compatriot with reference to domestic politics and regional developments, and explores the discrepancy between rhetoric and reality. He finds that the Kremlin has consistently instrumentalised its compatriots, often without regard for the consequences of its actions – both for its regional influence and for the compatriots themselves.
BANNER IMAGE: Pro-Russian demonstrators express their support for the Russian population and the Crimea referendum, April 2014. Courtesy of PA Images/Karli Saul
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