Insights of humanitarian crisis in Russian Federation
Placeless Souls
How refugees live in Russia

Russia - an unwelcoming place for refugees?
Despite the distance between them, there are more than thousand Syrian families coming to Russia after the war in their home country.
Almost 5 million people have fled Syria since 2011, seeking safety in Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and beyond. Millions more are displaced inside Syria and, as war continues, hope is fading fast.

Russia is ready to accept compatriots in Crimea and eastern Ukraine: to distinguish them from Russians you can look at the color of a passport. But the country has other immigrants, whose great-grandfathers were forced to leave the Caucasus 150 years ago. It Circassians returning to their ancestral homeland after the war in Syria. As a result, there were more than 100,000 Russian nationals in Syria by the outbreak of war, as well as tens of thousands of mixed Russian-Syrian families. The conflict has since forced many of them to seek refuge in Russia.

Amount of refugees is relatively small because Russian immigration law is not that supportive as European is. "At the beginning of the war there were something like 1,000 Syrian refugees here, now we have 6,000" told us Svetlana Gannushkina, founder of Civic Assistance Committee in Moscow. There is also transit of Syrian refugees through Russia to Europe, though very small amount of them actually were using that.

However, they faced many challenges – from the language barrier to the problem of finding employment. The biggest problem is documents. To make a temporary registration, obtain the status of displaced person, you must pass a thick package of documents. Currently dizziness. How to collect them, leaving the war-torn country?

1,000 Syrians applied for temporary asylum last year (2015-16) and there are currently just over 7,000 Syrians living in Russia.
Konstantin Romodanovsky
Head of the Federal Migration Service of Russia to RT
"An unprecedented 65.3 million people around the world have been forced from home. Among them are nearly 21.3 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18".
- UNHCR Yearbook published at June, 2016
Hard times for refugees in Russia
For decades, the Civic Assistance Committee has been the Only Russian NGO fighting for refugee welfare in the country. But the authorities now view them as "foreign agents", which will severely handicap their work.
"When I taught at MSU in the 90ies I had some Jewish friends who faced problems to apply for university and I felt really guilty for that. So I decided to do something to help them" explained Gannushkina
Civic Assistance Committee is a non-profit charitable organization with a mission to help refugees and internally displaced persons (often called 'forced migrants' in Russia). The Committee was set up in 1990 by a group of people in Moscow in reaction to the anti-Armenian pogroms in Azerbaijan. From its foundation, Civic Assistance Committee has acted as mediator between migrants and official government bodies, providing legal assistance, upholding social rights and offering humanitarian aid to those in need.
On 23 March 2017 Fortune magazine included her in the list of 'the world's 50 greatest leaders. The citation reads: "In Putin's Russia, fighting for human rights isn't the safest career path. And yet Gannushkina, a 75-year-old mathematician, soldiers on. Her Civic Assistance Committee has helped over 50,000 people, mainly migrants and refugees, navigate Russia's byzantine legal system. Some of her successes: Pushing to amend refugee laws to grant citizenship to millions, and lobbying for the rights of refugee children to attend Russian schools. All this, despite her organization being labeled a 'foreign agent' by the Russian government."
"Members of the public now turn less and less frequently for help to human rights defenders and to law enforcement agencies. Neither the former nor the latter can help them, and therefore people lose faith in using the law to solve their problems." Official letter to President Medvedev, 11.01.2010
Svetlana Gannushkina
Mathematician | Human Rights Defender
Founder of Civic Assistance Committee
Refugees school life
in Moscow region
In an apartment in the town of Noginsk, outside Moscow, and in Losino-Petrovskij, also nearby the Russian capital, refugees' kids can go to school. Their teachers, who also give classes in English and Arabic, are a mix of Syrians, Russians, and Syrian-Russians and they teach not just children, but even adults.

The Center is attended by almost 30 children (aged 6 to 18) at a time and they have classes 4 times a week. Refugees can learn Russian, English, Maths, all the main topics, as all the Russian kids do at school..Besides individual classes, there are group lessons in cultural studies, physics and drawing. Also, there is a psychologist who works with children having problems.

Children not only study: they play football, badminton, go on excursions and visit different cities. "What we do here I can call it integration" said Svetlana Gannushkina.
"In Syria, we were living a poor life, but at least it was a life. We had our pride and dignity. We came here, and we have nothing. If the situation doesn't change and our lives stay like this, we should all kill ourselves." 12-year-old Syrian girl who attempted to suicide in Tripoli, Lebanon, quoted by Foreign Policy in 2016
Refugees in numbers
According to the latest UNHCR statistics, there are 418,411 persons of concern* in Russia
Stateless persons
*Person of concern is an official term from UNHCR to indicate people like refugees, asylum-seekers, stateless
Meet our team
Cecilia Mussi
Cecilia is a freelancer journalist from Italy. She studied Russian and English and she graudated in foreign languages for communication. In 2014 she started a master school of journalism at Universitá Statale in Milan. Her main interests are Russian culture, sports and lifestyle.
Jing Cao
Jing is a blogger and junior year undergraduate of Lomonosov Moscow State University, she comes from China. As an international volunteer she has been to east of Ukraine and Lebanon Syrian refugee camp conducted humanitarian support. Now she is also freelancing for a refugee assistance NGO named Ponybaby Project and majoring in Russian and Eurasian studies. To be an outstanding human rights defender & journalist is her lifelong goal.
Julia Zabelina
Julia is a second course MSU journalism student. She is interested in multimedia journalism, lifestyle, art and culture
Thanks to our partners
We are grateful to the Civic Assistance Committee that supported our project and MSU faculty of journalism that gave us advice and help
Contact us:
Jing - Tel (RU) : +7 968 569 6896
Email :
Cecilia - Tel(RU) :+7 903 266 7925
Email :

Leninskie Gory, Dom 1#, Main building MSU
Moscow, Russian Federation
All the pictures in the text were taken from Flickr, and Facebook pages of Civic Assistance Committee
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