We never knew what it was like to have the country’s media and political class brand people like us a possible threat. Until now.
Excellent writing, Yasha. I get the sense from how I've heard you talk about the Russian population of the US that you may be unaware of my own population. You have mentioned the waves of immigration, and have said of the most recent wave that it is mostly well educated people coming here to study or work in tech and staying, I believe. You claimed that your wave of mostly Jewish émigrés was followed by this latest well-educated group.
My family came here in 1998. I was a baby and my earliest memories are from about a year after we arrived in Portland, OR. There is a huge Russian population there now, over 50,000 people in the Portland metro area, making Russian the third most-spoken language in Oregon after Spanish. The community I grew up in in the 2000s, composed of Russian-speakers from places as diverse as Moldova to Uzbekistan, was extremely undereducated, backwards, and frighteningly religious. I don't think that is only true of my church of several hundred people, but of others as well. I have memories of frequently going to the airport with my family when I was a kid. Tons of people from church would be there, dozens of people, to greet a new family that was about to arrive. We'd sit around waiting for hours and then they'd come in a wave of people getting off the airplane, and everyone would surround them and kiss them. This kind of chain migration happened a lot in the 2000s, but I get the sense that it has slowed down and current immigrants are maybe not as much related to those already here. Maybe it's because I come from a community composed largely of people from the outskirts of the Soviet empire, but I found my experience to contrast enough with what you have said to bother saying something to you about it.
Regarding Russiagate and politics in general, I have also found some contrast between what you have said and my experience with the Portland scene. Growing up, nobody wanted anything to do with politics. They had a revulsion for it, as you have correctly described. Politics was so fucking dirty в союзе that it has permanently left a horrible taste in their mouths. When I started to care about politics in high school and would bring up political topics to my family, my dad would flip shit. My grandpa would flip even more shit, and lecture me about how life-threateningly dangerous it is to get involved with politics. It was religious for them as well. They would talk about how people of faith have to stay out of that shit.
Well, 2016 comes around and guess what happens? Absolutely fucking nobody in Portland likes Donald Trump. Except for the Russians. I conveniently left for college the year before, but my best friend who went to college in Portland and kept going to church would report to me how pretty much everyone immediately got manipulated by the whole fundamentalist religious thing into becoming fanatical Trump sycophants. Over the four years of his presidency, it got really out of control. These people went from being *religiously apolitical* to adopting redneck culture, lifting and modding pickup trucks, putting trump flags on them and participating in violent trump rallies and reactionary political associations. It has been really troubling to me, and I haven't seen any acknowledgment of the phenomenon in any english-language media. It's kind of part of the Russiagate story, but not really. Uneducated religious Russians just fucking love the guy. There is this Facebook group called Русские Портлан и Ванкувер (vancouver the suburb of Portland in Washington state, not the actual city in Canada. It's a favorite suburb of Russian people here) that was full of trump propaganda, misinformation, and overall infuriating troll-like hateful behavior around the election. Occasionally somebody on there expresses anti-trump sentiment and everybody absolutely attacks them. I have observed that most of the antitrump people are of the previous wave, you wave of Russian immigrants. Many of them are Jewish, they are educated, they have been here since the 80s, and they kind of do their own thing and are not part of the big толпа of the 2000s immigrants.
Have you seen this kind of thing anywhere else?