Before the formation of the Soviet Union and/or before international travel restrictions were imposed, were there Russian, Ukranian, etc. citizens living legally in foreign countries (i.e., as permanent residents or dual citizens)?

What happened to them when the Soviet government restricted international travel for Soviet citizens? Were they generally left alone, or were they ultimately compelled to return to the Soviet Union?

2 Answers 2


In "Gulag Archipelago," Alexander Solzhenitsyn made the point that the Soviet Union tried to attract its "citizens" living in Europe to return to the Soviet Union by playing on their homesickness. Once returned, they were imprisoned in Siberia to prevent them from "contaminating" ordinary Russians (by telling stories of a better life abroad).

More to the point, Stalin wanted to neutralize these people for fear that they would form the core of a new "white" (anti-Communist) movement, even though the "whites" had already been defeated in Civil War, ridiculous as this may seem to us. Remember that this is the same Stalin who slaughtered his own generals out of paranoia.

AT Yalta, Stalin asked for and won British and American acceptance for the repatriation of Russian solders serving with the Germans (Operation Keelhaul), and Russian "Cossack" civilians. The former group was mostly executed, the latter group imprisoned. Again, Stalin wanted to destroy these potential "whites."

Basically, any Russian who had managed to leave Russia before it became the Soviet Union would do well to stay away if at all possible. The people who had the best chance of doing this were those that became "naturalized" citizens of other countries.

  • 5
    And don't forget the forced repatriation of Soviet POWs from German camps, most of whom were sent directly to Siberia, there to die from exposure and lead poisoning in the mines, often in weeks, after surviving years of German prison camps.
    – jwenting
    Sep 19, 2016 at 7:10
  • 4
    @Headcrab: Russians abroad were considered potential "white" (anti-Communist) Russians by Stalin. Which is to say that the more of them he rounded up and imprisoned, even from abroad, the better he felt. It may sound ridiculous to us, but Solzheniisyn was speaking of the "Soviet" mentality. Remember that Stalin was the guy that slaughtered his own generals, setting up the Soviet Army for a Nazi attack.globalsecurity.org/military/world/russia/…
    – Tom Au
    Nov 7, 2016 at 15:03

Travel abroad was not formally prohibited. Many people in Soviet Union traveled abroad. The authorities decided who could travel and who could not. (Most citizens could not).

Of course at the time of formation of Soviet Union many citizens of the former Russian empire lived abroad. Most of them escaped during the revolution and civil war. Most of them stayed abroad, but many returned. Of those returned many suffered repression but not all. Some of them were trusted by the authorities and permitted to travel again and again. For example the famous Soviet author I. Ehrenburg. There were few other people like that. There were other cases. A famous composer Prokofiev returned from emigration and lived comfortably in Soviet Union but was not permitted to travel abroad. Physicist Kapitsa came to Soviet Union for a short visit and was not permitted back to England.

After WWII there was a massive forced repatriation of former Russian citizens, from Europe and China. Those whom the Soviet authorities considered enemies were punished (exiled, executed, imprisoned). Others were not.

  • Most members of this " massive forced repatriation of former Russian citizens, from Europe and China...were punished (exiled, executed, imprisoned)," because they were considered suspect. The (few) "others" that were not had distinguished themselves by clearly pro-Soviet behavior (e.g fighting in partisan units or serving as advisers to local Communist forces.)
    – Tom Au
    Nov 7, 2016 at 15:17
  • @Tom Au: Not necessarily. Repatriation was not always forced. And I personally knew people who were not punished, not fought etc. But I don't know any statistics, and doubt that it exists.
    – Alex
    Nov 7, 2016 at 19:39

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.