Russian language in the United States

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The Russian language is among the top fifteen most spoken languages in the United States. Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, many Russians have migrated to the United States and brought the language with them. Most Russian speakers in the United States today are Russian Jews. According to the 2010 United States Census the number of Russian speakers was 854,955, which made Russian the 12th most spoken language in the country. [1]

Russian language East Slavic language

Russian is an East Slavic language, which is official in the Russian Federation, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, as well as being widely used throughout Eastern Europe, the Baltic states, the Caucasus and Central Asia. It was the de facto language of the Soviet Union until its dissolution on 25 December 1991. Although nearly three decades have passed since the breakup of the Soviet Union, Russian is used in official capacity or in public life in all the post-Soviet nation-states, as well as in Israel and Mongolia.

Dissolution of the Soviet Union Process leading to the late-1991 breakup of the USSR

The dissolution of the Soviet Union was the process of internal disintegration within the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) which began in second half of the 1980s with growing unrest in the national republics and ended on 26 December 1991, when the USSR itself was voted out of existence by the Supreme Soviet, following the Belavezha Accords. Declaration number 142-Н by the Supreme Soviet resulted in self-governing independence to the Republics of the USSR, formally dissolving the USSR. The declaration acknowledged the independence of the former Soviet republics and created the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), although five of the signatories ratified it much later or did not do so at all. On the previous day, 25 December, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, the eighth and final leader of the USSR, resigned, declared his office extinct and handed over its powers—including control of the Soviet nuclear missile launching codes—to Russian President Boris Yeltsin. That evening at 7:32 p.m., the Soviet flag was lowered from the Kremlin for the last time and replaced with the pre-revolutionary Russian flag.

2010 United States Census 23rd national census of the United States, taken in 2010

The 2010 United States Census is the twenty-third and most recent United States national census. National Census Day, the reference day used for the census, was April 1, 2010. The census was taken via mail-in citizen self-reporting, with enumerators serving to spot-check randomly selected neighborhoods and communities. As part of a drive to increase the count's accuracy, 635,000 temporary enumerators were hired. The population of the United States was counted as 308,745,538, a 9.7% increase from the 2000 Census. This was the first census in which all states recorded a population of over half a million people as well as the first in which all 100 largest cities recorded populations of over 200,000.



Garment workers on strike in New York City holding multilingual signs, including in Russian, circa 1913 Garment Workers on Strike, New York City circa 1913.jpg
Garment workers on strike in New York City holding multilingual signs, including in Russian, circa 1913
Russian speakers in the US
Number of speakers
1910 a Steady2.svg 57,926
1920 a Increase2.svg 392,049
1930 a Decrease2.svg 315,721
1940 a Increase2.svg 356,940
1960 a Decrease2.svg 276,834
1970 a Decrease2.svg 149,277
1980 [2] Increase2.svg 173,226
1990 [3] Increase2.svg 241,798
2000 [4] Increase2.svg 706,242
2010 [1] Increase2.svg 854,955
^a  Foreign-born population only [5]

The first Russians to land on the New World were explorers who reached Alaska in 1648. More than 200 years later, in 1867, Czar Alexander II sold Alaska to the United States. Many Russian settlers returned to Russia, but a small number of them remained. In 1882 16,918 Russian speakers lived in the US, and that number gradually increased to 387,416 by 1899. [6]

New World Collectively, the Americas and Oceania

The New World is one of the names used for the majority of Earth's Western Hemisphere, specifically the Americas, and Oceania. The term originated in the early 16th century after the Spanish made landfall in what would later be called the Americas in the Age of Discovery, expanding the geographical horizon of classical geographers, who had thought of the world as consisting of Africa, Europe, and Asia, collectively now referred to as the Old World. The phrase gained prominence after the publication of a pamphlet titled Mundus Novus attributed to Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci. The Americas were also referred to as the "fourth part of the world".

Alaska U.S. state in the United States

Alaska is a U.S. state in the northwest extremity of the United States West Coast, just across the Bering Strait from Asia. The Canadian province of British Columbia and territory of Yukon border the state to the east and southeast. Its most extreme western part is Attu Island, and it has a maritime border with Russia to the west across the Bering Strait. To the north are the Chukchi and Beaufort seas—southern parts of the Arctic Ocean. The Pacific Ocean lies to the south and southwest. It is the largest U.S. state by area and the seventh largest subnational division in the world. In addition, it is the 3rd least populous and the most sparsely populated of the 50 United States; nevertheless, it is by far the most populous territory located mostly north of the 60th parallel in North America: its population—estimated at 738,432 by the United States Census Bureau in 2015—is more than quadruple the combined populations of Northern Canada and Greenland. Approximately half of Alaska's residents live within the Anchorage metropolitan area. Alaska's economy is dominated by the fishing, natural gas, and oil industries, resources which it has in abundance. United States armed forces bases and tourism are also a significant part of the economy.

Alexander II of Russia Emperor of Russia

Alexander II was the emperor of Russia from 2 March 1855 until his assassination on 13 March 1881. He was also the king of Poland and the grand duke of Finland.

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries many Russian Jews migrated to the United States, fleeing persecution at home. Though many spoke Yiddish, most knew Russian. [7] Millions also left Russia after the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. The 1920 US Census identified 392,049 United States citizens born in Russia; the statistics from a decade before that showed only 57,926 Russian-born Americans. Most of the newcomers were White émigrés. [7] Russian immigration slowed in the 1930s and 1940s due to restrictions imposed by the Stalin government in the Soviet Union. The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service listed 14,016 Russian immigrants entering the country from 1930 to 1944. [7] Most of those people were citizens of the USSR who refused to return to their country from trips abroad, so-called nevozvrashchentsy (non-returners).

Yiddish is the historical language of the Ashkenazi Jews. It originated during the 9th century in Central Europe, providing the nascent Ashkenazi community with a High German-based vernacular fused with elements taken from Hebrew and Aramaic as well as from Slavic languages and traces of Romance languages. Yiddish writing uses the Hebrew alphabet.

Russian Revolution 20th-century revolution leading to the downfall of the Russian monarchy

The Russian Revolution was a period of political and social revolution across the territory of the Russian Empire which started with the abolishment of monarchy and concluded with the establishment of the Soviet Union by the Bolsheviks and the end of the civil war.

White émigré

A white émigré was a Russian subject who emigrated from the territory of former Imperial Russia in the wake of the Russian Revolution (1917) and Russian Civil War (1917-1923), and who was in opposition to the revolutionary Russian political climate. Many white émigrés participated in the White movement or supported it, although the term is often broadly applied to anyone who may have left the country due to the change in régimes.

The next big wave of immigration started in the 1970s. If they were allowed to leave, Soviet Jews had little difficulty entering the U.S., and many did so. [7] Russian-speaking Jews constitute about 80% of all immigrants from the former Soviet states. [8]

Jews Ancient nation and ethnoreligious group from the Levant

Jews or Jewish people are an ethnoreligious group and a nation, originating from the Israelites and Hebrews of historical Israel and Judah. Jewish ethnicity, nationhood, and religion are strongly interrelated, as Judaism is the ethnic religion of the Jewish people, while its observance varies from strict observance to complete nonobservance.

Since 2012, New York State institutions provide free interpretations from/into Russian. Also, some state and elections documents are translated into it. [9]



Russian speakers are more likely to have a higher education degree than the national average. 92% of them have a high school diploma and 51% a bachelor's degree. 75% of Russian-speakers speak English "well" or "very well" according to the 2007 data of the U.S. Census Bureau. [10]

Higher education Academic tertiary education, such as from colleges and universities

Higher education is tertiary education leading to award of an academic degree. Higher education, also called post-secondary education, third-level or tertiary education, is an optional final stage of formal learning that occurs after completion of secondary education. It represents levels 6, 7 and 8 of the 2011 version of the International Standard Classification of Education structure. Tertiary education at non-degree level is sometimes referred to as further education or continuing education as distinct from higher education.

A high school diploma is a North American academic school leaving qualification awarded upon high school graduation. The high school diploma is typically studied for over the course of three to four years, from grade 9 to grade 12. The diploma is typically awarded by the school in accordance with the requirements of the local state or provincial government. Requirements for earning the diploma vary by jurisdiction, and there may be different requirements for different streams or levels of high school graduation. Typically they include a combination of selected coursework meeting specified criteria for a particular stream and acceptable passing grades earned on the state exit examination.

A bachelor's degree or baccalaureate is an undergraduate academic degree awarded by colleges and universities upon completion of a course of study lasting three to seven years. In some institutions and educational systems, some bachelor's degrees can only be taken as graduate or postgraduate degrees after a first degree has been completed. In countries with qualifications frameworks, bachelor's degrees are normally one of the major levels in the framework, although some qualifications titled bachelor's degrees may be at other levels and some qualifications with non-bachelor's titles may be classified as bachelor's degrees.


A pharmacy in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, New York with its name translated into Russian Storefront of NY Central Pharmacy.jpg
A pharmacy in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, New York with its name translated into Russian
Historical population
1910 57,926
1920 392,049576.8%
1930 315,721−19.5%
1940 356,94013.1%
1960 276,834
1970 149,277−46.1%
1980 173,22616.0%
1990 241,79839.6%
2000 706,242192.1%
2010 854,95521.1%

Like most Russian Americans, Russian-speakers are concentrated in major urban areas. [10] The New York metropolitan area contains by far the largest number of Russian-speakers. Brooklyn became home to the largest Russian-speaking community in the United States; most notably, Brighton Beach has a large number of recent Russian immigrants and is also called "Little Odessa". [11] The New York state's Russian-speaking population was 218,765 in 2000, which comprised about 30% of all Russian-speakers in the nation. California came second, with 118,382 speakers, followed by New Jersey (38,566), Illinois (38,053), Massachusetts (32,580), Pennsylvania (32,189), and Washington (31,339), Florida (19,729), Maryland (17,584), and Oregon (16,344). [12]

Lifeway, a company based in Chicago and started by a Russian immigrant, is a big producer of Russian dairy products LifewayKefir.jpg
Lifeway, a company based in Chicago and started by a Russian immigrant, is a big producer of Russian dairy products

In California, as of 2000, the highest density of Russian speakers (21% of total population) was observed in the ZIP code 90046, corresponding to the city of West Hollywood and the Hollywood Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles. Statewide, the city of San Francisco accounted for about 14% of all Russian speakers, the ZIP codes of Hollywood and West Hollywood accounted for 12%, and northeast Sacramento accounted for 8%. [13] Alaska holds the title for having the oldest Russian-speaking community (some Alaskans even still speak the old Russian colonial dialect, though it's in big decline) and even its own unique dialect, dating back to the 1700s, although in much smaller numbers than other areas in the United States. In Nikolaevsk, Russian is spoken more than English.


Voting instructions to recent immigrants from the Secretary of State for Minnesota Mike Holm, issued between 1920-1930 Voting Instructions in Russian.jpg
Voting instructions to recent immigrants from the Secretary of State for Minnesota Mike Holm, issued between 1920-1930

In terms of viability, the state of the language in the United States is much better compared to some other European languages, although a considerable minority of the children born to Russian-speaking parents are raised as monolingual English speakers. According to the 2010 Census data, 14.7% of the Russian speakers in the United States are aged between 5 and 17. This is significantly lower than the English speakers (18.8% aged 5–17), but much higher when compared to speakers of Polish (11.3%) and Hungarian (6.8%). The Russian-speaking population is younger in states with large Old Believer or former-USSR Evangelical concentrations, such as Alaska and Oregon.

Table: Percentage of people aged 5 to 17 years among the Russian speaking population in the US, according to the 2010 Census [14]
Note: Total excludes children under 5 years of age, living in Russian speaking households

StateTotalAged 5–17Aged 5–17%
New York216,46824,53111.30%
New Jersey46,0946,63614.40%
North Carolina9,2881,69918.30%
South Carolina3,80699126.00%
Rhode Island1,740905.20%
New Hampshire1,44726318.20%
District of Columbia947485.10%
New Mexico88710912.30%
South Dakota76215320.10%
North Dakota4298820.50%
West Virginia3384713.90%



The first Russian-language newspaper in the United States, Svoboda (Freedom), was published in 1867–1871; it was known as the Alaska Herald in English. Dozens of short-lived Russian newspaper were published until 1940. [15] Russkaya Reklama (Russian Advertisement) weekly, founded in 1993 in Brooklyn, New York, is the largest Russian-language newspaper in the US, with a circulation of over 100,000. [16] It consists of yellow pages with classified ads.

Novoe russkoe slovo (The New Russian Word), published since 1910, was the longest published Russian daily newspaper until 2009, when it went weekly. [17]

Two years later, in 2011, the only Russian-language daily, the Reporter [18] (Репортер), began to be published in New York. [17]

Vecherniy New York [19] (The Evening New York) serves Tri-State area Russian-speakers, and Panorama, published since 1980, serves the Russian-speakers of the Greater Los Angeles area.

Kstati Russian American Newspaper (To the Point) serves the Bay Area.V Novom Svete (In the New World) covers mostly international news and is circulated nationwide, [17] while Evreiskii Mir (The Jewish World) is targeted at Russian-speaking Jews. [20]


Some Russian television stations in the United States include NTV America, Russkii Mir (Russian World), RTR Planeta, RT News, RTVi, Channel One, Israel Plus. [20]


Russian language stations Radio Mayak and Radio Baltica are also available in North America. There are local Russian language stations such as DaNu Radio, Davidzon Radio, Radio Russkaya Reklama in New York, New Life Radio in Chicago, Slavic Family Radio and many more are available online. [20]


The Slavic Sacramento and Slavic Family are the only two online sources that publishes daily news in Russian in California, Oregon and Washington. The main majority visitors of this web site reside in Sacramento and its surroundings, Bay Area, Washington, Oregon, Texas, Florida and New York.

See also

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  6. Potowski 2010, p. 180.
  7. 1 2 3 4 Potowski 2010, p. 181.
  8. Potowski 2010, p. 183.
  10. 1 2 Potowski 2010, p. 185.
  11. Isurin 2011, p. 16.
  12. "Table 5.Detailed List of Languages Spoken at Home for the Population 5 Years and Over by State: 2000" (PDF). United States Census Bureau. February 25, 2003. Retrieved October 3, 2012.
  13. "Language Spoken at Home: 2000; Census 2000 Summary File 3 (SF 3) – Sample Data". Retrieved 2015-10-26.
  14. "Language Map Data Center". 2015-10-12. Retrieved 2015-10-26.
  15. Potowski 2010, p. 186.
  16. О нас (in Russian). "Русская Реклама" /Ruskaya Reklama. Retrieved January 16, 2015.
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  18. "РЕПОРТЕР | Ежедневная русскоязычная газета в Нью Йорке — едневная русскоязычная бесплатная газета Репортер в Нью Йорке". Retrieved 2015-10-26.
  19. "Affordable Hosting Plans - Dedicated Web Support | Lunarpages Web Hosting". Retrieved 2015-10-26.
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