Russian Immigration Essay

This essay has a total of 1741 words and 10 pages.

Russian Immigration

Genesis of Contemporary Russian-American

Anton Gurov
En 102-6: Wasilko
May 12, 2004
Final Paper
In the 1990s the United States of America was marked with an incredible surge of
immigration from the territories of former Soviet Union. "Liberated" emigres decided to
take a chance, leaving everything they had behind in pursuit of a better life. They
brought with them education, numerous skills and talents. Their difficulties, however,
including a foreign language, their age and inability to quickly adapt their social
attitudes to new values, bogged down their feat to succeed in conquering the "American
Dream" (Fox 79). Overcoming aforementioned obstacles, the responsibility of creating own
fortunes and great accomplishments is now inherited by the second-generation of

Russian immigration has a long history in the United States, dating back to early 1900's.
Successive waves of immigration were triggered by World War I, The Russian Revolution and
World War II. During a period of liberalization in the late 1970s and early 1980s,
starting with Jackson-Vanik Amendment, Jews were allowed to leave Soviet Union. Even
Andropov, the General Secretary of the Communist Party at a time, urged thousands of
impoverished Jews to leave USSR (Khazbulatov 7). The regime however refused to allow most
educated Jews and for that matter other ethnic groups especially Russian, to emigrate,
despite the KGB claim that all individuals wishing to emigrate were free to do so
(Khazbulatov 8). Most recently, with the collapse of the Soviet Union and opening of
immigration rules, an unprecedented million Russians immigrated to the United States. As
evidence, the Russian-speaking population in America surged 254 percent from 1990 to 1998.
(Fox 79)

This most recent wave of immigration consisted mainly of Jewish refuges, skilled workers,
elite scientists and artists. They came to the United States for a variety of reasons, but
mostly to escape unbearable living conditions, constituted by a sudden collapse of the
Soviet regime. Yegor Gaidar‘s failure of economic reforms to reincarnate Russia led to
rising prices, inflation and further penury of its citizens, leading to the rise of social
and political unrest (Khazbulatov 56). Anti-Semitic feelings among general population
resonated and boomed as ultra-nationalists blamed the Jews for all of the country's
problems (Fox 80). With scientific research halted and productivity decreasing,
technological sector faced financial strain leading to massive layoffs of qualified
professionals. Artists also grappled with plunge of art's value in daily life. Immigration
seemed like the only solution for people who could not see themselves struggling from day
to day, just barely making a living.

One of the reasons for the immigration for a specific group, especially when faced with
intolerable conditions, is to immigrate to where they feel they can have a better life.
Anti-Semitism which has a long history in Russia and even continues into modern times was
a major factor in decision of Jewish people to leave Russia. Increased vandalism against
Jewish synagogues and cemeteries and public statements by political figures blaming
Zionism for Russian woes, served as compounded reason for exodus of the Jewish population
following the collapse of the Soviet Union (Diversity Res.). People in their attempt to
escape outright persecution immigrated even to Germany, with the surge of immigration
becoming tremendous at about 50,000 per year. A lot moved to Israel, but for most Jewish
families, final destination turned out to be the United States. Searching for a country
that could provide an opportunity to work and religious tolerance, the United States of
America served as a perfect choice for them. (Fox 80)

Another significant and clearly distinguishable group of immigrants consisted of
scientists. Irina Dezhina, a senior researcher at Institute for the Economy in Transition
in Moscow described the situation as an "external brain drain" on Russia. Low or
nonexistent salaries, constant deterioration of scientific equipment, absence of
opportunity for a career growth, decreasing prestige of scientific careers and numerous
other reasons led to the situation in which brilliant and elite scientist would leave
Russia with their entire families at first opportunity. A typical immigrant abroad was a
man 31-45 years old, who had a Ph.D. and was engaged in theoretical research, often with a
large number of publications (Dezhina). According to numerous surveys, physicists and
mathematicians dominated in terms of scientific disciplines, with more than 50% of the
total number of emigrants. They were followed by biologists at approximately 30% and
chemists. The predominant share of emigrants came from Moscow, St. Petersburg, and
Novosibirsk -- the major Russian scientific centers. Along with highly skilled workers,
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