Latin America

In Uruguay, this tiny Russian town wants an end to war

San Javier, founded by Russian refugees in the 1910s, has looked on with consternation at developments in Ukraine. Even with their pride in their Russian heritage, the locals call for peace

san javier russian ukraine
Five giant matryoshka dolls on the central square of San Javier.

Driving northwest from Montevideo, toward the Uruguay River, you’ll eventually come across Сан-Хавьер, or San Javier, a sleepy town founded in 1913 when a group of Christian refugees fled the Russian Empire to settle on the Uruguay-Argentina border. The largest autonomous Russian colony in South America, San Javier is steeped in history and tradition but is facing present-day turbulence due to the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian war.

Some 98 percent of the town’s 1,800 inhabitants are of Slavic descent, encompassing Russia, Ukraine, and other former Soviet nations. “We have neighbors who see Russia, but also Ukraine, as the motherland of their ancestors,...

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