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RUSSIAN IMMIGRANTS: TRANSNATIONALISM IN THE CONTEXT OF U.S.-RUSSIA RELATIONS SINCE 2014
This dissertation examines the transnational realities of Russian immigrants in the United States. Drawing insights from personal accounts, I discuss immigrants’ motives to immigrate to the United States and to stay connected to their homeland. I illustrate that political and economic factors, as well as the goals to enhance professional and personal lives, have shaped immigrants’ decisions to come to the United States. At the same time, I show that determined to fulfill their social and civic responsibilities, Russian immigrants maintain ties to their families and friends back in Russia and also remain civically engaged in Russian society.
This dissertation also illustrates that a more intricate understanding of Russian immigrants today cannot be achieved in isolation from the political relations between Russia and the United States that have been rapidly deteriorating since 2014. There are different ways that Russian immigrants respond to the geopolitical divide between the two nation-states. Some Russian immigrants, for example, condemn Russia’s foreign policy and global political behavior. Their criticism is often met with hostilities from Russians who have not emigrated. Other Russian immigrants, on the other hand, disapprove U.S. actions toward Russia and Russian society and consequently encounter antagonisms in the United States. These immigrants recount their experiences of exclusion from the U.S. social fabric. There are also those Russian immigrants who question international acts of the political leaders of both countries. Coping with antagonistic attitudes from Russian and U.S. societies toward their political views and/or ethnic background, these individuals emphasize a growing detachment from both nations. Based on individual accounts, I argue that the contemporary tensions that have emerged between the two nations-states create a barrier to the development of a transnational identity among Russian immigrants. Specifically, living in a hostile political environment, Russian immigrants do not share a simultaneous sense of belonging in relation to Russia and the United States.
By focusing on Russian immigrants’ experiences with U.S.-Russia relations, this dissertation also brings to light individual efforts to contest confrontations that shape the political landscape between Russia and the United States. As transnational subjects with cross-border ties and lives, Russian immigrants utilize their transnational positions and cultural competencies to impact international views of Russian and U.S. nationals. They frequently resort to transnational dialogues and socio-cultural acts to raise social awareness and sympathies between their home and host nations. By developing and investing their efforts into improving U.S.-Russia ties, the ultimate goal that Russian immigrants seek to achieve is to discourage members of Russian and U.S. societies from seeing each other as enemy nations.