Why Russia attracts white farmers from South Africa

There are people in Russia whose goal is to convince white South Africans to move to rural areas of Russia, writes the Washington Post. Their main arguments are huge farmland, relative security and Russia's commitment to traditional Christian values. The discontent of white farmers in South Africa with the possible redistribution of land after the fall of the apartheid regime is also taken into account.

Kosyakovo, Russia - Leon du Toit slowly inhaled the warm summer air, which brought a light breeze from the farm fields near Moscow. “It smells like home,” said a 72-year-old from South Africa.

This is exactly what a Russian activist wanted to hear.

This man is leading a kind of “charisma attack” in South Africa, the goal of which is to convince South Africans to move to rural areas of Russia for 8 thousands of miles from South Africa.

The main arguments are huge areas of farmland, relative security and Russia's commitment to traditional Christian values.

Nobody speaks about this openly, but everyone understands that this campaign fits well with the identity policy pursued by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Perhaps the West sees Putin as a mainly strategic and military adversary. However, the support that he enjoys among Russians in Russia is based on the idea that Russia is the defender of the white Christian order of the old type and rejects "the so-called tolerance, asexual and fruitless," as Putin said in 2013 year.

Such statements helped raise Putin’s prestige among populists and nationalist political movements in the West. And inside Russia, they help achieve goals such political insiders as Vladimir Poluboyarenko. He is the contact person for government relations in the Stavropol Territory in southern Russia.

Poluboyarenko started organizing trips to Russia for those white South Africans who are considering moving.

This is his work due to many reasons. Firstly, this reduction in the population of Russia and the desire to protect Christian brothers. Add to this the discontent of South African white farmers who are faced with the prospect of a possible redistribution of land, which is associated with the authorities' desire to correct the injustices of the apartheid period.

Poluboyarenko argues that he pays for South African trips to Russia from his own funds, but this kind of activity undoubtedly requires the blessing of the Kremlin.

According to the Pew Center over the past year, less than 10 thousands of South Africans now live in Russia. In April last year, Russia abolished visa requirements for citizens of South Africa, that is, now South Africans do not need to prepare in advance for their trips to Russia.

“I want to show them that Russia can become their own,”

- said Poluboyarenko, who helps the Ombudsman for Human Rights in the Stavropol Territory.

Christian preacher Du Toy is seriously considering this proposal.

Together with his son, 39-year-old Johannes du Toy (Johannes du Toit), a former cleric, he came to Russia to explore.

In South Africa, most of the land still belongs to whites, despite the fact that whites make up only 10% of the country's 56-million population. However, du Toi, like many other white farmers in South Africa, is afraid that the trajectory of the movement of the authorities of their country - in such matters as land ownership, for example - is contrary to their interests.

One day, father and son du Toi walked through a meadow thickly overgrown with alfalfa. The elder Du Toi leaned over, plucked one sprout and began to chew on its leaves. His Russian hosts first looked at him with some doubt, and then began to applaud vigorously, seeing the pleasure on his face.

Poluboyarenko drove his guests across the expanses of the Russian hinterland a few days, introducing them to local farmers in the breadbasket of Russia.

“We understand that our government is obliged to listen to the opinion of the majority of people in the country,” said Johannes du Toi. Wheat fields and mountains of watermelons turned into bright blurry spots as they swept past in their car.

"But we do not want our children to be victims of these circumstances."

In August, the alleged plight of white South Africans — it had long been the battle cry of ultra-right movements around the world — attracted the attention of President Trump. After watching a report on this topic on Fox News (Fox News), he asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (Mike Pompeo) to study the issue of "mass extermination" of white farmers and the question of the government's readiness to take land from them.

This tweet was the first tweet of the current US president, which contained the word "Africa". The South African government has condemned these comments from President Trump.

The Kremlin, which maintains close ties with the South African government - after many years of assistance that it provided to the ruling party "African National Congress" - has not yet commented on the news about possible land redistribution.

However, white South Africans have already managed to speak on state television.

"The global media, Twitter and others - of course, those who have special motives - spread distorted information regarding the official statement of the African National Congress about its intentions regarding expropriation," said Wandile Sihlobo, a leading expert of the Agricultural Chamber of South Africa, commenting assumptions about the redistribution of land.

“However, we do not have a clear understanding of the intentions of the authorities,” added Sikhlobo, “which only increases fear and contributes to the spread of misinformation.”

So far, there are no official data on how many South Africans have already moved or are considering moving to Russia. Meanwhile Poluboyarenko actively agitates for it. He attracted attention earlier this year, when he helped a large German family, outraged by the imposition of sex education in Western schools, to settle in Russia.

Addressing father and son du Thoy on his native Kosyakovo farm, located about 100 kilometers south-east of Moscow, its general director Mikhail Baranov said: “You can be sure of one thing. Here you will not find liberalism, but you will find family values. ”

Such sentiments can find a response within a group of white farmers from South Africa who call themselves Boers, which means “farmer” in Dutch. They are descendants of Dutch settlers who arrived in South Africa in the 17 century, and their identity is based on the Netherlands Reform Church, Afrikaans and a common history of pioneers.

The older du Toi recalled his first trip to Russia in 2006, when he visited one of the churches in St. Petersburg. “I just looked at my relatives and cried,” he said.

For the South African farmer Adi Schlebusch (Adi Schlebusch) the religious revival of Russia was a decisive factor in the decision to emigrate.

“The return of Christian values ​​is a serious motivation for us,” explained Schlebush by phone. “We thought the Russians would treat us with sympathy.”

In October, 29-year-old Shlebush, his spouse and two children will pack their things and move to Moscow, where he plans to teach English.

Returning home from his first trip to Russia, which he made in July, Schlebush spoke with farmers living in his home province and members of their families. According to him, now about 25 families are seriously considering moving to Russia.

"In Russia, I enjoyed the freedom - the freedom to go wherever you want, through the fields and forests",

- told 60-year-old Jan Geldenhuys (Jan Geldenhuys), who until recently lived in Russia, growing wheat, soybeans and sunflower.

Returning to South Africa to visit his family, he now cannot decide whether to stay there or still go to Russia.

According to him, if the plans for the redistribution of land are implemented, he will return to Russia.

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