Boris Dralyuk, a longtime LH favorite (see, e.g., this post), has written a marvelous piece for the Los Angeles Review of Books about vanished or vanishing LA bookstores (“By the time I was coming up in LA, the era of the legendary bookmen was over. Gone was Jake Zeitlin’s Big Red Barn on La Cienega, gone was Pickwick on Hollywood…), Little Russia (“a neighborhood that straddles Los Angeles and West Hollywood…. LA’s Russian émigré community, which snowballed in the years around the collapse of the Soviet Union, is one of the largest in the world, but Little Russia is rapidly aging, fading”), and earlier Russian communities in the area:
First came the religious sectarians (Molokans, Holy Jumpers, and others), who settled in Boyle Heights around the turn of the century. This insular group attracted a lot of attention from newspaper columnists and sociologists, but their numbers quickly dwindled. And then the so-called First Wave of Russian emigration washed up on the Pacific shore. Carey McWilliams gives a breezy but accurate account of its fate:
Around 1917 a group of 500 White Russians, all self-styled aristocrats, settled in Hollywood. Refugees from the Russian Revolution, they came by way of China, across the Pacific to San Francisco, and then to Hollywood. To this group of aristocrats and officers was later added about a thousand non-aristocrats, students, artists, engineers, and professional people. From this colony came the Russian Orthodox Church, the Russian Officers Club, and the Russian cafés of the early ’twenties: the Double-Headed Eagle, the Russian Bear, the Moscow Inn, and the well-known Boublichki night club on Sunset “strip.” The Filmarte Theater in Hollywood was founded by a member of this refugee group. Lacking internal cohesion, the colony soon disintegrated and is today non-existent.
He describes a wonderful trove from that long-gone community he found at the Trading Post, and a quarterly it produced called “The Land of Columbus”:
I was off to the library at UCLA. Zemlya Columba, as its editors called it, was a thick journal published in 1936 and 1937. The “quarterly” tag was, alas, aspirational. Only two issues saw the light of day, but they told me a great deal…
The whole thing is worth your while, as is everything the eloquent and polymathic Dralyuk writes.