Introduction

Hyphenated Americans Russian-Americans
Russians have maintained a presence on North American soil for more than 240 years, longer than most European people. Though their numbers have never been large here, Russians have helped to shape the continentÕs landscape and development, from Alaska to Florida, in farms and factories, and through public life. The term "Russian" was originally applied to many immigrants who came from the multi-national Russian empire and the Soviet Union. These people in many cases were actually Jews, Poles, Byelorussians, Ukrainians, Germans, or others. Russian and other East European immigrants came in four distinct waves:

  • From the second half of the nineteenth century, up to World War I
  • In the 1920s, after the Bolshevik Revolution
  • Immediately after World War II
  • After the 1974 Jackson-Vanik amendment to the Trade Act, that called for lifting Soviet restrictions on the emigration of Jews, and later as a result of GorbachevÕs political reforms

FACTS and FIGURES
According to the US Census of 1990, the estimated total population from Russia and the Soviet Union living in the United States was 2,880,000 people. But a more realistic figure is 750,000 Americans of ethnic Russian descent. Immigrants from Russia and Eastern Europe primarily settled in and around large American cities such as New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Detroit, and Boston where there were plenty of employment opportunities. Additionally there are some Russian settlements in southern Alaska, parts of Oregon, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Many East-European and Russian immigrants, and their descendents in particular, have been assimilated into American society. Most, however, have adapted without entirely abandoning their native cultural traditions.

FAMOUS IMMIGRANTS Distinguished second- and third-wave immigrants from Russia and Eastern Europe represent every aspect of American cultural, scientific, and political life. Distinguished immigrants include

Igor Sikorsky (1889-1972), the father of modern aviation and the constructor of the first multi-motored plane;

Vladimir Nabokov (1899-1977), one of the most celebrated Russian writers

Joseph Brodsky (1940-1997), a poet and 1987 Nobel Prize winner in literature

Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971), one of the geniuses of modern music

Vladimir Horowitz (1904-), one of the worldÕs most dazzling pianists

George Balanchine (1904-1983), one of the best choreographers of our time

Louise Nevelson (1899-1988), one of the most important modern sculptors

Mikhail Baryshnikov (1948-), one of the most gifted contemporary male dancers

RUSSIANS in BOSTON
Boston has been traditionally one of the major centers of Russian and East European immigration, attracting new arrivals by its manageable size, European look, and excellent schools and universities. According to Boston Jewish Family Services between 40,000 and 50,000 Russian-speaking immigrants reside in the Boston area. The Jewish Family Services (JFS) and other similar organizations, assist newly-arrived immigrants with their transition and adjustment to the new life in America by helping immigrants to find affordable housing and medical care. The Russian American Cultural Center, located in downtown Boston, the Russian-American Chamber of Commerce, and the Russian Community Association, based in Brighton are just a few organizations that deal with the Russian immigrant and Russia-related issues.

Brookline hosts a particularly large Russian community, and Russian is often heard on the streets of Brookline along with English. Brookline is also the home to many Russian and East European businesses:

Restaurants: "St. Petersburg Cafe" & "Russian Village"
Bookstores: "Petropol"
Food stores: "Bazar" and "Beryozka"

Jackson-Vanik Amendment
"Jackson-Vanik Amendment: An amendment, sponsored by Senator Henry M. Jackson (D-Washington) and Representative Charles Vanik (D-Ohio), to the Trade Act of 1974. Under Jackson-Vanik, any "non-market economy" that restricts free emigration, as determined by the president, cannot be granted NTR tariff treatment (in other words, cannot be given the same low tariff rates available to more than 160 countries that have normal trade relations with the United States). It prohibited extension of U.S. government credits and most-favored-nation trade status to any Communist country that restricted free emigration of its citizens. It also permited lower tariffs only in exchage for easing the immigration restrictions. The amendment was prompted by congressional concern over the Soviet Union¹s treatment of its Jewish minority." (Shavit 1993)

WORKS CITED:
Levinson, David. American Immigrant Cultures: Builders of a Nation. New York :
Simon & Schuster Macmillan, 1997.

Magocsi, Paul. The Russian Americans. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1996.

Shavit, David. United States Relations With Russia and the Soviet Union: A Historical Dictionary. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1993


Return to Top