Russian Americans

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Editor: Thomas Riggs
Date: 2014
Publisher: Gale, a Cengage Company
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Russian Americans

Paul Robert Magocsi


Russian Americans are immigrants or descendants of immigrants from Russia. The largest country in total land area in the world, Russia occupies one-eighth of the earth's surface and spans ten time zones. It stretches from the plains of Eastern Europe across Siberia as far as the shores of the Pacific Ocean and from north of the Arctic Circle south to the Middle East. The Ural Mountains, which are located mainly in Russia, form the boundary between the two continents it straddles, Europe and Asia. One-third of the country borders fourteen other countries: Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, the People's Republic of China, and North Korea; the other two-thirds are bounded by water. Composed of more than 6.6 million square miles (17 million square kilometers) of territory, Russia is almost twice the size of the United States.

The 2010 Russian census measured the country's population at 142.9 million. Around 80 percent of the people are ethnic Russians, 3.8 percent are Tatars, 2 percent are Ukrainian, and the balance consists of more than ninety smaller ethnic groups. According to a 2011 survey by the Levada Center, a Russian nongovernmental polling and sociological research organization, approximately 70 percent self-identify with the (Christian) Russian Orthodox Church, although a 2012 survey by the Independent Research Service (SREDA) produced a figure of 41 percent, and the portion of Russians who actually practice the religion is estimated at between 10 and 20 percent. Along with Slavic ethnicity, Russian Orthodoxy has historically formed a pillar of Russian national identity, and it is currently favored by the government as the national religion. More than 6 percent of the people—Russia's second largest religious population—are Muslim, concentrated in the various Caucasian and Turkic ethnic groups; these are primarily Sunni, with a very small fraction being Shiite. After a period of chaos and extreme hardship following the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Russian economy stabilized in the late 1990s. It has since grown to be the ninth largest in the world, based largely on exploitation of the country's vast natural resources, especially oil and gas. While a growing and thriving middle class has made its mark both at home and abroad, economic life is still dominated by a small number of extremely wealthy and politically connected “oligarchs,” and conditions for many Russians, especially outside the major cities, remain difficult.

In a sense, there are two Russian homelands. One is the present-day state of Russia, which coincides with territory largely inhabited by ethnic Russians. The other includes territories that are beyond Russia proper but were once part of the pre–World War I Russian Empire and later the Soviet Union. Americans who identify their heritage as Russian include first-generation immigrants and their descendants, who came from Russia within its present-day border; people from the Baltic countries, Belarus, and Ukraine who identify as Russians; East Slavs from the former Austro-Hungarian Empire who identified themselves as Russians once in the United States; and Jews from the western regions of the former Russian Empire and the Soviet Union who, aside from their religious background, identify as Russians. These different groups have produced different and distinct patterns of immigration, ranging from settlers crossing from Siberia to Alaska and the West Coast of the United States in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries; to large-scale immigration, mostly by Jews and other minorities, from the Russian Empire during its last decades; to several waves of refugees from the Soviet Union after the 1917 revolution and continuing through the twentieth century. While earlier immigrants largely became farmers or industrial workers, those who came from Soviet and post-Soviet Russia tended to be educated professionals and entered corresponding fields upon arrival. The first decade of the twenty-first century was characterized by “new Russians,” or “global Russians,” who had benefited from the economic transition of the 1990s and were much more likely to keep one foot in their home country.

In 2011 nearly 3 million people of Russian ancestry lived in the United States, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey estimates—just less than one percent of the entire American population, a number slightly larger than the population of Chicago. (Other sources put the number higher, at around 3.15 million.) The bulk of Russian immigrants have settled in the big cities of the Northeast—New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C.—and in California, though notable Page 32  |  Top of ArticleRussian American settlements can also be found in smaller and rural communities in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Illinois, and Florida.


Early History Much of European Russia—the region west of the Urals—was part of a medieval state known as Kievan Rus', which existed from the late ninth century to the thirteenth century. During the Kievan period, Orthodox Christianity reached the area, and the religion remained intimately connected with every state or culture that developed on Russian territory until the twentieth century. A more specifically Russian state was born in the late thirteenth century, in a northern part of Kievan Rus', the Duchy of Muscovy. The state-building process began when the Duchy began to consolidate its power and expand its territory with phenomenal results. By the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the growing state included lands along the Baltic Sea and in Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, and large parts of Poland. The country's borders also moved beyond the Ural Mountains into Siberia, a vast land whose annexation, together with that of Central Asia and the Caucasus region, was completed in the nineteenth century.

As the country grew, its name was amended to the Tsardom of Muscovy, and in 1721 it became the Russian Empire. Throughout the centuries Muscovy/Russia functioned as a centralized state ruled by autocratic leaders whose titles changed as their power and influence expanded. The grand dukes became the tsars of Muscovy, who in turn became emperors. Although the rulers of the Russian Empire were formally called emperors (imperator), they were still popularly referred to as tsars and tsarinas.

The tsars wielded absolute power over a vast country populated by a relatively small number of privileged nobles exploiting a destitute peasant majority. The serfs were subject to feudal authority long after it had been abolished in western Europe. Still, certain tsars sought to lift Russia out of its backwardness and played significant roles on the European stage. Peter the Great (reigned 1682–1725) traveled to Holland and England to see the latest advances in science, technology, and organization firsthand and returned to build a new capital, Saint Petersburg, as a symbol of his efforts to drag Russia forward. Catherine the Great (reigned 1762–1796) continued to reform the country's administration and education systems. She corresponded with Voltaire and other leading figures of the French Enlightenment, though without changing the essential dictatorial character of the Russian ruler. The contradiction between the country's scope and potential on the one hand and its isolation from trends towards greater democracy and development experienced in travels to the West produced a deep sense of frustration and an inferiority complex that has continued to dog educated Russians to this day.

By the end of the nineteenth century, the land area of the Russian Empire encompassed more than 8.5 million square miles (22 million square kilometers). The pre-1914 empire was an economically underdeveloped country comprised primarily of poor peasants and a small but growing percentage of poorly paid or unemployed industrial workers. European Russia also encompassed the so-called Pale of Settlement (present-day Lithuania, Belarus, Moldova, large parts of Poland, and Ukraine), the only place where Jews were allowed to reside. The vast majority of these Jews lived in small towns and villages in their own communities known as the shtetl, which were made famous in the United States through the setting of the 1964 Broadway musical Fiddler on the Roof. The narrative was based on the Yiddish-language stories of Russian Jewish writer Sholem Aleichem (1859–1916), himself an immigrant to New York City late in his life.

The nineteenth century, known as the “Golden Age” of Russian literature, witnessed the appearance of world-renowned figures such as the poet Alexander Pushkin (1799–1837) and the novelists Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821–1881) and Leo Tolstoy (1828–1910), as well as such Romantic composers as Pyotr Tchaikovsky (1840–1893), bringing the nation's culture and political and intellectual thought into international exchange. This flowering by and large remained limited to the aristocratic classes, however, and the chains of serfdom continued to bind and immiserate the peasant masses. In 1861, in response to growing public sentiment against the institution of serfdom and aiming to head off the threat of revolution, Tsar Alexander II emancipated the serfs, after which they continued to struggle with poverty and debt. The drastically unequal social conditions and the country's increasingly outmoded political structure gave rise to a succession of radical movements seeking to transform the tsarist order, making its last decades a time of turbulence and upheaval though also of creativity and change.

Modern Era On the heels of the country's shocking loss in the 1904 to 1905 Russo-Japanese War, widespread strikes and unrest coalesced into what became known as the Revolution of 1905. Tsar Nicholas II responded by instituting several reforms to liberalize the authoritarian political system, most notably the election of a State Duma, or parliament; the appointment of a prime minister; and the formation of a constitutional monarchy, though the balance of power still lay with the tsar and his advisors. At the beginning of World War I, the Russian Empire fought on the side of the Allies (France and the United Kingdom), but internal demonstrations erupted in a series of struggles known as the Russian Revolution, and in March 1917 the tsarist empire collapsed. A weak provisional government left room for a new struggle to erupt in November, fomented Page 33  |  Top of Articleby the Bolsheviks (a faction of the Marxist Russian Social-Democratic Workers' Party) and their revolutionary leader, Vladimir Lenin. Russia withdrew from the war, ceding vast areas of land to the Germans. The Bolshevik Revolution was opposed by a significant portion of the population, and the result was a civil war that began in 1918 and lasted until early 1921. The Bolsheviks were ultimately victorious, and in late 1922 they created a new state, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union consisted of fifteen constituent national republics, the largest of which was Russia. Beyond the Russian Republic many inhabitants, especially in the western regions of the Soviet Union, continued to identify themselves as Russians.

The new Soviet state proclaimed as its goal the establishment of Communism worldwide, to be achieved through promoting Bolshevik-style revolutions abroad. Since many countries feared such revolutions, they refused to recognize Bolshevik rule. Thus, the Soviet Union was isolated from the rest of the world community for nearly twenty years. That isolation came to an end during World War II, when the Soviet Union, ruled by Lenin's successor Joseph Stalin from the mid-1920s until his death in 1950, joined the Allied Powers in the struggle against Nazi Germany and Japan. This alliance led to a wholesale change in the U.S. image of Russia, exemplified by Hollywood feature films praising the Russian spirit, Soviet achievements, and even Stalin himself, such as Mission to Moscow (1943), and documentaries including The Battle of Russia (1943), part of director Frank Capra's series Why We Fight.

Following the Allied victory in 1945, the Soviets emerged alongside the United States as one of the two most powerful countries in the world. By 1948, however, the short-lived cooperation quickly turned to conflict, as competing ideologies and aspirations to influence and control inaugurated the Cold War. For nearly the next half-century, the world was divided into two camps: the free or capitalist West, led by the United States; and the revolutionary or communist East, led by the Soviet Union.

By the 1980s the centralized economic and political system of the Soviet Union could no longer function effectively, and in 1985 a new communist leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, tried desperately to reform the system but failed. He did set in motion a new revolution, however, bringing such enormous changes that in late 1991 the Soviet Union collapsed. In its place, each of the former Soviet republics became an independent country, among them Russia. After a period of wrenching economic change under President Boris Yeltsin, highlighted by the privatization of the vast state resources and their concentration in the hands of a relative few oligarchs, Vladimir Putin was elected President in 2000 and reelected in 2004 and 2012. He spent the intervening four years, when he could not be president because of constitutional limitations, as prime minister. The “Putin era” has seen economic stabilization and the establishment of a significant and thriving middle class but also persistent corruption, organized crime, and charges of a new authoritarianism that harkens back to the history of rule by the Communist Party and the tsars.


The first Russians on U.S. territory were part of Russia's internal migration. During the eighteenth century Russian traders and missionaries crossing Siberia reached Alaska, which became a colony of the Russian Empire. By 1784 the first permanent Russian settlement was founded on Kodiak Island, a large island off the Alaskan coast. Soon there were Russian colonies on the Alaskan mainland (Yakutat and Sitka), and by 1812 the Russians had pushed as far south as Fort Ross in California, 100 miles north of San Francisco. In 1867 the Russian government sold Alaska to the United States, and most Russians in Alaska (whose numbers never exceeded five hundred) returned home. Russian influence persisted in Alaska, however, in the form of the Orthodox Church, which succeeded in converting as many as twelve thousand native Inuit and Aleut people.

Large-scale emigration from Russia to the United States only began in the late nineteenth century. Since that time four distinct periods of immigration can be identified: the 1880s to 1914; 1920 to 1939; 1945 to 1955; and 1970s to the present. The reasons for emigration included economic hardship, political repression, religious discrimination, or a combination of those factors.

Between 1881 and 1914 more than 3.2 million immigrants arrived from the Russian Empire. Nearly half were Jews; only 65,000 were ethnically Russian, while the remaining immigrants were Belarusans and Ukrainians. Regardless of their ethnoreligious background, their primary motive was to improve their economic status. Many of the 1.6 million Jews who left, though, primarily did so because they feared pogroms—attacks on Jewish property and persons that occurred sporadically in the Russian Empire from the 1880s through the first decade of the twentieth century.

While many Jews from the Russian Empire did not identify themselves as Russians, another group of immigrants adopted a Russian identity in the United States. These were the Carpatho-Rusyns, or Ruthenians, from northeastern Hungary and Galicia in the Austro-Hungarian Empire (today, these lands lie in far western Ukraine, eastern Slovakia, and southeastern Poland). Of the estimated 225,000 Carpatho-Rusyns who immigrated to the United States before World War I, perhaps 100,000 eventually joined the Orthodox Church, where they and their descendants still identify themselves as Americans of Russian background.

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The second wave of immigration was less diverse in origin. It was directly related to the political upheaval in the former Russian Empire that was brought about by the Bolshevik Revolution and Russian Civil War that followed. More than two million people fled Russia between 1920 and 1922, among them demobilized soldiers from anti-Bolshevik armies, aristocrats, Orthodox clergy, professionals, businesspersons, artists, intellectuals, and peasants, Jews and non-Jews (the majority). All these refugees had one thing in common—a deep hatred for the new Bolshevik/communist regime in their homeland. Because they were opposed to the communist Reds, these refugees came to be known as the Whites.

Many White Russians fled from the southern Ukraine and the Crimea (the last stronghold of the anti-Bolshevik White Armies), traveling to Istanbul in Turkey before moving on to one of several countries in the Balkans, especially Yugoslavia and Bulgaria; to other countries in east-central Europe; to Germany; or to France, especially Paris and the French Riviera (Nice and its environs). Others moved directly westward and settled in the newly independent Baltic States (today's Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Finland), Poland, Czechoslovakia, or farther on to western Europe. A third outlet was in the Russian far east, from where the White émigrés crossed into China, settling in the Manchurian city of Kharbin. As many as 30,000 left the Old World altogether and settled in the United States. This wave of Russian immigration occurred during the early 1920s, although in the late 1930s several thousand more came, fleeing the advance of Nazi Germany and Japan's invasion of Manchuria. During this period approximately 14,000 immigrants originally from Russia arrived in the United States.

The third wave of Russian immigration to the United States (1945–1955) was a direct outcome of World War II. Large portions of the former Soviet Union had been occupied by Germany during the war, and hundreds of thousands of Russians had been captured or deported to work in Germany or were simply caught behind the lines of the retreating Nazi army, which precipitated them moving further west. After the war many were forced to return home. Others lived in displaced persons camps in Germany and Austria until they were able to emigrate to the United States. During this period approximately 20,000 of Russian displaced persons (DPs), arrived.

Both the tsarist Russian and Soviet governments placed restrictions on emigration. In 1885 the imperial Russian government passed a decree that prohibited all emigration except that of Poles and Jews, which explains the small numbers of non-Jewish Russians in the United States before World War I. By the early 1920s the Bolshevik/communist-led Soviet government implemented further controls that effectively banned all emigration. The second-wave White Russian refugees who fled after the revolution were stripped of their citizenship in absentia in a series of legal measures between 1921 and 1924 and could not lawfully return home; these measures were mitigated by later amnesties and were no longer in force after World War II. The situation was effectively similar for the post–World War II DPs, who were viewed as Nazi collaborators and traitors by the Soviet authorities.

In contrast, the fourth wave of Russian immigration that began in late 1969 was legal. It was formally limited to Jews, who were allowed to leave the Soviet Union for Israel as part of the agreements reached between the United States and the Soviet Union during the era of détente (1971–1980), near the midway point in the Cold War. In return for allowing Jews to leave, the United States and other Western powers expanded the economic, cultural, and intellectual ties with their communist rival. Although Jews leaving the Soviet Union were only granted permission to go to Israel, many had the United States as their true goal, and by 1985 nearly 300,000 had reached the United States. Effectively, the opportunity to emigrate was also extended to Germans and Armenians, with the rationale of family reunification.

After 1985 the more liberal policy of the Soviet government under Mikhail Gorbachev allowed anyone to leave the Soviet Union, and thousands more Jewish and non-Jewish Russians immigrated to the United States. Because Russia has been, since 1991, an independent country with a democratically elected government, immigrants could no longer justify their need to leave home on the grounds of political or religious persecution. This factor resulted in a slowing of Russian immigration during the last decade of the twentieth century and the first decade of the twenty-first.

Of the estimated 2.99 million Americans identified as wholly or partially of Russian ancestry by the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey in 2011, more than 36 percent resided in the Northeast. Among the first wave of immigrants from Russia, the Jews, in particular, went to New York City, Philadelphia, Boston, and other large cities. The non-Jewish Russians from the Russian Empire and the Carpatho-Rusyns settled in these cities as well as in Chicago, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and the coal-mining towns of eastern Pennsylvania. Nearly 5,000 members of a Russian Christian religious sect known as the Molokans settled in California during the first decade of the twentieth century. They formed the nucleus of what has become a 20,000-member Russian Molokan community that is concentrated today in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Most White Russian soldiers, aristocrats, professionals, and intellectuals of the second wave of immigrants settled in New York City, Philadelphia, and Chicago, but some moved into farming areas; for example, a group of Don and Kuban Cossacks (descendants of historical warrior communities in southern Russia, who formed the core of the White Russian Army) established what are still vibrant rural Page 35  |  Top of Articlecenters in southern New Jersey. Those who emigrated from the Russian far east and Chinese Manchuria settled in California, especially in San Francisco and Los Angeles. The fourth wave settled almost exclusively in cities where previous Russian immigrants had gone, especially New York City. Certain sections of the city, such as Brighton Beach in Brooklyn, were transformed into dynamic Russian communities by the 1980s.

While the basic settlement pattern established by the first two waves of immigrants were maintained, the past few have also witnessed migration toward Sun Belt states such as Florida, as well as to California where the original Russian communities have been supplemented by newcomers from the Northeast.

According to the American Community Survey estimates for 2009–2011, the states with the highest populations of Russian Americans included California (437,366), New York (471,517), Florida (235,298), New Jersey (190,965), and Pennsylvania (200,511). Other states with smaller but still significant numbers are Illinois (131,390) and Massachusetts (124,112).


Russian is the most widespread of the Slavic languages and is spoken today by more than 250 million people. Most first-generation immigrants used Russian to communicate with family and friends until they had attained a knowledge of English. For others the Russian language took on a symbolic function and was maintained to preserve a sense of Russian identity. For these reasons the Russian language has never died out in the United States and, in fact, the number of native speakers and publications expanded dramatically during the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. According to 2010 U.S. Census data, 19.4 percent of Russian Americans speak a language “other than English”—presumably Russian in almost all cases—at home; this rate is significantly higher in certain states, such as New York (27.9 percent) and Alaska (35.5 percent).

Throughout much of the twentieth century, the appearance of Russian-language newspapers, journals, and books in the United States and other countries where Russians lived helped keep traditional Russian culture alive. Following the onset of Bolshevik rule in late 1917, the Soviet state gradually banned all forms of cultural and intellectual activity that did not conform to Stalin's version of Communism. Even the Russian language was transformed: several letters were deleted from the Cyrillic alphabet and new words were introduced that reflected the changes brought about by the Soviet system. Many of these new words were really abbreviations, such as gensek (“general secretary”), gosplan (“state plan”), kolkhoz (“collective farm”), Komsomol (“Communist Youth League”), natsmen (“national minority”), vuzy (“colleges and universities”), and zarplata (“salary”). At the same time many words were eliminated, such as

In Brighton Beach, otherwise known as “Little Odessa,” Russian immigrants enjoy the winter sun. Brooklyn, NYC. In Brighton Beach, otherwise known as “Little Odessa,” Russian immigrants enjoy the winter sun. Brooklyn, NYC. PHILIP SCALIA / ALAMY

gorodovoi (“police officer”), which was replaced with (militsioner); gospodin (“gentleman,” “Mr.”) and gospozha (“lady,” “Mrs.”), both of which were replaced by tovarishch (“comrade”); and gubernator (“governor”), a position which was abolished.

Many Russians who emigrated after the Bolshevik Revolution felt they had a moral duty to preserve the old alphabet as the medium for the “true” Russian language. As a result, until the fall of the Soviet Union in late 1991, there existed two Russian literatures: Soviet Russian literature and Russian literature abroad. Schools were also created in an attempt to preserve the Russian language for the descendants of immigrants. Since the late nineteenth century, many Orthodox Church parishes have had their own Russian-language schools. This tradition is still practiced in some parishes and in summer camps conducted by the Russian Scout movement. At a higher level various Orthodox churches operated Russian-language seminaries, and there were even Russian classes at university-level institutions such as the Russian Collegiate Institute in New York City (1918) and the Russian People's University in Chicago (1918–1920). These efforts proved to be short-lived, although Russian language, literature, history, and culture courses are taught at some high schools and numerous universities throughout the United States. With the arrival of increasingly self-confident and economically stable immigrants after the late 1990s, the number of Russian-language newspapers and radio and television stations has blossomed, especially in large and growing Russian American communities such as Brooklyn. One example is the Russian-language daily newspaper Рeпортeр (Reporter), founded in New York in 2011.

Greetings and Popular Expressions Some common Russian expressions (with pronunciation) are: ДобрыйдeHь (DOBriy den)—“Good day”; Какпоживаeшь? (kak pazhiVAYESH)—“How are you?”; Спасибо, прeкрасно! (SpaSEEba preeKRASna)—“Fine, thanks!”; До свидания! (Da sveeDAneeya)—“Good-bye”;

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and Выговоритe По -английски? (Vi gavaREEtye pa anGLEESkee)—“Do you speak English?”


Based on religious criteria, Russian Americans are classified in three categories: Orthodox Christians, Jews, and nominal Jews. The concept of being a Russian in the United States is often associated with the Orthodox Christian faith. The Russian Orthodox Church traces its roots to the Eastern Christian world. After the Christian church split in 1054 between the western or Latin sphere (centered in Rome) and the eastern or Byzantine-Greek sphere (centered in Constantinople—present-day Istanbul), the Orthodox Church in Russia maintained its spiritual allegiance to the Byzantine East. The second half of the fifteenth century saw the foundation of a jurisdictionally independent Russian Orthodox Church, with its main seat in Moscow. At first the church was headed by a patriarch, but after 1721 it was led by a council of bishops known as the Synod.

Russian Orthodoxy (and Eastern Christianity in general), differs from the Western Catholic Church in several major ways: the Divine Liturgy (not Mass) was conducted in Church Slavonic instead of Latin, priests could marry, and the old Julian calendar was retained. This meant that by the twentieth century, feasts with fixed dates were two weeks behind the commonly used Gregorian calendar. Russian Orthodox Christmas, for instance, is on January 7.

Russian Orthodox Church architecture, both in the homeland and in the United States, also has distinctive features. Church structures are based on a square floor plan (called the Greek cross) covered by a high central dome and surrounded by four or more smaller domes. The domes are usually finished in gold and topped by three-bar crosses. Inside, the dominant element is the iconostasis, a screen covered by icons that separates the altar from the congregation. Some traditional churches have no pews, and there is never an organ, because Orthodox belief states that only the human voice is permitted in the worship of God. Russian Orthodox priests are often clad in colorful vestments laden with gold trim. Some priests also wear long beards, which, according to tradition, should not be cut.

Throughout its history in the United States, the Russian Orthodox church has not only ministered to immigrants from Russia but has also functioned as a missionary church, attracting new adherents. Before Alaska was purchased by the United States in 1867, the church had converted more than 12,000 Aleutians and some Eskimos to Orthodoxy. Aside from his spiritual work, the Orthodox Russian Bishop Innokentii Veniaminov (1797–1879) was Page 37  |  Top of Articlealso the first person to codify a written Aleut language, in which he published a dictionary, grammar guide, Bible, and prayer books.

During the 1890s and the first decade of the twentieth century, Russian Orthodoxy won nearly 50,000 converts in the United States. These were Carpatho-Rusyn immigrants of the Greek or Byzantine Catholic faith living in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Ohio, and other northeastern industrial states. One of their own priests, the Ruthenian Father Alexis Toth (1853–1909), convinced many Greek Catholic parishioners to return to the Orthodox faith of their ancestors. For his work Toth was hailed as the “father of Eastern Orthodoxy in America,” and in 1994 he was made an Orthodox saint.

Among early twentieth century Russian immigrants, Molokans and Old Believers reflect internal divisions in the Russian Orthodox Church that have roots in the Russian Empire. The Molokans evolved from “Spiritual Christian” peasants who rebelled against dietary restrictions of the Orthodox Church before the eleventh century. The Old Believers movement dates from protests against church reforms in the seventeenth century. These immigrants have been most fervent in retaining a sense of Russian identity through an active use of the Russian language in their religious services and in their daily lives.

More significant to most Russian American Christians are the splits that occurred in the Russian Orthodox Church after its establishment in the United States. The divisions were the result of developments in the homeland; they resulted in particular from the reaction of Russians abroad to the Bolshevik Revolution and the existence of the officially atheist Soviet Union. During the 1920s and 1930s, three factions developed within Russian Orthodoxy in the United States. One consisted of the original Russian Orthodox Church that had arrived in Alaska before moving to California and New York. It continued to formally recognize the patriarch, whose office as head of the mother church in Russia was restored by the All-Russian Church Council in 1917. Because Russia was ruled by an uncompromising Soviet government, however, the American branch of the church governed itself as a distinct jurisdiction known as the Metropolia. The second Orthodox faction consisted of the post–World War I White Russian émigrés, including some clergy and laypeople of the church who rejected the idea of a patriarch, favoring a church governed by the Synod. These immigrants came to be known as the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, or the Synod. A third group consisted of individual parishes that remained directly under the jurisdiction of the patriarch in Moscow, even though he was living in a “godless Soviet communist state” and was subject to governmental pressure.

Each of the three factions of the Russian Orthodox Church in the United States had its own bishops, clergy, cathedrals, churches, monasteries, seminaries, publications, and supporting lay organizations. Each also often denounced the others, so that much of Russian community life in the United States from the 1920s through the 1960s was characterized by fierce rivalry between competing Russian Orthodox Churches.

In 1970 the Metropolia reached an agreement with the patriarch in Moscow, was released from its formal subordination to Moscow, and became an independent body: the Orthodox Church of America, which conducts all its services in English. This church is the largest of the three Russian Orthodox churches in the United States. It has absorbed most of the patriarchal parishes. The Synod Abroad remains staunchly Russian in terms of religious tradition and language use and was an enemy of the Soviet Union until that state's demise in 1991.

The large pre–World War I influx of Jews from the Russian Empire consisted mainly of individuals whose lives had been governed by Jewish law and tradition in the thousands of shtetls throughout European Russia. Whether these Jews were of the conservative Orthodox or Hasidic tradition, their lives were characterized by attendance at the synagogue, observance of the Sabbath (from sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday), and deference to the rabbi as community leader. While the authority of the rabbi over most aspects of daily Jewish life could not be fully maintained in the New World, the pre–World War I Russian Jewish immigrants maintained their religious traditions within the confines of the home and synagogue. It was their Jewishness and not any association with Russia that made them indistinguishable from the larger Jewish American society.

For the most part Russian immigrants and their descendants have succeeded in assimilating into mainstream American life. A few groups have avoided acculturation and maintained the traditional lifestyle they brought from their homeland. Such traditionalists include the Orthodox Christian Old Believers and the non-Orthodox Molokan Christian sect.

The arrival of Russian Jews since the early 1970s stands in stark contrast to their pre–World War I predecessors. For nearly seventy years, the Soviet system frowned on all forms of religion, including Judaism. Therefore, by the time of their departure, the vast majority of Soviet Jews had no knowledge of Yiddish or Hebrew and had never been to a synagogue. Living in an officially atheist Soviet Union, many found it politically and socially expedient to forget or even deny their Jewish heritage. Jews were considered members of an ethnic group rather than adherents of a religion, and there was substantial legal discrimination Page 38  |  Top of Articleagainst Jews in the Soviet Union through 1991. When it became possible for Jews to emigrate legally from the Soviet Union, many quickly reclaimed their ancestral religious identity, at least administratively (rather than religiously, or even culturally), which helped them get permission to emigrate. These Russian-speaking nominal Jews found it difficult to relate to English-speaking religious Jews when they arrived in the United States. Although a small percentage of the newcomers learned and accepted the Jewish faith in their new home, most follow no particular religion and have remained simply Russian Americans who are Jews in name only.


For the most part Russian immigrants and their descendants have succeeded in assimilating into mainstream American life. A few groups have avoided acculturation and maintained the traditional lifestyle they brought from their homeland. Such traditionalists include the Orthodox Christian Old Believers and the non-Orthodox Molokan Christian sect. Whether they live in cities such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, or Erie, Pennsylvania; in rural towns such as Woodburn, Oregon; or in the backwoods of Alaska, these traditionalists have continued to use the Russian language at home and have sometimes succeeded in having it taught in local public schools. The distinct dress and religious-based lifestyle of these groups keep them at a social distance from other Americans and distinguish them from the rest of the community. Another immigrant group, the White Russians—especially those of aristocratic background from the immediate post–World War I era—found it difficult to adapt to an American society that lacked respect for the deference that Russian nobles, princes, princesses, and intellectuals otherwise had come to expect.

The Old Believers, Molokans, and White Russian aristocrats are only a small minority of the Russian American community today. Even among the vast majority who sought to assimilate, however, the goal was not always easy to accomplish. During the seventy-five years of the Soviet Union's existence, many American social institutions and individuals held a negative opinion of that state and often transferred their biases to Russian Americans, who they frequently suspected of being potential communist spies or socialists and anarchists intent on infiltrating and disrupting the American labor movement.

After the breakup of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, Russians in the United States were linked (some legitimately, some not) to organized crime. A number of Russian speculators tried to take advantage of the radical change in their country's economy. Many of these new Russian businessmen had contacts in or were themselves residents of such Russian American communities as Brighton Beach, where they carried out illegal transactions. It was common to find references in mainstream American media to the dangers of the Russian mafia and, by implication, of all Russians. This trend was also reflected in American cultural products—for example, popular TV series such as 24 (which ran from 2001 to 2010) cast shadowy and ruthless Russian characters as villains.

The wave of so-called “new Russians” who left the more economically stable Russia of the Putin era—arriving prosperous, well educated, fashionable, and attuned to Western values—have mitigated these stereotypes. The image of Russians even “normalized” sufficiently to allow a reality TV series on a glamorized version of life in Brighton Beach, Russian Dolls (2011), which mimicked the wildly successful Jersey Shore, about Italian Americans. Russian Dolls aired on the Lifetime Network until its abrupt cancellation after the first season as a result of controversy and low ratings. The billionaire oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov, who, though remaining a resident of Russia, bought the NBA's New Jersey Nets and moved them to a new home—the $1 billion Barclays Center in Brooklyn—and was involved in a number of Russian American cultural projects in the New York area, is emblematic of what some have called a shift to “global Russians”: those who have one foot in Russia but are active in the United States (and elsewhere). According to Russian American journalist Michael Idov in his article “Klub Prokhorov” (New York magazine, 30 May 2010), “The term indicates a combination of Russian culture and language with Western education, a well-stamped passport, and liberal Western views.”

Cuisine Russian Americans enjoy many traditional dishes, including a variety of rich and tasty soups, which are almost always served with a dollop of sour cream, or smetana. Most famous is borshch, or borscht, made from beets, cabbage, and meat. In the summer borscht is served cold. Shchi, also made with cabbage, includes turnip, carrot, onion or leek, and beef. Popular fish soups, such as solianka, contain onion, tomato, cucumber, lemon, butter, and sometimes beef. Many soups also include potatoes or dumplings. Traditional dark Russian bread is made from rye, though wheat is used increasingly. Russian meals are accompanied by vodka.

Holidays The Russian holiday calendar was transformed after the fall of the Communist system in 1991: “ideological” holidays, such as the anniversary of the 1917 Revolution on November 7, were abandoned, and others, such as International Workers' Day on May 1, were modified to reflect the new political climate. While Russian Americans by and large ignored the Soviet holidays, except insofar as they coincided with traditional occasions, their holiday practices (those that diverge from other Americans) now reflect those in Russia.

Since the Russian Orthodox Church still operates on the Julian calendar, Christmas begins on January 7 and continues for twelve days. With Orthodox New Year (also called Old New Year) Page 39  |  Top of Articlecelebrated on January 13, the intervening week is a time of eating, drinking, singing, and gift-giving, watched over by Father Frost and his granddaughter, Snegurochka. International Women's Day on March 8 was a focal point for the salute of the supposed liberation of women in the Soviet system, but as time went on, it became a more personal occasion for flowers and kisses for female friends, coworkers, and relatives. Russians and Russian Americans continue to mark it as a celebration of more traditional attributes, such as femininity, beauty, and caregiving. Easter is the most festive of Russian Orthodox holidays. Churches are packed with worshippers at midnight services, which include candlelight processions and are followed by the early-morning blessing of Easter baskets filled with edible delicacies and hand-painted eggs.

May 1 has been refashioned into the Spring and Labor Day holiday, with a nod to workers' efforts without the necessity of a struggle for their rights. May 9, the anniversary of the defeat of Nazi forces by the Soviet Red Army in World War II, formerly celebrated as Victory Day, is perhaps the holiday least changed from the Soviet era. It is a day to honor Russian and Russian American veterans of World War II, who wear their uniforms and medals. If they are deceased, they are honored at their grave sites. Russia Day, June 12, is the most important of the completely new holidays created in post-Soviet Russia, marking the 1990 Declaration of Sovereignty of the Russian Federation—Russian Independence Day. Russian Americans also commemorate the day to mark the realization of the dream of Russian exiles since 1917: the end of Soviet Communist rule.


The Russian extended family, a close-knit unit embracing uncles, aunts, cousins, godparents, and so forth, that prevailed in villages and shtetls was difficult, if not impossible, to recreate in the United States. Russian American families became more insular and isolated than they had been in Russia.

Other changes included a decrease in the number of children per family. Among post–World War I White Russian émigrés, there were twice as many men as women. This imbalance led to a high percentage of unmarried men with no children and marriages with women of other ethnic backgrounds. Poverty and unstable economic conditions among émigrés also weighed against having children. Initially, Russian immigrants exhorted their children to choose marriage partners from among their own group. Russian Jews felt that the religious factor was of primary importance. Hence, descendants of pre–World War I Jewish immigrants from Russia largely intermarried with Jews, regardless of their national origins. Non-Jewish Russians were more concerned with maintaining a Russian identity within their family, but marriages with non-Russians soon became the norm.

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Russian is a language rich in history and meanings; Russian proverbs are especially cherished and abundant. Some Russian proverbs express the sense of pessimism and ingrained injustice honed over centuries of oppressive social orders, such as “The thief who stole an altyn (3 kopecks) is hung, and the one who stole a poltinnik (50 kopecks) is praised” and “Masters are fighting, servants' forelocks are creaking.” Others transpose sayings familiar to English speakers into traditional Russian conditions: “Nobody goes to Tula with one's own samovar.” (Tula is famous as city where the best Russian samovars are made) and “If you're afraid of wolves, don't go to the woods.”

Gender Roles In traditional Russian society, women were legally dependent on their husbands. The Bolshevik Revolution radically changed the status of women. Under communist rule Russian women were offered equal economic and social responsibilities, which resulted in a high percentage of females entering the labor force. The majority of physicians and healthcare workers in general are women. In the family, however, a woman is still expected to perform domestic tasks such as cooking, cleaning, and shopping. Russian American women have played a determining role in maintaining the cultural identity in the family, passing on knowledge of Russian language and culture to younger people and participating in philanthropic works that affect the entire community. Among the oldest of such organizations was the Russian Children's Welfare Society Outside Russia, founded in New York City in 1926 to help orphans and poor children. Today the best-known is the Tolstoy Foundation, set up in 1939 by Alexandra Tolstoy (1884–1979), daughter of the famous nineteenth-century Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy. With branches throughout the world, the Tolstoy Foundation still operates a Russian senior citizen's home and a cultural center in Nyack, New York, that has helped tens of thousands Russians and other refugees to settle more comfortably in the United States.

In more recent years there have been tensions between the “state feminism” promoted by the Soviet Union and a backlash among Russians and Russian Americans that emphasizes more traditional roles for women as a long-repressed aspect of Russian identity. This conflict, while less dramatic and more tempered in the United States by the slow but steady spread of

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A boardwalk in Brighton Beach, a Russian enclave in Brooklyn, New York City. A boardwalk in Brighton Beach, a Russian enclave in Brooklyn, New York City. JEFF GREENBERG / PETER ARNOLD / GETTY IMAGES

American women's equality work, has also made itself felt in Russian American communities. The generally high level of education of female immigrants over the last few decades, both before and after the fall of the Soviet Union, has mitigated the traditionalist push somewhat.

Another interesting gender angle is presented in a 2004 study by Vera Kishinevsky (1953–) that highlights the conflict between immigrant girls' and women's consumption of traditional Russian food—a source of comfort and bonding in the new environment but also generally very rich—and the often unforgiving set of prescribed body images presented and enforced by American society and media. This tension has led to a prevalence of eating disorders among female Russian Americans.

Education While their families may have been smaller than those of other Americans on average, Russian immigrants tended to place greater emphasis on education. This was certainly the case among Jews, who brought a strong tradition of learning that had characterized Jewish life for centuries. Non-Jewish White Russians were also intent on providing their offspring with the highest possible education (in the Russian language, if possible) so that they could take an appropriate place in Russian society after the anticipated collapse of the Communist regime, when they would return home. Even when it became clear that the Soviet Union would survive, and thus returning to a noncommunist Russia was impossible, higher education was still considered useful for adaptation to American society. It is not surprising, then, that by 1971, among Americans of nine different European backgrounds (Russian, English, Scottish, Welsh, German, Italian, Irish, French, and Polish), Russians between the ages of twenty-five and thirty-four had completed an average of 16 years of education, while all others averaged at most 12.8 years. Four decades later the American Community Survey estimates for 2010 determined that 57.4 percent of Russian Americans had at least a bachelor's degree, more than twice the proportion for the U.S. population as a whole.


The majority of Russians who arrived in the United States between the 1880s and 1914 entered the industrial labor force in the northeastern United States. This was not a particularly difficult adjustment for the Jews from European Russia, since the large majority of them had been in manufacturing, commerce, and the equivalent of a white-collar service trade at home.

Women immigrants of Russian Jewish background dominated the American garment industry as seamstresses in the small clothing factories and sweatshops of New York City and other urban areas in the northeast. Other Russians (mostly men), including Belarusans and Carpatho-Rusyns, worked in factories in the large northeastern cities as well as in the coal mines of eastern Pennsylvania, the iron and steel factories in the Pittsburgh area, and the slaughtering and meat-packing plants of Chicago. The Russian presence was so pronounced in certain trades that they established their own unions or branches of unions, such as the Russian branch of the Union of Men's and Women's Garment Workers, the Russian-Polish department of the Union of Cloakmakers, the Society of Russian Bootmakers, and the Society of Russian Mechanics.

Although many of the more highly educated White Russians who immigrated after World War I took on menial jobs at first (there are countless legends of Russian aristocrats employed as waiters, taxi drivers, and doormen at night clubs), they eventually found employment that took advantage of their skills. The same was the case among the post–World War II DPs, many of whom found their way into university teaching jobs, federal government employment, publishing, and other occupations that reflected the American interest in studying and sharing information on the Cold War.

The educational and skill level was higher among the Russian, mostly Jewish fourth-wave (Cold War) immigrants. Almost half had a university education, and more than half had been employed in the Soviet Union as engineers, economists, skilled workers, or technicians. In the United States most were able to find similar jobs and improve their economic status. Among the best-known, and highest-paid, of immigrants were several hockey players of non-Jewish Russian background from the former Soviet Olympic team who became a dominant part of teams in the National Hockey League after the 1980s.

The descendants of the large pre–World War I immigration have done very well economically. In the 1930s and 1940s, the American-born offspring of the older immigrants remained in the same industries as their parents (clothing, steel, meat-packing, and Page 41  |  Top of Articleso forth), although some moved into managerial or white-collar positions. The third generation entered professions such as medicine, law, engineering, and business in larger numbers. As of 2011, according to the American Community Survey, this advantage had increased further: Russian Americans reported a per capita income of $47,223, more than 75 percent higher than the national average of $26,708. This data indicates that the higher-than-average rate of Russian American employment in management, education, and other professional fields buffered the community from the effects of the recession that began in 2008.


Aside from their active participation in the labor movement during the early decades of the twentieth century, Russians have not generally become involved in American political life. In a sense, their labor union activity acted as a deterrent to further political work, since many were accused of being socialists or communists and were eschewed by the general public. Russian Americans have never formed a strong voting bloc that would encourage American politicians to solicit their support. Only in the later twentieth century, in such places as the Brighton Beach area of New York City, did local politicians—including Jewish Russian American Stephen Solarz, who moved from the state assembly to the U.S. Congress, serving there from 1975 to 1993—begin to achieve success through courting the Russian vote.

While Russians may have avoided American politics, they maintained a deep interest in their homeland. This was particularly the case among the White Russian immigrants, whose moniker was a political statement in itself. As refugees and political émigrés, most tried to live a Russian life in exile until the hoped-for fall of the Soviet Union would allow them to return home. This almost idyllic belief united them (as it did the post–World War II DPs), even though they represented a wide variety of political persuasions. At an extreme some believed in the return of the monarchy, and one woman living in the New York City area claimed she was Grand Duchess Anastasia (1901–1918), youngest daughter of the last tsar, Nicholas II Romanov, and that she had miraculously survived the assassination of the royal family. The legitimacy of her claims were only conclusively disproved in 2009.

Others rejected the idea of monarchy and awaited the creation of a parliamentary liberal democratic state. The leader of this group was Alexander Kerensky (1881–1970), the last prime minister of Russia before the Bolshevik Revolution. Kerensky had immigrated to New York City on the eve of World War II to escape the Nazi occupation of Paris, where he had been living in exile. Several other factions included regional groups, such as the Don and Kuban Cossacks, who argued for autonomy in a future Russia; socialist and anarchist groups on the

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Even before the Soviet Union existed, Russian immigrant workers in the United States, particularly Jews, played a leading role in such organizations as the American branch of the Second International Workingman's Organization (usually called the Second International). For a time before the March 1917 revolution, Leon Trotsky and Nikolai Bukharin, two of Lenin's closest associates, lived in New York City, where they edited a Russian-language socialist newspaper. After the revolution, in a show of antiCommunist fervor, authorities in such places as New York led raids against the headquarters of the Union of Russian Workers and the Russian-dominated American Communist Party. Ironically, this occurred just before the American branch of the Red Cross was about to help find refuge for thousands of Russians fleeing the Communist Soviet Union. As a result of the raids, several thousand Russian Americans were deported, nearly 90 percent of whom were returned to what by then had become Bolshevik-controlled Russia. As late as the 1970s some of these returnees and their descendants maintained an identity as Americans even after living in the Soviet Union for nearly half a century.

After World War II the United States was once again struck by a Red Scare, this time even more widely publicized as a result of the congressional investigations led during the 1950s by the demagogic Senator Joseph McCarthy. The universal association of Russians with Communism forced Russian Americans to maintain a low profile, and some felt obligated to renounce their heritage.

political left; and, on the far right, a Russian fascist organization based in Connecticut during the late 1930s. Among the post–World War II DPs there were also those who believed in Lenin's brand of socialism, which they felt had been undermined by his successor, Stalin. Each of these politically oriented groups had at least one organization and publication that was closely linked to a similar émigré community based in Western Europe.

Despite their various social, propagandistic, and fund-raising activities, none of these Russian American organizations managed to achieve the abolition of Soviet rule in their homeland. Some Russian Americans turned their efforts to their U.S. community and its relationship to American society as a whole. Concerned with the way they and their culture were perceived and depicted in American media and public life, some started lobbying groups, such as the Congress of Russian Americans, in the 1970s.

During the Putin era, though Russian Americans were divided in their opinions of his rule, many without a preexisting political affiliation or ideology became active in supporting the liberal, largely middle-class movement in Russia that sought more democracy and transparency. This stance was exemplified by hundreds who protested on the streets of New

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York and Washington, D.C., in December 2011, with signs in both Russian and English, against what they saw as the manipulation of parliamentary elections and suppression of independent voices.


Academia Americans' present-day understanding of Russia and the Soviet Union is in large part a result of the work of Russian immigrants, including historian of ancient history Michael Rostovtsev (1870–1952); church historians Georges Florovsky (1893–1979), Alexander Schmemann (1921–1983), and John Meyendorff (1926–1992); linguist Roman Jakobson (1896–1982); literary critic Gleb Struve (1898–1985); and historians Michael Florinsky (1894–1981), Michael Karpovich (1888–1959), Alexander Vasiliev (1867–1953), George Vernadsky (1887–1973), Marc Raeff (1923–2008), Nicholas Riasanovsky (1923–2011), and Yuri Slezkine (1956–). Literary theorist Svetlana Boym (1966–), who is also an artist, playwright, and novelist, has figured prominently in academic discourse since the late 1990s.

Art Influential Russian American artists include Gleb Derujinski (1878–1975), a noted sculptor; Israel Tsvaygenbaum (1961–), a painter who lives in Albany, New York; and conceptual artist Ilya Kabakov (1933–). Vitaly Komar (1943–) and Alexander Melamid (1945–), an artistic team who immigrated to New York City in 1978, spawned much discussion and controversy throughout the art and political worlds with their provocative conceptual productions in the 1980s and 1990s.

Literature A number of Russian American authors have flourished. These include the novelist Vladimir Nabokov (1899–1977), who moved from writing in Russian to writing in English in the late 1940s and produced many great fictional works, including the very popular Lolita (1958); the novelist and philosopher Ayn Rand (1905–1982; born Alisa Zinovievna Rosenbaum), whose ideas on what she called Objectivism have been embraced by prominent conservative politicians; the short story writer Nina Berberova (1901–1993); and Isaac Asimov (1920–1992), who, while working as a scientist, produced hundreds of volumes of science fiction, popular science, history, and books in numerous other fields. While continuing to write in Russian, the poet and essayist Josef Brodsky (1940–1996; expelled from the Soviet Union in 1972) and the historical novelist and social critic Aleksander Solzhenitsyn (1918–2008; expelled in 1974 and repatriated in 1994) flourished for a time in the United States. Solzhenitsyn was probably the best-known opponent of the Soviet regime. Both of these authors were awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, a new generation of Russian American writers began to explore the frequently fractured nature of the post-Soviet immigrant experience, often with a Jewish admixture. Most prominent among these is the satirical novelist Gary (born Igor) Shteyngart (1972–); others include the novelist and short story writer Lara Vapnyar (1971–), the short story writer Ellen Litman (1973–), and the novelist Irina Reyn (1974–).

Military John Basil Turchin (1821–1901; born Ivan Vasilyevich Turchaninov) served in the Union Army during the Civil War and was promoted to the rank of brigadier general—the first Russian American to be elevated to such a high position.

Music and Dance Classical music, opera, and ballet in the United States have been enriched for more than a century by resident Russian composers and performers, from Sergei Prokofiev (1891–1953), who lived briefly in the United States, to Serge Koussevitzky (1874–1951), conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra from 1924 to 1949; classic composers Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873–1943) and Alexander Gretchaninov (1864–1956); popular composers George Gershwin (1898–1937; born Jacob Gershvin) and Irving Berlin (1888–1989; born Israel Beilin), creator of countless standards in the American canon of popular song, including “God Bless America”; cello virtuoso, conductor, and musical director from 1977 to 1994 of the U.S. National Symphony Orchestra Mstislav Rostropovich (1927–2007); George Balanchine (1904–1983), choreographer, founder of the School of American Ballet, and, from 1948 to his death, director of the New York City Ballet; and ballet dancers Natalia Makarova (1940–) and Mikhail Baryshnikov (1948–). The most famous of all was Igor Stravinsky (1882–1971), who in 1939 settled permanently in New York City, from where he continued to enrich and influence profoundly the course of twentieth-century classical music. Dimitri Tiomkin (1894–1979) was a noted composer, musical director, and author of many musical scores for Hollywood films. Pop musician Regina Spektor (1980–) is a classically trained pianist who immigrated to the United States from Moscow when she was nine years old. Spektor's music has been called “anti-folk” and draws on a wide range of genres including punk, hip-hop, jazz, and classical.

Science and Technology Outstanding work has been done by Russian Americans in the scientific fields. Vladimir Ipatieff (1867–1952) was a prominent research chemist; George Gamow (1904–1968), a nuclear physicist, popularized the big bang theory of the origin of the universe; Wassily Leontieff (1906–1999), a Nobel Prize-winning economist, formulated the influential input-output system of economic analysis; Alexander Petrunkevitch (1875–1964) wrote numerous works in the field of zoology; Igor Sikorsky (1889–1972) was an aviation industrialist and inventor of the helicopter; Pitirim Sorokin (1888–1968), a controversial sociologist, argued that Western civilization would be doomed unless it could attain “creative altruism”; Vladimir Zworykin (1889–1982), a physicist and electronics engineer, is known as the father of television; and Sergey Brin (1973–), computer scientist and Internet entrepreneur, cofounded Google.

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Stage and Screen Natalie Wood (1938–1981), who was born in San Francisco as Natalia Zacharenko, acted in numerous American films, as did Yul Brynner (1920–1985; born Yuliy Briner) and Kirk Douglas (1916–; born Issur Danielovitch), father of actor Michael Douglas (1944–). Director Sam Raimi (1959–) achieved renown for the Spider-Man trilogy but is perhaps best loved for his work on The Evil Dead series, a set of four horror films released between 1981 and 2013.


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This weekly tabloid-style newspaper focuses on business and culture and serves the Russian community of the greater Denver, Colorado, area.

Leonid Reznikov, Executive Editor
P.O. Box 4551
Englewood, Colorado 80155
Phone: (720) 495-0073
Fax: (866) 559-2973

Novyi Zhurnal/New Review

A scholarly publication covering Russian interests.

Marina Adamovich, Editor-in-Chief
611 Broadway
Suite 902
New York, New York 10012-2608
Phone: (212) 353-1478
Fax: (212) 353-1478

Рeпортeр (Reporter)

This Russian-language daily based in New York City was founded in 2011 to supplant Novoye Russkova Slovo (New Russian Word), the oldest Russian daily newspaper in North America and the world until it folded in 2010 after a century of publishing.

Felix Gorodetsky, Founder and Editor-in-Chief
2508 Coney Island Avenue #6
Brooklyn, New York 11235
Phone: (718) 303-8800

Russian Bazaar

A Russian language weekly for the Tri-State area (New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut), covering local and foreign news, society, and culture.

Natalia Shapiro-Nakhankova, Editor-in-Chief
8518 17th Avenue
Brooklyn, New York 11214
Phone: (718) 266-4444
Fax: (718) 266-5429


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New Life Russian Radio, WKTA-AM (1330)

The largest and longest-running Russian-language broadcasting company in North America, providing music, features, entertainment, and talk to the Chicago Russian community.

Natasha Altman, Program Director
615 Academy Drive
Northbrook, Illinois 60062
Phone: (847) 498-3400


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The Russian Television Network offers news and entertainment programs from Russia as well as its own newscasts and programming.

Vlada Khelmnitskaya, Director of Programming
One Bridge Plaza
Suite 145
Fort Lee, New Jersey 07024
Phone: (800) 222-2786
Fax: (201) 461-7462


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Congress of Russian Americans

A political action umbrella group with branches throughout the country, the congress seeks to promote Russian cultural heritage and to protect the legal, economic, and social interests of Russian Americans.

Alexander Sinkevitch, Treasurer
2460 Sutter Street
San Francisco, California 94115
Phone: (415) 928-5841
Fax: (415) 928-5831

Orthodox Church in America

The largest church with members of Russian background, it has twelve dioceses throughout North America.

The Very Reverend John A. Jillions, Chancellor
P.O. Box 675
Syosset, New York 11791
Phone: (516) 922-0550
Fax: (516) 922-0954

Russian American Community Coalition

This nonprofit community organization serves the Russian-speaking residents of the greater New York City region.

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Zina Konovalova, Chair
3101 Ocean Pkwy
Suite 7C
Brooklyn, New York 11235
Phone: (718) 714-6717

Russian American Cultural Heritage Center

A charitable and educational organization dedicated to collecting and disseminating the history, culture, and heritage of Russian Americans.

Olga Sergeevna Zatsepina, President/CEO
34 Hillside Avenue
Suite 4C
New York, New York 10040
Phone: (212) 567-5834

Russian American Foundation

The foundation promotes development and acceptance of the Russian-speaking community of the greater New York City area and the United States and organizes programs to preserve its heritage.

Marina Kovalyov, President
70 West 36th Street
Suite 701
New York, New York 10018
Phone: (212) 687-6118
Fax: (212) 687-5558

United Russian American Association

An umbrella organization of the Russian and Russian-speaking community in the greater Houston area.

Elena Suvorova Phillips, President
12122 Moorcreek Drive
Houston, Texas 77070
Phone: (281) 389-7914


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Immigration History Research Center

The center promotes interdisciplinary research on international migration and houses archives on U.S. immigrant and refugee life.

Erika Lee, Director
311 Elmer L. Andersen Library
222 21st Avenue South
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55455
Phone: (612) 625-4800
Fax: (612) 626-0018

Museum of Russian Art

Dedicated to the preservation and presentation of all forms of Russian art and artifacts, the Museum of Russian Art is the only North American museum of its kind.

Chris DiCarlo, President and Director
5500 Stevens Ave South
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55419
Phone: (612) 821-9045
Fax: (612) 821-9075

Museum of Russian Culture

The museum houses archival and published materials as well as artifacts pertaining to Russian American life, especially in California.

2450 Sutter Street
San Francisco, California 94115
Phone: (415) 921-4082

New York Public Library, Slavic and Baltic Division

Aside from a rich collection of printed materials on the Russian and Soviet homeland, there is much material on Russians in the United States from the 1890s to the present.

Sumie Ota, Chief Librarian
Stephen A. Schwarzman Building
Fifth Avenue at 42nd Street
New York, New York 10018-2788
Phone: (917) 930-0716

Orthodox Church in America Archives

Includes archival and published materials on Russian Orthodox Church life in North America from the late nineteenth century to the present.

Alexis Liberovsky, OCA Archivist
P.O. Box 675
Syosset, New York 11791
Phone: (516) 922-0550, extension 121
Fax: (516) 922-0954


Chevigny, Hector. Russian America: The Great Alaskan Adventure, 1741–1867. Portland, OR: Binford and Mort, 1979.

Eubank, Nancy. The Russians in America. Minneapolis, MN: Lerner Publications, 1979.

Hardwick, Susan Wiley. Russian Refuge: Religion, Migration, and Settlement on the North American Pacific Rim. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993.

Idov, Michael. “Klub Prokhorov.” New York, 30 May 2010.

Jacobs, Dan N., and Ellen Frankel Paul, eds. Studies of the Third Wave: Recent Migration of Soviet Jews to the United States. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1981.

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Kishinevsky, Vera. Russian Immigrants in the United States: Adapting to American Culture. New York: LFB Scholarly Publishing, 2004.

Magocsi, Paul Robert. The Russian Americans. New York: Chelsea House, 1989.

Morris, Richard A. Old Russian Ways: Cultural Variations among Three Russian Groups in Oregon. New York: AMS Press, 1991.

Norton, W. P. “Rediscovering Russian America.”Institute of Modern Russia, October 19, 2011. .

Ripp, Victor. Moscow to Main Street: Among the Russian Emigres. Boston: Little, Brown, and Co., 1984.

Wertsman, Vladimir. The Russians in America, 1727–1976. Dobbs Ferry, NY: Oceana Publications, 1977.

Source Citation

Source Citation   

Gale Document Number: GALE|CX3273300152