by Emanuele Mastrangelo

News of the Italian student in Russia who had a back-and-forth during a phone interview with Vladimir Putin during the "Strong Ideas for New Times" forum bounced around on a few Italian agencies in recent days. Irene Cecchin, the daughter of entrepreneurs who did business with Russia until the sanctions, is enrolled at the Moscow State Institute for International Relations. The student asked the Russian president a question about relations with Italy, to which Putin responded with a nostalgic "I felt at home there." But the crux of the exchange was about immigration to Russia. Cecchin, in fact, has come forward to promote the flow of immigrants to Russia, not only those who do so for study or work, as she does, but especially those who hope to make a new life for themselves in the country on the basis of shared traditional values: family, faith, history.

Instead, the second part of this seemingly insignificant news has apparently been carefully avoided in the Italian media. But it would be the more tasty one. In fact, according to Russian media-which have understandably given much prominence to this duet-the Kremlin would be very well disposed toward Cecchin's proposal to open the doors to immigration from Western countries.

It should be premised that the history of European immigration to Russia is very long. The tsars recruited among Europeans, Germans in particular, skilled labor to colonize the endless steppes that the Empire was taking from the Turks and Tatar hordes from the Dnepr to Central Asia. Italians were also involved, with the dense colonies of Marche, Liguria and especially Puglia (St. Nicholas, a saint greatly venerated by the Russians, is buried in Bari). Italy at that time was "exporting" arms, and Russia, thanks to its cultural bridge with Apulia, sent numerous procurers to entice Italians to emigrate there, with the aim of planting olive groves and vineyards in Crimea and on the Black Sea coast, crops that the Russians, coming from the continental climate, were unfamiliar with. Russia has been a multiethnic and multiracial empire since its inception, so the presence of alien colonies within it was always viewed positively, except during World War II, when Stalin saw fit to eliminate most of those potentially sympathetic to the Axis by sending them to the gulags (the Italians of Crimea, for example, were decimated: from more than 5,000 they were reduced to a few hundred).

But today the affair is tinged with ideological overtones. Indeed, the international newspaper "“Azərbaycan24”" informs us that Cecchin's proposal is viewed very favorably by the Kremlin, which would welcome "Westerners with conservative ideas." In fact for Russia that of encouraging selected immigration is as we have seen a historically entrenched policy. But in our days it takes on new contours.

For it is not just a matter of importing good workers, as were the Apulians who brought the know-how to make wine and olive oil to the court of Tsar Nicholas. This time they are looking for people with a distinct ideological profile. "People who share our spiritual and moral values." Anyone who no longer recognizes themselves in a West where wokeism is increasingly an obligatory ideology, in short, is invited to look to Russia as a land of exile and asylum.

Thus, there is an attempt to reverse the narrative of a Russia from which people flee to seek a better future. If previously dissidents or persecuted people fled from czarist or communist Russia to the West, the attempt now is to reverse the arrow. Of course, there is not only the idea of attracting motivated, easily integrated and constructive forces, which, too, Russia-in winter demographics also-is very convenient at this historical moment. There is the political move of presenting itself to the world as the leading nation of the conservative front. There is the hybrid wartime move of wanting to drive a wedge into one of the many cracks that mark Western societies, particularly in the part of public opinion tending to the right, where the stomachache caused by enmity toward Moscow is strongest. Finally, there is the combination of the three: replenishing one's ranks with good elements taken from now hostile states, according to Sun Tzu's rule: a sack of grain taken from the enemy is worth twenty of yours.

RUSSIAN-UKRAINE WAR: the maritime dimension

It is therefore no coincidence that various pro-Russian news channels such as the official “Sputnik” have been emphasizing Western emigration and even, as in the case of the Italian “Il vaso di Pandora” with its weekly news column from Russia assigned to journalist Tatiana Santi, plans to give advice on how to obtain Russian citizenship.

However, no matter how one feels about Russia, the Putin government and the relative percentage of sincere hand-wringing against interested psyops that makes up this campaign, no matter how flattered one may be by the invitation to emigrate to places where one is not subjected to rainbow waterboarding every three-by-two and wokeism is treated with the compassion one owes to a mental illness, the place where a conservative must fight is his or her own nation. To think of exile while there is a fighting chance is an invitation to throw in the towel. A lesson that even a liberal like Piero Gobetti had expressed, in the aftermath of the March on Rome:

We will remain in our place as serene critics, with one more experience. We will wait without uncertainty, whether we have to witness the democratic mockery or suffer the persecution to which we are entitled.

Crystallistically condensed in The Liberal Revolution:

Our program as loyal and diehard opponents is clear and simple: exile to the homeland. Only when every objective condition of activity is taken away from us will we accept the hypothesis of repeating the fate of the exiles of the Risorgimento. Before that it would not be exile, but desertion.

Italy needs its best forces here and now. As long as "abandon ship" is not shouted, we remain at our posts, at the buckets or pumps, to bring this old junk back to port. Thank you for the lifeboat, but for now we remain at battle stations.

Photo: CC 2.0 SA NC


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Editor of the Machiavelli Study Center's blog "Belfablog," Emanuele Mastrangelo has been editor-in-chief of "Storia in Rete" since 2006. A military-historical cartographer, he is the author of several books (with Enrico Petrucci, Iconoclastia. La pazzia contagiosa della cancel culture che sta distruggendo la nostra storia e Wikipedia. L'enciclopedia libera e l'egemonia dell'informazione).