Russians in America: The Third Wave/Русские в Америке: Третья волна

An Introduction

Resource guide

Russian News/Новости




Русское радио

Новое Русское Слово

A Research Work in Progress

In 1972 Joseph Brodsky (Иосиф Бродский) leaves the Soviet Union and comes to settle in Ann Arbor, Michigan. In the previous year Carl and Ellendea Proffer found Ardis and would begin publishing Russian Literature Triquarterly. With the passage of the Jackson-Vanik amendment to Trade Act of 1974 and increased scrutiny to human rights called for in the so-called "Helsinki Final Act" of 1975, the Soviet Union after some delay permitted the emigration of Jews in ever increasing numbers. Ultimately some 500,000 would come to the United States. This constituted what has been called "The Third Wave" of Russian emigration in the Twentieth century. The end came gradually with the policies of Mikhail Gorbachev. By the end of 1986 Boris Pasternak's Doctor Zhivago and the poems of Joseph Brodsky were published openly in the Soviet Union. The complete collapse of the Soviet Union clearly marked a new period and a new reality for Russians and their ability to cross frontiers and national boundaries freely.

Two Emigrations

One might argue that there were in fact two emigrations, largely separate and distinct. There was the arrival and settlement of thousands of Russians who could claim Jewish ancestry. They came to begin a new life, to pursue prosperity and freedom for themselves and their families. They were true immigrants, in the sense that they had left the Soviet Union forever, with little thought of ever returning. Most settled with the help of Jewish relief organizations in and around major metropolitan areas in the Untied States. The largest group settled in the New York area, and many of those in the Brighton Beach area of Brooklyn. This group of immigrants was characterized by a generally high level of education and literacy. Even as they struggled with language and a search for employment equal to their professional qualifications, their children began integrating into the melting pot of American society.

There was a second group of intellectuals, primarily writers or human rights advocates, some expelled from the Soviet Union, such as Joseph Brodsky, Valery Chalidze (Валерий Чалидзе) and Alexander Solzhenitsyn (Александр Солженицын). Scholars who have focused on this group date the real beginning to 1966 with the departure of Valery Tarsis (Валерий Тарсис). Others were permitted to leave because of their Jewish heritage. Many of these writers settled in France, Germany, Great Britain, Israel or Switzerland where opportunities for publishing presented themselves. A significant group of writers settled in America, where they continued to write almost exclusively in Russian for their countrymen, primarily behind the borders of the Soviet Union, but also for those in the West. This group as a whole never embraced the West or its culture, dreamed and hoped for a return of themselves or their works to their native Russia, and with time those who survived did indeed return.

In both cases, this new "Third Wave" found little in common with earlier emigrations. Products of the Soviet Union, its systems of education, social services and employment, atheistic or Jewish as opposed to Russian Orthodox, they represented for earlier generations, the so-called First and Second waves, a completely different set of values. Even linguistically they were distinct because of this Sovietness from earlier Russians in America.

One might compare the aspirations of the writers of the Third Wave with those of the First Wave described by Ivan Bunin (Иван Бунин) in his speech on "The Mission of the Russian Emigration." Unlike earlier Russian emigres who believed in the words of Merezhkovsky (Мережковский) that they had been sent "не в изгнании, а в послании" [not in exile, but on a mission], this Third Wave had few illusions, and like Western scholars failed to foresee how soon and how rapidly the Soviet Empire would crumble.

A Research Project / Краткое описание по русски

My original intention was to help ensure that the legacy of "The Third Wave" would be preserved here in the United States. The examples of how much has been lost of Russian Berlin of the1920s and Russian Paris and Russian Prague of the 1920s and 1930s provides evidence of what can no longer be retrieved when it is largely overlooked by scholars, librarians and archivists. Familiarity breeds contempt, and when the newspapers, journals and magazine are available at your local newsstand, they are too often ignored or undervalued. Russians themselves, such as Konstantin Ernst of Russia's Channel 1, have recently been showing interest in acquiring materials from the period.

I will admit to a certain naivety and general lack of expertise concerning how much has been done to document the Third Wave. Indeed significant scholarship has been and is being accomplished by a limited number of people working in this field. Many of them have met and spoken with me and they in turn have pointed me to others. I hope to recognize all of them here on these pages. Nonetheless, efforts to date have been random and scattered. To some degree their work overlaps or intersects, but such meetings are serendipitous.

These pages then are an attempt to bring together in one place what I have identified as being available. It is a living resource subject to growth, change and correction. It is also a roadmap for future scholarship and future areas of inquiry, my own, and that of others who I hope will be inspired by these notes. I look forward to your suggestions and comments.

Eventually this site will be in English and Russian names, titles and quotations will be rendered in the original Cyrillic. There is a great variation in rendering Cyrillic characters into English transcription. I have tried to observe the choices chosen by the individuals themselves, or provide an English that is not awkward for the general reader.

I have frequently made links to pages and websites beyond my own. The links are highlighted and the sources should be self-evident.

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