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Echoes of war in Germany and Greece

What are the dominant outlooks among the Russian-speaking communities of Germany and Greece on the war in Ukraine?

By: EBR - Posted: Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Echoes of war in Germany According to the survey conducted by the Euroskopia agency for Politico in eight European countries (January 31st – February 13th), 82% of the German respondents condemned the Russian invasion.
Echoes of war in Germany According to the survey conducted by the Euroskopia agency for Politico in eight European countries (January 31st – February 13th), 82% of the German respondents condemned the Russian invasion.

by Vassilis Petsinis

What are the dominant outlooks among the Russian-speaking communities of Germany and Greece on the war in Ukraine?

Echoes of war in Germany According to the survey conducted by the Euroskopia agency for Politico in eight European countries (January 31st – February 13th), 82% of the German respondents condemned the Russian invasion.

Alina Jasina-Schafer, a researcher with the Federal Institute for Culture and History of the Germans in Eastern Europe (BKGE), says:

‘The war permeates all of the conversations, but the positions are diverse and it is impossible to draw a dividing line between people. Some are pro-Putin. Last Saturday a couple invited me for a tea and put my chair attentively in the direction of (Russian satellite) TV, so that I could “see”, too. Others are engaged in helping Ukrainian refugees. Others, yet are afraid as to how Russian-speaking population will be now viewed. Others, who were never pro-Putin, do not necessarily welcome all the steps that the Western world has taken towards Russia, as these may endanger their transnational relations. Others think that the West has been hesitant and hasn’t done enough. I am meeting people of different ages, different professions, and also belonging to various religious communities. It is a plethora of personal reasons why people share certain opinions’. Galina Selivanova, a sociologist at the Forum Internationale Wissenschaft (University of Bonn), equally addresses this fragmentation:

‘There is no “uniform Russian-speaking community” in Germany. Quite a few of the “Russian-speaking people” that I know are actively involved in helping Ukrainian refugees, hosting, and transporting them. However, the time of arrival can be crucial in shaping political stances. If we think about this recent wave of high skilled migrants, they are probably against the war. The opposite might be true about those who arrived in the 1990s and 2000s. Many of them may remember "good Putin", watched Russia Today, believed in state propaganda and are more likely to be pro-war’. Igor Mitchnik, a Berlin-based, German civil society expert who has been working with the German-Swiss Libereco-Partnership for Human Rights NGO in Germany and Ukraine, says:

‘Germany witnessed pro-war protests and motorcades, organized by some segments of the community, featuring Russian and Soviet flags. There have been fake news about “violent Ukrainian refugees” allegedly beating up Russians. Meanwhile, the better educated part of the community (Russians, Ukrainians, Kazakhs, and Belarusians) show solidarity with the Ukrainian refugees. Many volunteer at the main train and bus stations and help with translation. People have also started becoming more aware of “who is who” inside the Russian-speaking community.

Even Russian-speaking Ukrainians now distinguish quite directly between Ukrainian families and Russian families’.

Echoes of war in Greece In the survey by Euroskopia, 60% of the Greek sample unequivocally condemned the Russian invasion. In 1990, Russian-speaking, ethnic Greeks started migrating to the port city of Thessaloniki.

Some of them managed to take advantage of social mobility and evolve into key actors in Thessaloniki’s business circles. The most prominent case is Ivan Savvidis, the largest shareholder of FC PAOK Thessaloniki and owner of enterprises such as the Open TV station and the ‘Makedonia Palace’ hotel. Ivan Savvidis is said to maintain links to the party of United Russia and other stakeholders based in Russia. Rival entrepreneurs, such as the director of the Vima (‘Tribune’) newspaper, Antonis Karakoussis, accused Open TV of ‘disseminating pro-Putin propaganda’. However, Ivan Savvidis has also, allegedly, volunteered to host Ukrainian refugees in his properties.

Lazaros Papadopoulos is a veteran basketball player born in Krasnodar, Russia. In one of his posts on Twitter, he appealed to the people of Ukraine in the Russian language and castigated the war as: ‘the invasion of a dictatorial regime…the people of Ukraine are defending not solely their homeland but also freedom and democracy’. Iannis Carras is Assistant Professor of History at the ‘Makedonia’ university in Thessaloniki. Ukraine and Russia are his areas of expertise. In his own words:

‘The state of affairs within the Russian-speaking community in Thessaloniki and elsewhere in Greece is anecdotal and dependent on the circles one moves in. Crucial would be to see how many “local” Russians have given donations either to Ukraine or to anti-Putin organisations. There are many such among my acquaintances, but that only tells you something about my acquaintances. What I can say from Church organisations in Greece and elsewhere (e.g. the UK and Germany), however, is that many Russians abroad are very angry with Putin while others support him. I was talking to a priest from London about this the other day. Finally, note that some of the Pontic Greek organisations came out clearly against the war. My overall feeling is one of deep divisions, but predominantly of guilt and an attempt to refuse to confront the situation in the face for now.’

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