I want to ride my bicycle

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The Fleeing Dutchman

The Flying Dutchman is a myth about a legendary ghost ship which was said to never be able to make port, doomed to sail the oceans for eternity. The legend inspired a number of writers as well as Wagner and Disney.

Last week, authorities in Belarus arrested a fleeing Dutchman. This Dutch citizen, after illegally crossing the border on a bicycle, now faces a five-year entry ban to Belarus. Allegedly, his motivation was to ‘start a new life’ in Belarus or Russia.

The Myth of Moral Migration

Dutch people are known for their love of cycling. The story of a Dutch citizen getting embroiled in bicycle adventures abroad is there quite mediagenic.

Russia Today also covered the story. It fits into a larger narrative claiming Westerners flee to Russia, escaping from the moral abyss in the West.

This week, we spotted a story in Tsargrad, an outlet with informal ties to the Kremlin, disparaging the French school system. According to Tsargrad, France’s écoles are actually a reason why people want to leave France. For Russia. Their dissatisfaction has no educational rationale. It has nothing to do with the number of Dostoevsky novels on the French school curriculum.

Instead, it is about morality.

Many are fed up with it, according to Tsargrad. Consequentially, moral migration “happens all the time.” As is often the case with pro-Kremlin disinformation, morality is about sex. Allegedly, people want to migrate to Russia so their kids have schools again where:

“first-graders are not [made bold by us] taught how to use a condom and why it’s good for a boy to be with another boy.”

This is not new. Readers of our website might recall our article on “Moral Migration to Crimea”. Life, a privately owned Russian online news outlet had claimed baselessly that “Europeans are seeking refuge in Russia from aggressive sexual education, homosexual dictatorship and juvenile justice”. In 2019, we also spotted the following claim of economic migration made by the television channel NTV:

“Almost a third of all Americans dream of leaving the United States. They are driven out of the country by unsurmountable taxes and high prices. Some have searched for a better life in Europe, in Crimea, but have settled in Moscow after all. They say that their ‘quality of life has improved multiple times’.

Does Russia wants to Know the Truth about Migration?

The claims of moral immigration are not backed by any evidence. Moreover, looking at actual migration numbers, it generally seems that emigration to Russia is becoming less popular.

Year by year, migration rates to Russia are steadily decreasing.

  • The net migration rate for Russia in 2018 was 1.254 per 1000 population, a 16.57% decline from 2017.
  • The net migration rate for Russia in 2019 was 1.127 per 1000 population, a 10.13% decline from 2018.
  • The net migration rate for Russia in 2020 was 1.001 per 1000 population, a 11.18% decline from 2019.

Even more striking in this regard is the fact the Russian government is either unwilling or unable to correctly represent the numbers.

The Moscow Times reported that at least six times more Russians are leaving the country than officially estimated. This was highlighted by a study conducted by the Proekt news outlet, which reported:

“The U.S. Department of Homeland Security counted six times more Russians arriving in 2017 than Rosstat recorded [leaving]…Six times more people left Russia for 24 OECD countries, where foreign data is available, for 2016.”

People care about the truth. Especially when those in power are concerned. If a government distorts it, people do not wish to migrate to the country it rules.

As for the bike-loving hero of our story, he has been returned to his home country and will now have to endure moral dictatorship in the Netherlands.



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Cases in the EUvsDisinfo database focus on messages in the international information space that are identified as providing a partial, distorted, or false depiction of reality and spread key pro-Kremlin messages. This does not necessarily imply, however, that a given outlet is linked to the Kremlin or editorially pro-Kremlin, or that it has intentionally sought to disinform. EUvsDisinfo publications do not represent an official EU position, as the information and opinions expressed are based on media reporting and analysis of the East Stratcom Task Force.

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