Presentations (Communicative Events)

First and Second Waves of Russophone Immigration to the USA

Zeide, Alla

Despite the influx of relatively small numbers of politically and socially active Russians during the twenties and most of the thirties, the Russian community in the US was sparse although it included a number of outstanding individuals whose contributions to the cultural and scientific spheres of American life is difficult to overestimate. I mean such figures as Rostovtsev, Vasiliev, and scientists V. Ipatieiev, N. Timashev, etc. Among the activities of Russian Americans it is worth mentioning the celebrations of Pushkin ’s birthday in 1937, and fundraising campaigns, one of them was to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Moscow University. The immigration of relatively small numbers of politically and socially active Russians after 1940 radically changed the tenor of the Russian community ’s life. The “Socialist Courier” resumed its publication in New York; a new Russian-language “thick” journal “Novyi zhurnal” started coming out in 1942; a new English-language journal, “The Russian Review,” began its career in 1941, and quite a few of émigrés became its contributors. A number of Russian émigrés cooperated with “The New Leader,” a liberal anti-Stalinist weekly destined to play a significant role in formulating the language of the initial stages of the Cold War. The most important role the immigrants played in the life of the U.S. was that of educators. It was in the forties that through the concerted efforts of American scholars and U.S. governmental agencies, Russian history as an academic discipline was launched as a permanent fixture of study in the U.S. In this collective endeavor the names of Karpovich, Vernadsky, Florovsky, Fedotov, Jakobson, and many others stand out. Throughout their clubs and the newspaper, “Novoe Russkoe Slovo,” Russian immigrants participated in a number of public campaigns, of which the most noteworthy were the raising of massive aid in food, clothing, and printed matter for the destitute survivors of German occupation and the inmates of DP camps in various countries. On various levels many immigrants became active in trying to get American authorities to admit into the country DP-s, a struggle that succeeded at the end of the forties. The encounter with people in the DP camps, who constituted the bulk of what was later designated as the Second Wave of Russian immigration, revived an old dream of a united immigrant organization for an ideological struggle against the Soviet regime. There were many attempts to forge such an organization and most of them failed for ideological and ethnic reasons. The prolonged efforts to forge one umbrella organization with the representatives of all immigrant groups promoted and insisted upon by the Government sponsored American committee dealt a final blow to the First Wave, which by the end of the fifties became naturally thinner and which split under the pressure of the Second Wave and the American committee ’s activities. The beginning of the Cold War saw yet another development in the life of the First Wave of Russian emigration which attempted to become politically engaged in the confrontation with the Soviet Union. Their participation took different forms and took place on different levels and through different organizations, such as, the Committee for Cultural Freedom, the Russian Institute at the Columbia University, etc.

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Harriman Institute
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September 20, 2013