Quakers in Britain recognise that the need to build bridges between the people of Russia and (the rest of) Europe has never been greater. This page contains ideas for citizen diplomacy to help foster peace and good relations with Russian people.

Common security will come through building a culture of peace and dialogue at every level. Connections between ordinary people have been important in the past including during the Cold War. They have sometimes involved cross-border peace advocacy and sometimes focused on building friendships between people from opposing blocs of countries. These approaches are types of citizen diplomacy (or people-to-people diplomacy).

Get involved

    Citizen diplomacy key points

    We recommend that you approach any citizen diplomacy correspondence in these ways:

    • Emphasise our common humanity and shared values rather than just the detail of any specific aspect of the conflict.
    • Be mindful about how a lifetime of different media and other cultural influences may shape people's attitudes.
    • For more information on engaging in productive dialogue download our guide to having difficult conversations (PDF).

    Communicating with people inside Russia

    In the current dangerous climate for anti-war protesters and dissidents in Russia, all cross-border communication should adhere to the 'first do no harm' principle. Avoid taking action which may put people in Russia at risk of harm, or incriminate people who are – or may be seen to be – anti-war.

    For example, avoid implying that your correspondents agree with you and that your message is part of ongoing communication. Instead, start the message with sentences such as 'I know you might see things differently...'. Make it clear when you are expressing your opinions, rather than making it seem that they share them.

    The Russian authorities have greatly restricted many communication channels that were previously available to people inside Russia. Many people in Russia have responded to this by finding alternative means of communication or circumventing censorship, such as through virtual private networks (VPNs).

    The internet activist group Anonymous has publicised some alternative means of communication with people inside Russia. Another similar initiative is called Love Operation. We cannot vouch for the safety of these communication methods, nor do we endorse them. There will be other methods of communication which you may find more suitable. We know that some people have been using new, 'throw away' email and social media accounts for communication with people in Russia.

    Communicating with the Russian diaspora

    Orthodox World, the world's largest Orthodox Christian online directory, enables people to find contact details of Orthodox – including Russian Orthodox – churches, schools, monasteries and other organisations, not just in Russia but around the world, including in the UK.

    See contact details for:

    We have prepared a model letter which you can adapt and use to write to congregations, organisations and faith leaders in the Russian diaspora. You can change and personalise it if you wish, but BYM won't be able to assist with translations.

    Unless you have existing links, we recommend that you pursue local connections first. If you use directories, then don't just contact the first group listed in the directory – if everyone does that, they may get a lot of correspondence! We hope that you can write not only to Russian congregations and faith leaders in the UK, but in other countries as well. In case of difficulty with communication in English, free online translation programmes such as Google translate can be useful.

    Would you be interested in meeting with others engaged in this sort of work to share experience and learning and mutual support? If so contact Teresa Parker, Engagement and Faith in Action Lead, at teresap@quaker.org.uk. If there is sufficient interest we will set this up. Please also write to Teresa to let us know of any responses you have received.

    Friendship cards

    If you would like to make a card to send in the post to Russian Orthodox addresses we suggest you use a very brief message such as 'in friendship', particularly if you are sending it to Russia. Words such as 'peace' or indirect references to the war may expose recipients in Russia to various risks.

    Safety considerations

    We expect the risk from unsolicited communication to Russian people in the diaspora will be significantly lower than writing to people in Russia. However, you should still consider the implications of any communication you engage in.

    There may be some cybersecurity risk for those who engage in citizen diplomacy online. Consider opening a dedicated email account. If you are particularly concerned about maintaining privacy, opening a more secure type of account may be useful. The Electronic Frontier Foundation provides information on defending digital privacy.

    Especially if you send many messages, your emails may be flagged as spam. Sending letters by regular post is an alternative to electronic communication.

    Supporting Ukraine

    Friends wishing to find out how to support Ukraine please see our page Responding to the war in Ukraine and Quakers in Europe webpage on peace and Ukraine (external link).


    Photo by Anna Zakharova on Unsplash