Immigration to the United States from several of the former Soviet countries is a relatively recent development, but some of the others have long histories of sending people to the United States.
Arising out of the Russian Revolution that began in 1917, the Soviet Union expanded into the largest nation in the world in land area and became a world superpower after World War II. In theory at least, it was a voluntary union made up of fifteen autonomous Soviet socialist republics, but it was dominated by Russia, by far the largest of the republics in both population and area. Under the strains of the Cold War and the pressures of the modern world economy, the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 and separated into its constituent republics, each of which became an independent nation.
The fifteen Soviet socialist republics that made up the Soviet Union all became independent after the breakup of the union in 1991. They can be divided into five groups:
•Slavic states: Russian Federation, Ukraine, and Belarus
•Baltic states: Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania
•Caucasus states: Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia
•Central Asian republics: Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan
None of these states is ethnically homogeneous, and several are home to large ethnic minorities–notably ethnic Russians. Several of the countries have been troubled by separatist movements and quasi-autonomous regions within them.
During the late nineteenth century, peasant emancipation and the expansion of a market economy began to affect the western regions of the Russian Empire, sparking the emigration of ethnic
Ukrainian immigration to the United States has been significant since the 1880’s. At that time most Ukrainian immigrants came from the provinces of Galicia and Bukovina in the eastern reaches of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Following the failure to establish an independent Ukrainian nation after World War I and the subsequent Soviet repression, culminating in the terror-famine of the early 1930’s, many Ukrainians active in the independence movement left their homeland. Alongside Ukrainians were
Many refugees from the Soviet Union who could not obtain Soviet passports, traveled under League of Nations passports such as this one, which was issued shortly after Joseph Stalin took power in the Soviet Union.
Postwar legislation put in place to ease earlier national-origin quotas in light of the refugee crisis allowed a significant number of former Soviet citizens into the United States, especially people from the Baltic republics,
Harsh treatment of Soviet Jews became a major human rights issue for Americans during the 1970’s. The
Following the rise of the
From the mid-1980’s until 2008, more than 1 million legal immigrants were admitted to the United States. from countries of the former Soviet Union, including the three Baltic republics. The three Slavic countries of the FSU contributed the majority of these immigrants. Of the three,
A high proportion of immigrants from the former Soviet Union have been
Jewish American organizations have taken the lead role in sponsoring and assisting Jewish arrivals from the former Soviet Union. Data from these organizations indicate that former Soviet
Due to their different socioeconomic standing and experiences in the former Soviet Union, most post-Soviet immigrants have tended to form their own organizations and develop their cultural and social activities apart from established communities.
The growth of the Russian-speaking population in the United States during the two decades since the collapse of the Soviet Union has spurred the growth of
Another important contribution of first-generation immigrants from the former Soviet Union has been widespread entrepreneurship. Small to medium-size start-up firms are common and most cities with any sizeable community of recent Russian or Ukrainian émigrés supports at least a few ethnic delicatessens and gift shops.
The apparent growth of the Russian economy during the middle of the first decade of the twenty-first century, due to high oil prices, has somewhat reduced emigration from Russia. However, emigration from Ukraine, Moldova, and the Central Asian republics has remained fairly steady. In 2009, it appeared likely that post-Soviet countries would continue to send immigrants to the United States into the foreseeable future.
Altshuler, Stuart. The Exodus of the Soviet Jews. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2005. Detailed study of Jewish immigrants from the Soviet Union. Finckenauer, James O., and Elin J. Waring. Russian Mafia in America: Immigration, Culture, and Crime. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1998. Examination of the criminal activities of Russian immigrants, who are compared to criminal members of other immigrant groups. Foner, Nancy, ed. New Immigrants in New York. New York: Columbia University Press, 2001. Collection of sociological essays on seven modern immigrant groups, including Soviet Jews, that addresses how they have interacted with New York City. Gloecker, Olaf, Evgenija Garbolevsky, and Sabine von Mering, eds. Russian-Jewish Emigrants After the Cold War. Waltham, Mass.: Brandeis University Center for German and European Studies, 2006. Collection of conference papers on Jewish immigrants from Russia in the United States. Shasha, Dennis, and Marina Shron. Red Blues: Voices from the Last Wave of Russian Immigrants. New York: Holmes & Meier, 2002. Study of Soviet immigration to the United States based on a collection of interviews with immigrants documenting their experiences in America. Includes a foreword by Steven J. Gold.
Canada vs. United States as immigrant destinations
Russian and Soviet immigrants