Many of us educated in the American public school system in the 1980’s were raised to dislike and distrust Russia. And today again – with good reason – headlines are Anti-Russia due to the terrorist activities of the Russian-born, Chechnyan Tsarnaev brothers in Boston.
While “Russian mafia” headlines blare every time a Russian does something wrong, there are many misperceptions of the few million Russian emigrants to America which are prevalent in the media. This community has had a tremendously positive impact on America and the world – and it shouldn’t be overlooked.
A list of some of the Russian-Americans who were born in Russia:
- Sergey Mikhaylovich Brin was born in Moscow in 1973 and moved to the U.S. to evade the persecution of Jews in Russia. As co-founded Google he is widely renowned as one of the most successful and influential people in the world. What would the world be without Google?
- Mikhail Baryshnikov is perhaps the greatest ballet dancer in the world. He has also had success as an actor. Of course, for many his best contribution to American culture may be playing Carrie’s Russian love interest in the last season of Sex & the City.
- What article about Russia can be complete without mentioning the amazing women? Both actresses Milla Jovovich and Mila Kunis (named in November 2012 by Esquire Magazine as the Sexiest Woman Alive) were born in Kiev, Ukraine.
- Leningrad-born Gary Shteyngart has been recognized as one of the best writers of our time. His books have won numerous awards, and his second novel was named one of the 10 Best Books of the Year by The New York Times Book Review, as well as a best book of the year by Time, The Washington Post Book World and others.
- Maria Sharapova is one of the best women tennis players who has ever lived. Currently ranked as the #2 woman tennis player in the world, she has previously won 28 Women’s Tennis Association medals. (Famous Anna Kournikova is a retired Russian-American tennis player.)
- Lenny Krayzelburg was born in Odessa – and won four Olympic gold medals as an American swimmer. He remains an active member of the Russian-American Jewish community, owning a home in the Russian enclave of Brighton Beach in Brooklyn.
- Regina Spektor was born in Moscow and is an award-winning singer, songwriter and pianist.
All of these people speak Russian as their native language – and there are so many other Russian-Americans who contribute so much to American culture, science, business, sports and other arenas and are overlooked. From Chicago-based philanthropist Anthony Melikhov who was born in Minsk, Belarus and founded Bright Future International to Ukrainian-born attorney Edward Mermelstein, to NYC taxicab mogul Evgeny Friedman who emigrated to the US from St. Petersburg to Eugene Remm, the king of nightlife of EMM Group and so many others who work hard and experience success.
Russian-Americans have had such a great impact on America – and the world. Although I am not Russian, my wife Zhanna was born in the Ukraine, and emigrated to America at the age of 16 and I am proud my kids speak Russian. Am also an active board member of the largest Russian-American Jewish charity, RAJE (Russian-American Jewish Experience).
In Israel and many other countries, the impact of Russians to the country is well-known and well-regarded. In America too Russians have had a tremendously positive impact.