Russians exile to Belgrade in big numbers

“There are new Russian arrivals in Serbia, mostly those Russians who condemn the war in Ukraine. But when they come to Belgrade, they are baffled by a completely different phenomenon – local Putin’s supporters,” writes the German newspaper, Frankfurter Rundschau.

There were many Russian immigrants at the latest protest in Belgrade against the war in Ukraine, notes a journalist from the German newspaper, including a cellist who lost his job in the St. Petersburg orchestra after the war broke out.

“I was fired because I expressed my opinion about the war to my colleagues”, he said. His mother and wife’s family are from Ukraine. “After the annexation of Crimea, we wanted to emigrate from Russia. The war in Ukraine was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” he adds.

According to the German newspaper, thousands of Russians are now arriving in Belgrade. “Russians do not need visas to enter Serbia. Serbia, an EU candidate, is manoeuvring between East and West and is not participating in the sanctions. That is why the state-owned airline, Air Serbia, is one of the few European companies still flying to Moscow and St. Petersburg”.

Together with Istanbul, Yerevan and Tbilisi, Belgrade has also become a favourite destination for highly educated Russians. Since the beginning of March, more than 300 companies, mainly in the IT sector, have moved their headquarters from Russia or Ukraine to Serbia.

Banks in Belgrade say more and more Russians are opening accounts with them, with the media estimating 20,000 to 30,000 new arrivals. Sasha Seregina, originally from Samara, has been living in Belgrade for more than ten years. She is one of the promoters of the initiative ‘Russians, Ukrainians, Belarusians and Serbs together against war’.

In her statement for Frankfurter Rundschau, she says that the Russians who are coming here could be a good thing for Serbia, like those who arrived after the October Revolution of 1917. Seregina says that they are mostly members of the “middle or upper class”, but notes that there are also negative consequences: “It has become even more difficult to find a flat at a decent price in Belgrade”. “The Russians are pushing up property prices,” reveals a tax consultant, adding that he fears that “soon people with normal incomes will not be able to afford a flat in Belgrade.”

According to the Frankfurt-based newspaper, “newcomers to Russophilic Serbia do not encounter prejudice, unlike those who go into exile in Western Europe. In Serbia, they do not have to justify their views of Putin’s war, which they mostly condemn. Instead, they are baffled by a completely different phenomenon – encountering Putin’s supporters here”.

The aforementioned cellist from St. Petersburg says he is happy to be allowed to protest against the war in Belgrade but is shocked that T-shirts with Putin’s face are being sold in Belgrade and that people are wearing them.

(Danas, 26.04.2022)

This post is also available in: Italiano

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