Almost 150,000 Russian nationals returned from around the world to live in Russia in 2016, with 30,000 of them coming from EU countries, signaling a rising trend since 2014.
The figures indicate the effectiveness of a recently created government program aimed at encouraging Russians living abroad to return to their country, reports the Izvestia newspaper, a Ministry of Internal Affairs publication.
Key factors that drove people’s decision to return included the constant psychological pressure of anti-Russian sentiment in many EU countries stemming the intense state and media propaganda leveled against Russia as well as from the crisis in Ukraine.
Natalia, a Russian national who’s lived in the Czech Republic for 20 years before deciding to leave the country, said that an ‘unbearable’ level of ‘Russophobia’ was the main factor in her decision to return to Russia.
“The situation has become really unbearable lately,” she told the Russian newspaper. “The level of Russophobia has reached a level where in Prague you see cars with anti-Russian signs, and on the street you might get a rebuke if you speak in Russian.”
Yan, a Russian who’s lived in Paris for over two decades said that the decision for Russians to return home has become obvious.
“The information in most media is distorted from the beginning to keep Europeans afraid of Russia,” he said. “When you belong to a group that’s under constant pressure, you become even more anxious to defend your nation or country.”
Relations between the West and Russia further devolved during the 2016 U.S. election after Democrats accused Russia of “hacking” the election, in an attempt to distract the public from WikiLeaks’ disclosure of thousands of Hillary aide John Podesta’s emails containing numerous instances of collusion and corruption.
The media has helped perpetuate the false narrative of Russian hacking, going as far as publishing fake news about the former Soviet country hacking into the U.S. electrical grid.