Russians in America: The Third Wave.

Professor Thomas Beyer of Middlebury has a very useful website, Russians in America: The Third Wave. His front page begins:

In 1972 Joseph Brodsky (Иосиф Бродский) leaves the Soviet Union and comes to settle in Ann Arbor, Michigan. In the previous year Carl and Ellendea Proffer found Ardis and would begin publishing Russian Literature Triquarterly. With the passage of the Jackson-Vanik amendment to Trade Act of 1974 and increased scrutiny to human rights called for in the so-called “Helsinki Final Act” of 1975, the Soviet Union after some delay permitted the emigration of Jews in ever increasing numbers. Ultimately some 500,000 would come to the United States. This constituted what has been called “The Third Wave” of Russian emigration in the Twentieth century. The end came gradually with the policies of Mikhail Gorbachev. By the end of 1986 Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago and the poems of Joseph Brodsky were published openly in the Soviet Union. The complete collapse of the Soviet Union clearly marked a new period and a new reality for Russians and their ability to cross frontiers and national boundaries freely.

He says “there were in fact two emigrations, largely separate and distinct,” one of Jews who were finally able to escape and one of intellectuals, “primarily writers or human rights advocates, some expelled from the Soviet Union” (some of these were Jewish as well, of course):

In both cases, this new “Third Wave” found little in common with earlier emigrations. Products of the Soviet Union, its systems of education, social services and employment, atheistic or Jewish as opposed to Russian Orthodox, they represented for earlier generations, the so-called First and Second waves, a completely different set of values. Even linguistically they were distinct because of this Sovietness from earlier Russians in America.

His intention is “to help ensure that the legacy of ‘The Third Wave’ would be preserved here in the United States,” and he’s got sections on various aspects: people, works, periodicals (one of the first things I did when I moved to New York was buy a copy of Новое Русское Слово [The New Russian Word]), and so on; I highly approve of this sort of online venture and hope it stays up and thrives.


  1. A minor quibble. “By the end of 1986 Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago and the poems of Joseph Brodsky were published openly in the Soviet Union.” Since reading Doctor Zhivago (in Novy Mir) and Brodsky’s poetry (in Samizdat and Novy Mir) were formative experiences of my teen years, I’m certain Prof. Beyer got the dates slightly wrong. The first major Brodsky selection (From Nowhere with Love) was published in December 1987, and Doctor Zhivago in January through April 1988, both in NM

  2. Drop him a line, I imagine he welcomes corrections.

  3. Odd that he doesn’t mention the much larger fourth wave of blue-collar Pentecostals building whole communities around the country, who likewise have nothing to do with earlier waves.


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