Their being part of the Russian emigration is oftentimes a convention determined, on the one hand, by the starting point of their exodus, be it the Russian Empire, the Soviet Union, the Russian Federation, and, on the other hand, by the simplified perception of all such people as Russian, regardless of their ethnic identity. It should be noted that this is common practice not limited to ex-Russians. For the outside world, anyone coming from China is Chinese, anyone coming from Spain to Spanish, anyone coming from India to Indian, etc. Ethnic differences and contradictions within such a large “diaspora” are known to the members of the diaspora and to those officials and specialists who work with migrants. In today’s Russia, ethnic differences have a larger significance within the country itself, while abroad “we are all Russians”.
Ethnic differentiation within immigrant communities usually occurs when specialized research takes place or due to particular social or political circumstances. For instance, if the Soviet soccer players or Soviet soldiers in Afghanistan were Chechens, they were still Russians for the Western world, but in the 1990s, when Chechnya became a factor in a geopolitical game, Chechens in the West are now perceived as an ethnic and political group opposed to Russian.
The pre-revolutionary ethnic emigration of the peoples of the Russian empire generally corresponded to overall emigration waves, although they were additional motivations. Most emigrants from Lithuania were landless peasants (before 1914). The emigration was influenced by the abolition of serfdom, suppression of the 1863 uprising, the famine after the poor harvests of the 1867 – 1868, and finally, by mass conscription introduced in 1874. Just as Russian labor migrants, Lithuanians were motivated by material gain and they subsequently planned to return home.
However, still in the 19th century, the structure of ethnic communities abroad (Polish, Lithuanian, and others) had elements which took their shape because of the fundamental political and cultural rejection of the Russian World. This influence was strengthened in the 1930s – 1940s an as a result, this ethnic communities were strongly drawn to the eponymous independent states which appeared later than their diasporas abroad. Thus, Russia provided “diaspora material” foe other countries, in the first place, for Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, Ukraine, and Belarus. However, fragments of such ethnic diaporas are still located in Russia, and their members speak Russian, which ties them with the Russian World.