We are Russians
The International Old Believers Forum was held in the House of Russian Expatriates in Moscow at the beginning of October. On the eve of this event, the Old Believers from Brazil arrived to Russia with a study tour to Russia. Many of them took part in the event held in the Russian capital.
In the past, their ancestors fled abroad from persecution of the Bolsheviks but managed to preserve the native language and culture through the centuries. Today Russia gives the Old Believers a chance to return home.
On a big tour across the Russian Far East, representatives of South American communities choose the land plots to live on with their families. Correspondents of “Amurskaya pravda” observed the unforgettable meeting of compatriots from abroad with the homeland. We publish their special report within the scope of “Voice of Russia” project.
The Russian foreigners
“I have a Brazilian passport and participate in the Brazilian elections; my children go to Brazilian school,” Grigory Kuznetsov says in fluent Russian. He is 43 years old; his brother Vikol is ten years older. Their group includes 19 more citizens of Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Australia, the USA, and New Zealand.
“The soil should have a balance of trace elements: limestone, phosphorus, potssio (from the Portuguese “potassium” — Ed.)," Avraam Kalugin shares the tips of agriculture, while dropping into the Portuguese.
Same as the majority of guests, he saw the land of his ancestors only a week and a half ago and keeps stating: “We are Russians!”
On the way to impassable fields by a creaky UAZ, the Old Believers start singing “Oi, moroz, moroz!” and then confess many of them haven't ever seen the snow in their lives. But after observing the beautiful cities and wide fields, they are ready to abandon the places with mango and pineapple growing everywhere to move to severe Russian winters.
For the first time, the Old Believers, scattered around the world, began to return to Russia a few years ago. It was the Russian president who gave our compatriots the hope to reunite with their homeland. Last year Vladimir Putin visited the religious center
of the Old Belief near Moscow, Rogozhskaya Sloboda, and then received the Primate of the Russian Orthodox Old Belief Church, Metropolitan Kornily at Kremlin. The contemporaries called this event historic: for the first time in 350 years, the head of the state officially met with the representative of the Old Belief. A charity foundation for support of the Old Believers “Pravda Russkaya” was founded at the beginning of this year.
The official delegation from Russia visited South America. At the meetings with the local communities, the officials have personally invited the Old Believers to return back home.
“They asked me: “Will you take the land plot?“ And I said, “How can we discuss the wedding without seeing the bride?” laughs Avraam Kalugin.
That's how the spontaneous idea of a tour of the Old Believers across the Russian Far East appeared.
“By the order of the Administration of the President of the RF, we organized a study tour for the authoritative heads of the Old Believers communities from South America," the head of the Department for Demographic Development at the Agency of Human Capital Development in the Far East Ivan Yefimov says. "The route stretches across Primorsky and Khabarovsk Krai, Jewish Autonomous Region. The heads of Buryatia and Karelia have personally invited the Old Believers to their lands. In our country, the resettlers will be able to engage not only in agriculture, after all some Old Believers live in Alaska where they earn their living by fishing. The same can be done in Khabarovsk Krai, Kamchatka, and Karelia.
In the Amur region, the guests from the south are invited to settle in the north - in Mazanovsky district which offers 14 thousand hectares of land to the immigrants. Free arable land remained only here.
“To ensure prosperity of the family and to leave enough land for our children and grandchildren, we need from 300 to 600 hectares per family,” Avraam Kalugin says and adds that such giant plantations are cultivated in 1-2 weeks.
"If there is a paradise on earth, you'll find it here," the head of Dmitrievsky village council Victor Slatvinsky promotes his estate. "We have the best conditions for cultivation of any crops. No need to water the land additionally, as the soil has enough moisture. Soybean matures to the root. You can grow even watermelons, fruit trees and berries, start a bee-farming...
“We dream of revival,” Viktor Nikolaevich sighs. Five villages in the village council are populated by only 800 inhabitants. There are hundreds of hectares of fertile soil that have not been cultivated for the last twenty years.
"This means the first years will bring a good harvest," the merchants nod, while examining the goods.
However, they don't hasten to take it. They take out a shovel and “try” the Amur land - rub it between the fingers and then pour it into a bag. “In Brazil, the land is red; you have chernozem here. This is an absolutely different soil. At first sight, it looks good. But the appearance alone cannot feed! The soil should be fertile. We'll take it for the analysis,” Avraam Kalugin says. The scrupulous Old Believers tell about their ways of farming.
"We cultivate soy, corn, rice. The harvesters harvest and register places with the greatest and the least yields. Then we fertilize the land according to this information," the head of another community Dmitry Kuzmin said.
It goes without saying that the Old Believers are pretty pragmatic and punctilious people when it comes to money issues. So their resettlement is unlikely to happen until they conduct a careful calculation.
"Well, we can not move and go bankrupt," Avraam shares his reasoning. "We will look closer to determine the places with good infrastructure and minimal risks to lose the harvest due to the frost. After all, we'll have to bring tons of grain crop.
In Brazil, soybean yield makes not less than 39 centners per hectare. The worldwide companies from the USA and Europe purchase soy beans from us. Soya brings real money to your hands."
Example to follow
A community of the Old Believers in Svobodnensky district is a real example of diligence. Three families from Uruguay moved here in 2015, took the abandoned fields of the former state farm and began to cultivate them. In addition, they are engaged in animal husbandry — they make cheese, cottage cheese, sour cream and sell their products in Svobodny's market.
The Russians find it difficult to understand why wealthy people flee from abroad to raise the virgin land in Russia. “The Russian birch trees mean nothing to us. But the Old Believers consider these lands as their home," authorized representative for affairs of the Old Believers in Amur region Robert Kaminsky explains their mentality. "Fedor Kilin is the head of the local community. Tatyana Ivanovna is his wife. She traveled all over South America; she has been to Europe and even Africa. And she says there is no place better than Russia. Fedor Savelyevich has 12 children, more than sixty grandchildren, and the same number of great grandchildren. They all want to resettle here.” And those Old Believers who are already in their homeland do not want to go back abroad anymore.
The local population (to be honest!) treats the Old Believers with a bit of displeasure. According to their words, the immigrants get privileges and better land plots. That's not true. “After obtaining the citizenship of Russia by the Old Believers, we are ready to provide 20 hectares for a family for five years, free of charge. The remaining land will be offered for rent at auction. There is no other mechanism. We deliberate on two territories — Dmitrievsky and Sapronovsky village councils of Mazanovsky district with about 14 thousand hectares of free land. In the central areas of the region, there are almost no free land plots, as the demand for land is high. 1.3 million hectares of arable land out of 1.5 million are already being cultivated," the Minister of property relations of Amur region Sergey Oliferov commented.
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