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Russian language in the United States

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Title: Russian language in the United States  
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Subject: Languages of the United States, Russian language, Russian language in Israel, American English, Alaska
Collection: Geographical Distribution of the Russian Language, Languages of the United States, Russian Language, Russian-American Culture
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Russian language in the United States

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]


  • History 1
  • Demographics 2
    • Education 2.1
    • Distribution 2.2
    • Viability 2.3
  • Media 3
    • Newspapers 3.1
    • Television 3.2
    • Radio 3.3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • Notes 6


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 Steady 57,926
1920 Increase 392,049
1930 Decrease 315,721
1940 Increase 356,940
1960 Decrease 276,834
1970 Decrease 149,277
1980[2] Increase 173,226
1990[3] Increase 241,798
2000[4] Increase 706,242
2010[1] Increase 854,955
^a Foreign-born population only[5]
A pharmacy in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, New York with its name translated into Russian
Lifeway, a company based in Chicago and started by a Russian immigrant, is a big producer of Russian dairy products

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]

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).

The next big wave of immigration started in the 1970s. Soviet Jews had almost unlimited opportunities for entering the U.S., and many did so.[7] Russian-speaking Jews constitute about 80% of all immigrants from the former Soviet states.[8]



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.[9]

In contrast to the prevalence of language schools among other immigrant communities in the U.S., such as Chinese and Korean, there are relatively few schools dedicated to preserving the Russian language among heritage speakers. As a result, many heritage speakers enroll in Russian language programs in college, which are geared primarily toward non-native speakers.[10] While this has a positive effect on enrollment numbers in these programs, heritage speakers often exhibit idiosyncratic language forms that are acceptable in the émigré community but constitute errors in traditional Russian.[11]


Like most Russian Americans, Russian-speakers are concentrated in major urban areas.[9] 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".[12] 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 Michigan (40,372), New Jersey (38,566), Illinois (38,05), Massachusetts (32,580), Pennsylvania (32,189), Washington (31,339),[13] and Ohio (17,594).[1] 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%.[14] 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), dating back to the 1700s, although in much smaller numbers than other areas in the United States.


In terms of viability, the state of the Russian language in the US is much better compared to other European languages (such as French and German), although a considerable minority of the children born to Russian speaking parents are raised up as monolingual English speakers. According to the 2010 Census data, 14.7% of the Russian speakers in the US 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%). 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[15]

Note: Total excludes children under 5 years of age, living in Russian speaking households
State Total Aged 5–17 Aged 5–17%
New York 216,468 24,531 11.30%
California 141,718 19,503 13.80%
Washington 49,282 13,975 28.40%
New Jersey 46,094 6,636 14.40%
Illinois 41,244 4,871 11.80%
Massachusetts 37,865 5,180 13.70%
Pennsylvania 35,029 5,275 15.10%
Florida 31,566 4,002 12.70%
Oregon 21,443 5,622 26.20%
Maryland 19,892 2,175 10.90%
Texas 17,310 2,108 12.20%
Ohio 15,672 1,847 11.80%
Minnesota 14,427 3,104 21.50%
Virginia 13,922 1,846 13.30%
Georgia 13,091 2,332 17.80%
Colorado 13,090 2,228 17.00%
Michigan 12,363 1,553 12.60%
Connecticut 11,457 1,496 13.10%
North Carolina 9,288 1,699 18.30%
Missouri 7,831 1,566 20.00%
Arizona 7,685 895 11.60%
Wisconsin 6,817 770 11.30%
Indiana 5,722 962 16.80%
Tennessee 4,270 933 21.90%
Utah 4,218 730 17.30%
Alaska 3,912 976 24.90%
Nevada 3,808 436 11.40%
South Carolina 3,806 991 26.00%
Maine 2,408 849 35.30%
Kentucky 2,208 236 10.70%
Idaho 1,966 283 14.40%
Kansas 1,919 288 15.00%
Oklahoma 1,774 270 15.20%
Rhode Island 1,740 90 5.20%
Iowa 1,683 238 14.10%
Louisiana 1,576 267 16.90%
New Hampshire 1,447 263 18.20%
Alabama 1,437 177 12.30%
District of Columbia 947 48 5.10%
Montana 893 332 37.20%
New Mexico 887 109 12.30%
Hawai'i 814 136 16.70%
Nebraska 807 60 7.40%
South Dakota 762 153 20.10%
Mississippi 725 81 11.20%
Vermont 637 80 12.60%
Delaware 550 77 14.00%
Wyoming 519 130 25.00%
North Dakota 429 88 20.50%
Arkansas 415 34 8.20%
West Virginia 338 47 13.90%
Total 836,171 122,578 14.70%



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.[16] 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.[17] 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.[18]

Two years later, in 2011, the only Russian-language daily, the Reporter[19] (Репортер), began to be published in New York.[18]

Vecherniy New York[20] (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[21] (To the Point) serves the Bay Area.V Novom Svete (In the New World) covers mostly international news and is circulated nationwide,[18] while Evreiskii Mir (The Jewish World) is targeted at Russian-speaking Jews.[22]


Some Russian television stations in the United States include NTV America, Russkii Mir (Russian World), RTR Planeta, RT News, RTVi, Channel One, Israel Plus.[22]


Russian language stations Radio Mayak and Radio Baltica are also available in North America. There are local Russian language stations such as Davidzon Radio in New York and New Life Radio in Chicago, and many more are available online.[22]

See also


  • Potowski, Kim (2010). Language diversity in the USA. New York: Cambridge University Press.  
  • Reagan, Timothy G. (2002). Language, Education, and Ideology: Mapping the Linguistic Landscape of U.S. Schools. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group.  
  • Isurin, Ludmila (2011). Russian Diaspora Culture, Identity, and Language Change. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, Inc.  


  1. ^ a b c
  2. ^ "Appendix Table 2. Languages Spoken at Home: 1980, 1990, 2000, and 2007.".  
  3. ^ "Detailed Language Spoken at Home and Ability to Speak English for Persons 5 Years and Over --50 Languages with Greatest Number of Speakers: United States 1990".  
  4. ^ "Language Spoken at Home: 2000".  
  5. ^ "Mother Tongue of the Foreign-Born Population: 1910 to 1940, 1960, and 1970".  
  6. ^ Potowski 2010, p. 180.
  7. ^ a b c d Potowski 2010, p. 181.
  8. ^ Potowski 2010, p. 183.
  9. ^ a b Potowski 2010, p. 185.
  10. ^ Potowski 2010, p. 189.
  11. ^ Reagan 2002, pp. 52–53.
  12. ^ Isurin 2011, p. 16.
  13. ^ "Table 5.Detailed List of Languages Spoken at Home for the Population 5 Years and Over by State: 2000".  
  14. ^ "Language Spoken at Home: 2000; Census 2000 Summary File 3 (SF 3) – Sample Data". 
  15. ^
  16. ^ Potowski 2010, p. 186.
  17. ^ О нас (in Русский). "Русская Реклама" /Ruskaya Reklama. Retrieved 25 October 2012. 
  18. ^ a b c Ewa Kern-Jedrtchowska (March 2, 2011). "A Russian-Language Daily Hits the Streets".  
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^ a b c Potowski 2010, p. 187.
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