Google Answers Logo
View Question
Q: Russian emigrees in Paris, 1920-1939 ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   3 Comments )
Subject: Russian emigrees in Paris, 1920-1939
Category: Relationships and Society > Cultures
Asked by: gaucho34-ga
List Price: $100.00
Posted: 02 Jun 2003 06:40 PDT
Expires: 02 Jul 2003 06:40 PDT
Question ID: 211927
I am interested to know, for purposes of a work of fiction, about the
daily lives and struggles of v the Russians in Paris at the time noted
- the lives of various classes, of conflicts within the diffrent
groups - also practical information about daily life\I have three
protagonists, two of them women, one a man previously in the White
Army who joins the Communists. Were there Communist groups in Paris?
What was the attitude of Westerners to thgesde people. Did they expect
to return? Did they return?
Subject: Re: Russian emigrees in Paris, 1920-1939
Answered By: hlabadie-ga on 04 Jun 2003 08:37 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Although the mass emigration of Russians after the October Revolution
in 1918 swelled the numbers of Russians in Paris, there was already a
sizable Russian community in that city before that. In the 1880's
there were an estimated 5,000 Russian èmigrès in or near the French
capital. (OKHRANA The Paris Operations of the Russian Imperial Police,
see below.)

Existence for most expatriate Russians in Paris (as well as elsewhere
outside Russia) was precarious. The majority of èmigrès were men
between the ages of 18 and 40, either soldiers who had been interned
in Germany, Austria, or Turkey or the remnants of the White Russian
Army that had attempted the failed counter revolution which had ended
with their collapse and exile in 1920. Many were in ill health from
starvation, disease, or wounds. In 1922, there were approximately
70,000 Russian exiles in France, and the number reached a peak of
175,000 in 1930, declining to about 100,000 in 1937, with 40,000
living in or near Paris during the peak years.

"Increasingly, however, France--and the city of Paris in
particular--became the refuge of choice for White Russians in Europe. 
Suffering from a shortage of labor immediately after the First World
War, the French government helped recruit foreign labor.  The
government encouraged private employers to visit the refugee camps and
instructed its consuls to provide administrative and logistical
support for these efforts.  Many of those recruited were White Russian
refugees located in the internment camps or initial places of
settlement in Turkey, Tunisia, and the Balkans.  The easy granting of
work permits and visas continued through about 1925."
"Thus, about 100,000 White Russians moved to France during the later
Twenties.  Because so many emigrated in maturity, the annual attrition
by death probably ran at a rate of seven to eight percent, so the
number would have fallen to perhaps 60,000 by the start of the Second
World War." (The Russian Refugees Between the Wars, see below.)

"Today, for perhaps the hundredth time in this catastrophic year, I
witnessed an incident which reminded me of how quickly the pomp of
power passes, how near to the highest place in the capitol yawns the
abyss by the Tarpeian Rock. I saw Count Cassini, so long ambassador
extraordinary of Holy Russia, running through the sleet and rain on
the Place de la Madeleine to catch a bus to take him to the modest
suburban retreat, or refuge, with which the French government has
provided him.

I grant you that thousands of other people were doing the very same
thing at this crowded hour, but the difference is that they have done
it every day of their lives; they are inured to it. But Cassini! When
I saw him first (1896), he was lording it over all China. He was
practically Viceroy of the Far East. When he moved through the streets
of Peking, sotnias of Cossacks dashed ahead and cleared the way for
the little man with the monocle who for four years, with the dreaded
power of Russia behind him, dominated four hundred million Chinese and
made them do his bidding." (SUITORS AND SUPPLIANTS, see below.)

"Our generation were [sic] forced ... to experience the first great
mass migration of modern times, with all of its hardships encountered
in the struggle for life. In all countries this was carried on in face
of the greatest difficulties. Wherever we went, we were considered
undesirable aliens, with no right to work, no right to move ... and
last, but not least -- we had to learn all the bitterness of the loss
of one's own fatherland. S. V. Panina, 1939" (Quoted in "Gender and
the Experience of Emigration: Countess Sofia V. Panina in Post-war
Europe, 1920-1924," see below.)
"Like most emigres, they had very little money. Panina, once a very
rich woman, had brought nothing with her out of Russia.  She supported
herself and her mother solely by her earnings as a translator and
typist for various organizations. Petrunkevich depended entirely on
remissions from his son Alexander, an internationally known but
apparently meagerly paid Yale professor." (IBID)

In contrast to the general Russian populace, the White Russians were
mainly well-educated, bourgeoisie, skilled workers, or rural property
owners. Two thirds of them had either secondary educations or
university degrees, but jobs were difficult to obtain. Except for the
aristocracy, very few of the èmigrès spoke French. Some had been
brought to France as laborers to help with reconstruction after the
First World War, but when that work had been completed, they had to
take such work as was available. The French were unwilling and unable
to absorb such a large foreign work force, and even the professionals
among the Russians, barred from practice by exclusive regulations,
were forced to take menial jobs to survive.

"In Paris the White Russians lived predominantly around the rue
Vaugirard (15th), around the place des Ternes, the rue Daru, the rue
Pierre-le-Grand, the rue de Neva (17th), and in outlying areas like
Issy-le-Moulineaux, Vincennes, and Boulogne-Billancourt." (The Russian
Refugees Between the Wars, see below.)

The Bolshevik government had stripped the exiles of their citizenship
shortly after taking power. The exiles, therefore, became stateless
persons after the recognition of the USSR by France in 1924. As a
result, an international commission was formed to provide travel
documents for the expatriate Russians.

Political intrigues added to their troubles. Initially, the exiles
expected (and were expected) to return to Russia. During the brief
Kerensky government, this seemed probable, but the Bolshevik
Revolution put this expectation further into a receding future. The
failures of successive counter-revolutionary coups and invasion plans
sapped both money and talent. The Bolsheviks had infiltrated virtually
every White Russian organization and had compromised every political
opposition movement. One after another, important figures were lured
back into Russia (many by The Trust, a front group for the Cheka,
predecessor of the NKVD and KGB) where they were arrested and
executed. Boris Savinkov and the legendary British master spy Sidney
(or Sydney) Reilly (a Russian by birth but a naturalized British
subject) were two of the more famous victims of the Cheka's plots.
Savinkov was a terrorist assassin before the Russian Revolution, and
later one of the more prominent leaders of the anti-Bolsheviks in

"Boris Viktorovic Savinkov; pseudonym: V. Ropsin; born in Charkiv,
Russia 1879, died in Lubjanka Prison, Moscow 1925; one of the leaders
of the Partija Socialistov-Revoljucionerov (PSR); writer; studied law
in St. Petersburg; became a member of the PSR Battle Organization in
1903; joined the French army as a volunteer in the First World War;
returned to Russia in April 1917 and made a rapid military career,
becoming Assistant War Minister under A.F. Kerenskij; was expelled
from the PSR because of his role in the L. Kornilov uprising;
organized various uprisings against the Bolsheviks; formed in 1921
together with his friend Aleksandr A. Dickhoff-Daerenthal the Narodnyj
sojuz zascity rodiny i svobody, based in Paris; was arrested at the
Russian border in 1924 and committed suicide under obscure
circumstances." (Savinkov, Boris Viktorovic - Archives, see below.)

"[Savinkov, a born revolutionary, is credited with having organized
the assassination of Grand Duke Sergius in 1905. As Minister of War in
the short-lived Kerensky regime, he fought the Bolsheviks in Russia,
Poland, and then in Paris. Apparently believing all this was forgiven,
he did return to Russia in 1924, was promptly arrested, and, while
being questioned by the secret police at their headquarters, either
leaped or was pushed to his death from a window.]" (SUITORS AND

The visible European and American support for the overthrow of the
Bolsheviks became covert with the recognition of the Soviet Union and
then vanished.

"The [Czechoslovakian] government began financing anti-Bolshevik
opposition in 1920, when Kerensky persuaded Bene_ to fund the
Administrativnyi Tsentr, a group of exiled politicians in Paris,
mainly SRs, Mensheviks and Kadets." (The Socialist Revolutionary Party
in Prague 1919 -1939, see below.)

"At the first meeting (January 16), when the Russian problem was
broached, Lloyd George threw a bombshell by announcing that while he
was helping Kolchak [leader of the White Russian Armies in Siberia who
was captured and shot in 1920] with money and munitions, he was
convinced that the Admiral was a monarchist. According to some
accounts he called him a Tsarist. Many plans were then proposed, and
according to the announcement of my cheerful Colonel, the four powers
present divided into six groups. But at least three definite and
distinct plans were immediately advanced to deal with the spreading
"plague spot."

The first plan was military intervention, sponsored by Winston
Churchill, the dispatch of an army of one hundred thousand men to
Moscow, not of course "with hostile intent or imperialistic purpose,"
merely to open a political kindergarten in which the "Ruskies" might
be taught the difficult task of governing themselves. Second, the
cordon sanitaire, to make it impossible for the crazy moujiks to
infect Europe with their weird but most infectious malady. The third
plan, sponsored by the British, was to summon the leaders of all the
Russian fractions and factions to Paris in the hope of bringing them
into agreement among themselves and, if possible, to concerted action

At one point, Mussolini had been in negotiations with Savinkov to
assist him in an invasion of Russia, but that plan came to nothing.
Eventually, even the Fascists made secret deals with Stalin. (Sidney
Reilly Britain's Master Spy His Own Story.)

The Russian expatriate community was riven by suspicion and
double-dealing. As Sidney Reilly observed, it was impossible to tell
who was with you and who was in the pay of the Cheka. The same was
true for the Bolsheviks in Russia, of course. Some of Lenin's closest
allies and colleagues were agents of the former Okhrana, the Czarist
secret police.

"The Bolsheviks also learned how easy it had been for the Okhrana to
plant agents within their inner circle. Dr. Jacob Zhitomirsky was a
leading Bolshevik and Lenin confidant before he was discovered. (29)
An even more dramatic example was the tsarist agent Roman
Malinovsky--leader of the Bolshevik deputies in the fourth state Duma,
a central committee member, and Lenin's chief lieutenant while the
latter was still in exile. (30) When Vladimir Burtsev finally
convinced Lenin that Zhitomirsky might be a double agent, the
Bolshevik leader ordered Malinovsky to conduct an investigation. (31)
Such experiences were, perhaps, at the root of Bolshevik paranoia--the
urge to see enemies everywhere and eliminate them--that reached its
bloody apogee under Stalin." (OKHRANA.)

It was this very mutability of loyalties that made The Trust such a
powerful and deviously successful weapon of the Cheka. High-ranking
members of the ruling committee of the party sent out messengers who
surreptitiously approached exiled leaders of the opposition, saying
that a cabal, The Trust, had been formed inside the Bolshevik
government, the purpose of which was the destruction of the
government. They solicited the opposition to return to Russia, where
they would be protected by The Trust, so that they could be part of
the counter-revolutionary movement inside the country. Once across the
frontier, naturally, they were arrested and forced to assist in
further plots to bring yet others back. Politically, Paris was the
center of the republican movement, although monarchists were also

Culturally, the Russians in Paris maintained their heritage by the
founding of literary magazines, publishing houses, dance and theater
companies, and schools. Maintenance of the Orthodox religion also
contributed to a continuation of a sense of Russian nationalism in
exile, although there were attempts by the Roman Catholic Church to
proselytize within the expatriate community.

"So, the Benedictine Mgr. Van Caloen, active among Russian émigrés in
Antibes, in the South of France, shared d'Herbigny's convictions; at
the Monastery of Saint-André-lez-Bruges, which was founded by Van
Caloen, the above-mentioned Aleksandr Pu_kin was converted. Apart from
that, there is ample proof that not all Jesuits approved of the
confrontational tactics towards Orthodox. This can be illustrated by
the history of the Collège Saint-Georges, a Jesuit institution that
was transferred from Constantinople to Namur in 1923. Soon after the
tranfer, the founders of the Collège, the French Jesuit Louis Baille
(1858-1925) and the Russian convert Aleksandr Sipjagin (1875-1941),
were given the push and replaced by Father Robert Jourdain
(1897-1952), who was praised for his administrative qualities."
(Between Catholicism and Orthodoxy: Religious Life of Russian Émigrés
in Belgium Between the World Wars, see below.)

"Institutions of the Russian community abroad included the Conference
of Ambassadors and the Zemgor.  The Conference of Ambassadors gathered
the diplomatic representatives of the now-defunct Provisional
"The Zemgor was the wartime Union of Zemstvos and Towns, which had
been created to handle problems of civilian relief attendant upon the
war. It had removed its headquarters to Paris in 1918 and had
established offices in many of the principle European capitals." (The
Russian Refugees Between the Wars)

"Like their co-patriots in Paris, Belgrade, Berlin and Harbin, 'the
Russians expended considerable effort on recreating their traditional
lifestyles and less so on overcoming the cultural differences with
their hosts.'   There were Russian schools, churches and choirs,
Cossack stanitsy, Russian publishing houses, kruzkhi, newspapers,
theatres and literary circles. It was an entire society in miniature –
including political groups." (The Socialist Revolutionary Party in
Prague 1919 -1939.)

Many, if not most, exiled Russians at first expected to return home.

"Panina and Astrov fled south Russia in March 1920 to find themselves,
along with hundreds of thousands of other Russians, homeless,
penniless and without occupation in postwar Europe.   Unlike many
other refugees, including a great many fellow liberals, they -- or at
least Astrov -- left Russian shores with no real expectation of ever
returning." ("Gender and the Experience of Emigration: Countess Sofia
V. Panina in Post-war Europe, 1920-1924.")


OKHRANA The Paris Operations of the Russian Imperial Police

The Russian Refugees Between the Wars

"Gender and the Experience of Emigration: 
Countess Sofia V. Panina in Post-war Europe, 1920-1924."

Between Catholicism and Orthodoxy: Religious Life of Russian Émigrés
in Belgium Between the World Wars

The Socialist Revolutionary Party in Prague 1919 -1939

Marc Raeff, Russia Abroad: A Cultural History of the Russian
Emigration, 1919-1939 (1990)
Robert H. Johnston, "New Mecca, New Babylon": Paris and the Russian
Exiles, 1920-1945 (1972)

Savinkov, Boris Viktorovic - Archives



BBC News|UK|Stalin 'ordered spy's execution'

Sidney Reilly, Mrs. Reilly, Sidney Reilly Britain's Master Spy His Own
Story, Dorset Press, 1985

Stanford Magazine January/February 2001 A Doomed Democracy

Masters of Duplicity

"Orlov became assistant to the chief of the directorate and in that
position became familiar with the work of other department heads. His
mentor was the chief of counter-intelligence , a man named Artusov. He
and Orlov had become close friends during the Russo-Polish War.
Artusov was a brilliant , creative genius who devised deceptive and
provocative schemes to control and pacify the anti-Bolshevik forces.
One of his conspiratorial triumphs was called the "Trust" operation.
This stratagem called for a clique of Bolshevik agents playing the
role of "White Russian counter-revolutionaries" to forestall the
threat of terrorism and to put such plans on hold by convincing the
Grand Duke, the White Russian leader in exile, that the Trust and the
Whites could form an alliance to overthrow the Bolshevik regime. The
Trust offered the Duke a number of inducements including what appeared
to be a bona fide proposal that gave the Whites final control over the
selection of a Tsar and the Duke bought the whole package. Not only
that but the Trust extracted a vow from the Duke that he would never
make a move before consulting the Trust. This pledge bought time for
the Soviets over a six year period to consolidate their control over
the vast Soviet Union. It was an extraordinarily successful deception.
In another instant, the Trust was like a spider web attracting agents
outside of Russia to cross the border and attempt to unseat the
Bolsheviks.Once in they were entrapped. The method the Trust used was
to send disinformation to the Poles, who then turned it over to the
British who would then send one or more agents into Russia. In fact,
this is how the "Ace of Spies" was finally captured and executed."
Dmitrii Antonovich Volkogonov Papers (Library of Congress)
... Secret agent information and reports on Russian emigres,
investigation files ... 1939
(2 folders) Paris, France, Feb. ... 1921 Savinkov, Boris Victorovich,
July 1921-Dec ... 



gaucho34-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $20.00
this was fascinating and as a writer of fiction, gave me a whole set
of facts that sparked my imagination - also the source list of books
and websites was most useful and saved me months of work. I realkly
didn't knwo where to begin and now, I can begin!Thank you

Subject: Re: Russian emigrees in Paris, 1920-1939
From: journalist-ga on 02 Jun 2003 08:56 PDT
Greetings Gaucho34:

I located a book that you may be able to use for reference: 
Ivan Bunin: From the other shore, 1920-1933: a portrait from letters,
diaries and fiction - Ivan R. Dee, 1995. [B Bunin I] DYNIX# 920190 -
The first Russian Nobelist's life in exile, chiefly in Paris, after
escaping from bolshevist Russia in 1920.

Searching the name and title, I discovered many places from which you
may purchase it.  See the results at
to order from your choice of book providers.


If you are able to travel to Amherst College, they host the The
Amherst Center for Russian Culture and the archves list is located at

See their main page which references the following collections:

The Aleksandra Balashova Papers — Documents relating to the well-known
ballerina, Aleksandra Balashova (1887-1979), mostly from her Paris
period. NA

The Zinaida Gippius and Dmitri Merezhkovsky Papers — This collection
documents the life and activities of the Russian symbolist writers
Zinaida Gippius (1869-1945) and her husband Dmitry Merezhkovsky
(1865-1941); and their longtime secretaries, editors and writers,
Dmitry Filosofov (1872-1940) and Vladimir Zlobin (1894-1967). Gippius
was a prolific poet, fiction writer, playwright, essayist, memoirist,
and critic; Merezhkovsky's literary work included poetry, novels,
dramas, critical essays, and translations from several languages.
These papers largely cover the period of Gippius' and Merezhkovsky's
years of emigration in Paris (1920-1945).

The Konstantin Parchevskii Papers — Correspondence, manuscripts and
printed materials related to the life and activities of Konstantin
Parchevskii, a prominent journalist and secretary of the Union of
Russian Writers and Journalists in Paris. The materials in the
Parchevskii collection span the dramatic period from 1920-1940 when
Russian intellectuals struggled to survive abroad and to preserve
their culture.

The A. Remizov and S. Dovgello-Remizova Papers — The extensive
collection documents the professional activities and personal life of
Alexei Remizov (1877-1957) and his wife Serafima Dovgello-Remizova
(1882-1943), reflecting the former's long and prolific career as a
many-faceted writer and artist, and the latter's life as a professor
of anthropology and an active public figure. The materials include
books, collages, correspondence, journals and newspaper clippings,
scrapbooks, and writings dealing with the lives of A.Remizov and
S.Dovgello-Remizova. The collection spans the years 1903-1986, with
the bulk of the materials falling between 1922 and 1948. The papers
cover most completely the period of the Remizovs' life in Paris, where
they moved in 1923 and spent the rest of their lives.

The Konstantin Solntsev Collection — The collection consists of
correspondence, manuscripts, mementos, photographs, printed matter and
clippings documenting the personal and professional life of passionate
collector of Russian emigre materials, Konstantin Solntsev
(1894-1961). Solntsev's intention was to preserve Russian history by
organizing a museum of Russian emigre literature in Paris, which never
materialized due to the Second World War and his subsequent emigration
to the United States.

The Union of Russian Writers and Journalists Abroad Records — The
records document the organization and activity of the Union of Russian
Writers and Journalists Abroad, a Russian emigre organization, active
between 1920 and 1941, with headquarters in Paris. The collection
contains correspondence from such leading Russian intellectuals as
V.Nabokov, M.Tsvetayeva, M.Aldanov, Yu.Annenkov, B.Zaitsev, A.Remizov,
and G.Adamovich.


You may want to purchase a subscription to Questia, an online library
located at  I searched the site using "Russian
emigres Paris" (without the quotation marks) and located one book that
may assist you.  The search results URL is located at but it may not reproduce for you.  If it
doesn't, just go to the main page and search that term and you locate:

The Pletzl of Paris : Jewish Immigrant Workers in the "Belle Epoque"
Book by Nancy L. Green; Holmes & Meier, 1986 
Subjects: Jews, East European--France--Paris, Jews--France--Paris,
Jewish Labor Unions--France--Paris, Paris (France)--Ethnic Relations
...Pletzl 70 3.Russians and Rumanians in Paris, 1901 74...Countries
from Which Russian Jews Arrived in Paris ) 44 4.
Eastern...Distribution 73 6. Russian and Rumanian Students...the
Universite de Paris


I felt that you wanted more information that this regarding your query
and that's why I've posted my findings as a comment.  It may be that
another Researcher will locate more facts online for you.  You may
want to clarify the question about the manner in which you want the
information presented to you.

Best regards and good luck with your book,


"Russian emigres in Paris"
"Russian emigres" history Paris
Subject: Re: Russian emigrees in Paris, 1920-1939
From: hlabadie-ga on 04 Jun 2003 14:46 PDT
Thank you for the very generous tip and the rating. I hope that the
writing goes well and the book is successful.

Subject: Re: Russian emigrees in Paris, 1920-1939
From: francis29-ga on 04 Dec 2004 08:13 PST
I lived in Paris 1953-1957. Was fluent in Russian, but had minimal
contact with the emigres, much to my regret. Please let me know when
your book is available.

Important Disclaimer: Answers and comments provided on Google Answers are general information, and are not intended to substitute for informed professional medical, psychiatric, psychological, tax, legal, investment, accounting, or other professional advice. Google does not endorse, and expressly disclaims liability for any product, manufacturer, distributor, service or service provider mentioned or any opinion expressed in answers or comments. Please read carefully the Google Answers Terms of Service.

If you feel that you have found inappropriate content, please let us know by emailing us at with the question ID listed above. Thank you.
Search Google Answers for
Google Answers  

Google Home - Answers FAQ - Terms of Service - Privacy Policy