As a Chinese living in the western world, I am a little bit concerned about the next decades where there might be a war or a series of conflicts between the rising Chinese power and the current world order lead by the US. This made me naturally curious about the experiences of the Russians who lived in the US/western world during the cold war era. Were they treated differently? Were they discriminated against? Is there any book/records on their lives?
Because of emigration restrictions from the Soviet Union imposed from at least the 1920's on, there were very few ethnic Russians of recent arrival in the U.S., and the Western world in general, during the 1950's. Those ethnic Russians (and Ukrainians) had mostly arrived during the late 19th, or very early 20th, century. By the 1950's ethnic Slavs were generally third or even fourth generation, fluent in English, and respected members of the community. Other than attending a church with slightly different ritual and architecture, they were virtually indistinguishable from other third and fourth generation immigrants of the same era from other parts of Europe: Italy, Greece, Poland and Germany.
I have no doubts that, especially during the 1950's, there was counter intelligence being run in those communities by the FBI and others. There may have been some discrimination against these ethnic groups in certain sensitive government posts - but on the other hand there was also some favourable hiring for the language and cultural knowledge. I suspect a net wash.
As for treatment by the general population - eyes were so focused on the Civil Rights movement that I doubt many even knew who their Russian neighbours and colleagues were.
This Wikipedia page lists several Russian-American writers of note, including Ayn Rand and Isaac Asimov. This page lists numerous additional notable Russian-Americans, both alphabetically and by selected occupation.
The noted physicist Richard Feynman was subject to quota in his university application, but that was due to his Jewish heritage and not his Russian ancestry. I believe this to be typical of the time.
Hollywood's persistent habit of renaming non-WASP actors and actresses during this time would hide the Eastern European heritage of many famous performers - but I believe this was to sidestep the endemic antisemitism of the age, and not an anti-Slav or anti-Russian sentiment either by the producers or the general public. The major Hollywood moguls were almost all Jewish, and very self-conscious about that fact.
I heard from many sources that the fictional 1984 Robin Williams movie Moscow on the Hudson had it pretty well nailed*. Russians didn't really have it significantly worse than any other immigrant group, but that isn't necessarily saying much. People who came to the US expecting life to be all wine and roses were of course in for a shock.
My memory of things was that Russian people were generally looked at as victims of a rather nasty brutish government, and immigrants were not only not looked down upon, but if anything encouraged. They were essentially living proof that our way was better (and most would happily tell you so).
I will say I had a job in the early 1990's that required an extensive security clearance, due to it handling the infrastructure software and hardware for classified military communications. Once I got in there, I discovered to my surprise that a good third of my co-workers were born in Communist countries (One Russian, and two Vietnamese). These are highly-paid engineering jobs, and clearly being an immigrant from a Communist country not only wasn't preventing them from getting those jobs, but they seemed over-represented in them.
* - According to its IMDB page, the writers did extensive interviews with actual Soviet defectors, and the writer/director was himself a grandson of Russian defectors
I've never heard of "Russians" discriminated in the USA in any way. I mean here all nationalities of former Soviet Union; they are commonly (and incorrectly) called "Russians" in the United states. But the analogy between "Russians" and Chinese is incomplete because in the case of "Russians" racial bias plays no role.
Most "Russians" living in the US during the Cold war were either descendants of old immigrants, which were undistinguished from most Americans in any way, or the refugees from Soviet Union. There was absolutely no reason to suspect these refugees in any sympathy to the Soviet regime. This is not the case nowadays, when Soviet Union does not exist anymore, and modern US "Russians" may have some sympathies to modern Russia.
Anyway, I wanted to make two points: a) that "Russians" were never discriminated, and b) the case differs much from the Chinese c) the number of "Russians" in the US is insignificant.
Also notice that Germans were never discriminated in the US, and this includes the WWII period.
1) they weren't brown
2) they were largely White (anti-Bolshevik) émigrés, or the descendants thereof.
You could say they were safe because they were White and white: with and without a capital.
Whiter than white?
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