The Russian extended family structure of uncles, aunts, cousins, godparents, etc. that prevailed in villages and shtetls was difficult, if not impossible, to recreate in the United States. Therefore, families became more inner-directed and isolated than they had been in Russia.
There was also a decrease in the number of children. Among post-World War I White Russian émigrés, there were twice as many men as women. This meant there was a high percentage of unmarried men with no children or marriages with women of other backgrounds. Poverty and unstable economic conditions among émigrés also worked against having children. Even among the pre-World War I Russian Jewish immigration in which the number of males (56 percent) and females (44 percent) was more balanced, the number of children married couples bore was well below the American norm. Statistics from 1969 reveal that Russian American women of the first generation and their descendants had an average of 1.7 to 2.4 children, while women of comparable ages who were of English, German, Irish, or Italian backgrounds had between 2.1 and 3.3 children.
Initially, Russian immigrants strove to have their children choose marriage partners from among their own group. Among Russian Jews, the religious factor was of primary importance. Hence, descendants of pre-World War I Jewish immigrants from Russia largely intermarried with Jews or non-Jews with non-Russian origins. Non-Jewish Russians were more concerned with maintaining a Russian identity within their family, but marriages with non-Russians soon became the norm.
While their family units may have been smaller than those of other Americans on average, Russian immigrants tended to place greater emphasis on education. This was certainly the case among Jews who brought a strong tradition of learning that had characterized Jewish life for centuries. Non-Jewish White Russians were intent on providing their offspring with the highest possible education (in the Russian language, if possible) so that they could take an appropriate place in Russian society when the communist regime would collapse and they could return home. Even when it became obvious that returning to a non-communist Russia was impossible, higher education was still considered useful for adaptation to American society. It is not surprising, then, that by 1971, among Americans of nine different backgrounds (English, Scottish, Welsh, German, Italian, Irish, French, and Polish), Russians between 25 and 34 had on average 16 years of education, while all others had at most only 12.8 years.
THE ROLE OF WOMEN
In traditional Russian society, women were legally dependent upon their husbands. The Bolshevik Revolution radically changed the status of women. Under communist rule, Russian women were offered equal economic and social responsibilities, which resulted in a high percentage of females in the labor force. The majority of physicians and health care workers in general are women. In the family, however, a woman is still expected to perform domestic tasks such as cooking, cleaning, and shopping. Women have played a determining role in maintaining the cultural identity in the family, passing on knowledge of Russian language and culture to younger people and by participation in philanthropic work that affects the entire community. Among the oldest of such organizations was the Russian Children's Welfare Society Outside Russia founded in New York City in 1926 to help orphans and poor children. Today the best known is the Tolstoy Foundation, set up in 1939 by Alexandra Tolstoy (1884-1979), daughter of the famous nineteenth-century Russian novelist, Leo Tolstoy. With branches throughout the world, the Tolstoy Foundation still operates a Russian senior citizen's home and cultural center in Mack, New York, which has helped tens of thousands Russians and other refugees settle in the United States.
RUSSIAN AMERICAN IMMIGRATION WAVE
RUSSIAN AMERICAN SETTLEMENT
RUSSIAN AMERICAN ACCULTURATION & ASSIMILATION
source everyculture.com 2007