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Fact Check: Here's What's Known About the 'Immigrant Village' Allegedly Being Built in Russia for US and Canadian Conservatives

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Claim:

Russian authorities are launching construction of a special village outside Moscow dedicated to conservative-minded Americans and Canadians.

Rating:

Rating: Unproven
Rating: Unproven

In May 2023, several American publications asserted that a "special village" for conservative Americans and Canadians was in development. Vice News described the potential village as a "MAGA colony." The New Republic reported that "Russian authorities" were apparently planning the creation of of "a special village outside Moscow dedicated to conservative-minded Americans and Canadians."

(The New Republic)

A Russian immigration lawyer named Timur Beslangurov, who owns the domain name movetorussia.ru, is responsible for the claim. He has provided no concrete evidence the project is happening, but he made the assertion at the 11th St. Petersburg International Legal Forum, an event in which "representatives of the Russian and foreign legal community, business, and government [...] discussed the role and place of law in the modern world."

State-run Russian media outlet RIA Novosti, a sponsor of the forum, ran a story about his remarks on May 11, 2023. Beslangurov claimed that tens of thousands of people wanted to move to Russia and that the project would be (or had been) financed by future settlers of the village and was approved by a regional government (via Google translate):

A village will be built in the Moscow region for Americans and Canadians who want to immigrate to Russia, said Timur Beslangurov, a partner at the law firm VISTA Immigration, which provides assistance in obtaining Russian documents. [...]

According to Beslangurov, tens of thousands of people would like to move to Russia - foreigners without Russian roots. According to him, although the project is financed by future settlers, the approval of the regional government was required.

The project, he claimed, would begin sometime in 2024. As reported by Novosti, these westerners want to move to to avoid the "radical values" of their home countries and return to their Christian roots (via Google translate):

“The reason is the inculcation of radical values: today they have 70 genders, it is not known what will happen next. Many normal people emigrate, including considering Russia, but are faced with huge bureaucratic problems of Russian migration legislation,” the lawyer explained.

According to him, among those wishing to move there are also traditional Catholics who “very strongly believe in the prophecy that Russia will remain the only Christian country in the world.”

Outside of these lofty statements made at a Kremlin-backed legal conference, Beslangurov has not provided any evidence of the project's reality. In May 2023, he told Vice News he had no information to give them:

VICE News contacted Beslangurov asking for further information on the reported project, and to speak with some of the hundreds of potential Western immigrants he said existed to help verify his claims, but he replied that he wasn’t able to provide further information “at this stage.”

By email, Snopes asked Beslangurov if any progress had been made on the village and if plans to begin construction in 2024 were on track. "Yes, we are working to make this happen," he responded.

Beslangurov is not a "Russian authority," but a private lawyer who provides services for foreigners who wish to move to Russia. While he is evidently well connected, he is not an official voice of the Russian government. According to his Linkedin profile, he does "work closely with the federal agencies and the members and committees involved in the development of laws," however.

Beslangurov's statements echo similar statements made by the Kremlin seemingly geared at western conservatives. The New Republic wrote that "Beslangurov’s remarks [...] mirror the broader posturing of Russia’s government as “traditional” in comparison to the West’s supposed loose liberalism."

Beslangurov has regularly been cited on issues related to immigration to Russia and expatriate life in the international press. In 2022, he argued to the Daily Beast that "nothing good would happen" with western sanctions against Russia in response to their invasion of Ukraine and that the move would push Russia closer to China and India. In early 2023, his name appeared in an Indian outlet where he promoted a golden visa program aimed at recruiting Indian investors with offers of Russian residency.

Because no Russian "authority" is actively part of this project, and because the one person responsible for making the claim has thus far declined to provide evidence to support it, Snopes rates it Unproven.

Sources:

Chaudhury, Dipanjan Roy. “Russian Golden Visa: Russian Gov Aims to Lure Indian Investors with New Residency Program.” The Economic Times, 29 Jan. 2023. The Economic Times - The Times of India, https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/nri/migrate/russian-golden-visa-russian-gov-lures-indian-investors-with-new-residency-program/articleshow/97419768.cms.

Hume, Tim. “Russia Wants to Build a MAGA Colony for US Conservatives, Lawyer Claims.” Vice, 12 May 2023, https://www.vice.com/en/article/xgwdew/russia-maga-colony.

Kirsch, Noah. “‘In Tears’: Hollywood’s Messy Breakup With Russia’s Weeping Elite.” The Daily Beast, 3 Mar. 2022. www.thedailybeast.com, https://www.thedailybeast.com/celebrity-insider-bob-van-ronkel-on-hollywoods-messy-breakup-with-russias-oligarchs.

Recap of the 11th St. Petersburg International Legal Forum. https://legalforum.info/en/news/itogi-xi-peterburgskogo-mezhdunarodnogo-juridicheskogo-foruma/. Accessed 19 Jan. 2024.

Thakker, Prem, et al. “Russia Wants to Build a Safe Space for Conservative Americans to Move To.” The New Republic, 1 Nov. 2022. The New Republic, https://newrepublic.com/post/172710/russia-build-safe-space-conservative-americans-move.

Новости, Недвижимость РИА. “В Подмосковье построят деревню для американских иммигрантов.” Недвижимость РИА Новости, 20230511T1229, https://realty.ria.ru/20230511/derevnya-1871001155.html.

Updates:

Update [Jan. 20, 2024]: Added comment from Beslangurov.