Russian immigrants were individuals from a variety of ethnic backgrounds. They came from many parts of the pre-World War I Russian Empire and then the Soviet Union including the Baltic countries and the former Austro-Hungarian Empire. They settled into various parts of the U.S. among Russian immigrants of similar ethnic backgrounds.
The First Russian Immigrants
According to Countries and Their Cultures, the first Russian immigrants were part of Russia's internal migration during the 18th century. Russian settlers established colonies on the island of Kodiak off the Alaskan coast by 1784 and the colonies of Yakutat and Sitka on the Alaskan mainland soon after. After Russia sold Alaska to the U.S. in 1867, most Russian immigrants there returned to their native land.
The first Jewish Russian immigrants to America arrived between 1881 and 1914 and settled in areas of the northeastern United States, such as Boston, Philadelphia and New York in search of a better economic future.
White Russian Immigrants
According to the Countries and Their Cultures website, as many as 30,000 Russian soldiers, aristocrats, professionals and intellectuals settled in New York City, Philadelphia and Chicago between 1920 and 1922, with several thousand more arriving in the 1930s. These immigrants were White Russians, named for their opposition to communism.
Non-Jewish Russian Immigrants
Non-Jewish Russians began coming to American in 1881 and continued throughout the 20th century. These immigrants settled in New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Pittsburgh and the coal-mining towns of eastern Pennsylvania.
Far East Russian Immigrants
Immigrants from the Russian Far East began to arrive in the 1880s and settled in parts of California in areas such as San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Russian Molokan Immigrants
Many Molokans, members of a Christian sect that rejected the Russian Orthodox Church, immigrated to the United States during the early 1900s and settled in San Francisco and Los Angeles, California, where a 20,000-member Russian Molokan community continues to thrive.