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First and Second Waves of Russophone Immigration to the USA

Shmelev, Anatol

The Second Wave of Russian émigrés has often been overlooked by historians. These are people who left the USSR by various paths–some voluntary, some involuntary–during and in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, and remained in the West. Others emigrated to America in the wake of the Communist takeover of China. Many resettled in the United States, though, like their predecessors, they were also spread across the globe. The Second Wave consisted of various groups: Soviet POWs, members of the Russian Liberation Army (ROA), Ost-arbeiters (Eastern workers), and voluntary émigrés. They might also be expanded to include post-war escapees and defectors. Many, but not all, came under the rubric of “displaced persons” and were given over to UNRRA and the IRO to be cared for until their final resettlement. These lived in camps in the Western zones of Germany and Austria, some in Italy. All of them were united in strong anti-Soviet sentiment, and many had harrowing escapes from forced repatriation at the end of the war. The Second Wave left fewer representations of themselves than did the first, post-revolutionary wave. There are many reasons for this, perhaps the main one being that they feared reprisals against themselves or friends and relatives remaining in the USSR. Nevertheless, they had an impact on culture, politics and society. Some went to work for Radio Liberty or the Voice of America, others for various other government agencies. During the heyday of Soviet studies in the United States during the Cold War years, many found employment in higher education as teachers, scholars and academic staff. Aside from their professional contributions, poets and writers such as Ivan Elagin and Boris Filippov, journalists, painters (Mikhail Cherkashenininov, Sergei Hollerbach) and others left a rich cultural legacy that is only now coming to be appreciated.

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Harriman Institute
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September 30, 2013