Prejudice against Russians in USA?

In my recent travels, I met a Russian man who had worked in the USA for several years, then returned home to Russia. He said he liked working there at first, but was forced to return home because there was serious discrimination against Russians in the USA.

He was not a likeable man, with odd mannerisms. If he felt any “discrimination”, I suspect it was against him as an individual, not Russians in general. However, I am curious to know if there is a basis for his allegation.

Russians strike me as an unlikely target for wrongful discrimination. On the contrary, in casual conversation, ordinary Russians show scary levels of race discrimination - especially against what they call “Muslims”, which usually means people from the Caucasus area like Chechens. This is reflected in (driven by?) the Russian media.

However, I am curious to know if I am misjudging him, and if there may be a factual basis for his belief that a Russian might suffer discrimination in the USA. Can USAian Dopers comment?

During what time frame had he lived in the U.S.?

…and where, and in what capacity?

I gather that he had returned fairly recently, after being in the USA for some years. He did not specify what he had been doing, but I gathered that he had a university education, possibly engineer.

We did not have a long conversation, as I found him irritating. That’s why I wondered if any “discrimination” that he felt was personal, not against his nationality.

Anecdotally, I hired 6 Russians FOB for my former company. They all have green cards or are American citizens and haven’t reported any significant prejudice that I am aware of. They have various degrees of assimilation, one of which has a particularly “gruff” personality. They are all computer programmers, who as a class generally have their fair share of personality quirks.

I’m still friends with 3 of them. The one that I am close friends with really hates Chechens. I never broach the subject anymore.

The following post is a matter of opinion.

I have a few Russian guys working for my organization currently (IT company). Although I live in the DC area and have met, socialized with, and worked with people of dozens of nationalities, it was the first time I had gotten to know Russians. I was surprised at my visceral reaction to them, which dissipated after I got to know them. I am 54 and was brought up during the Cold War. I never consciously realized how I had been socialized to think of Russians as the bad guys. It still freaks me out when I hear them speaking Russian to each other; it sounds sinister to me, except then I hear them sprinkle in English words like “server” and “memory” and I relax.

This is a completely involuntary reaction on my part that surprised me, like some people have a fear of heights. It taught me something about prejudice, both mine and other people’s. If a left-leaning, college-educated guy like me can have such a reaction, it would not surprise me if there was some amount of overt, conscious discrimination against our former rivals.

I’m an American. I think that prejudice against Russians in this country has gone significantly down since the Cold War era. I don’t see any significant prejudice against Russians nowadays, and they generally appear White so a Russian accent and a Russian name are really the only things that identify someone as Russian. I personally see Russians as, basically, non-Anglo white people, similar to Germans, Italians, or Greeks in the US.

Native-born Americans of Russian descent (i.e. are fully fluent in English with an American accent) are basically treated no different than any other white person.

People still say that?

RE: Russians: I think it may be a personality clash on both sides. The ‘gruff’ personality of Russians may make them come off as ‘uncivilized’ or ‘uncultured’. I mean, what do most people know about Russians? Communism, vodka, persecution, prostitutes and drugs?

But…if you are talking about ‘new russians’ with an affection for big cars and jewelry, I can see how that looks odd in some parts of America.

Shrug Whatever. Bring on the food and vodka.

Really? My impression is that the cold war “commie” stereotype has been more than compensated for by a “violent gangster” stereotype. In the last couple decades, Russians have been tarred in the popular culture with the same brush once reserved for Italians and African-Americans.

Intellectual property piracy, counterfeiting, organized crime, assassination-based politics, and raging alcoholism.

This pretty much describes all Russians I’ve ever met.

One thing that may be seriously off-putting about Russians comes from the cultural divide; while they often seem to be your best buddy one moment, joking and laughing, they’ll turn around and say or do something of utterly breathtaking rudeness the next. Although they speak a Indo-European language, they are far more East Asian in social behavior. Most Russians also seem to have a very pronounced inferiority complex, which is expressed as loud bombast if they feel threatened or criticized. And we can’t dismiss what living under an oppressive, totalitarian, and almost completely arbitrary regime, followed by economic and social freefall in the post-Soviet era has done to the collective Russian mindset.

That being said, as a group, they’re still more interesting and all around better educated than most Americans. I’ve yet to meet a Russian who can’t play chess at a competitive level, and the general adoration of literature and plays rivals that of a dedicated Americans student. That may be some degree of confirmation bias as nearly all of the Russians I’ve met are highly technically trained, but compared with American engineers and scientists they also seem to be far more well-rounded and versed in the arts and general sciences.


From here, it looks like that Russian guy was right …:eek:

And also, Russians can be very touchy-feely/cuddly with casual friends in a way that can weird Americans (or others) out a bit.

I know an ethnically Russian woman from Ukraine who came to the U.S. several years ago. I have never heard her complain about anti-Russian prejudice.

The beach towns on the east coast have been hiring tons of young Russians as summer staff for years now. I’ve never interacted with them socially, but on a customer-service level, they’ve consistently been very cheerful and efficient.

Russian gangs are the go-to villains in crime dramas, as the mobsters that other mobsters are afraid of.

For a while, New York’s cabdrivers were heavily Russian, but that’s probably old news.

I can’t answer the generic question, but I work with a few Russians and they’re very nice people and I don’t think anyone dislikes them in any way.

Beyond sterotypes (which are present for any sort of ethnicity or nationality) I personally don’t think there’s a lot of active hostility towards Russians among Americans (most of whom have probably never met one, especially outside of bigger cities).

Perhaps it’s telling that while there’s no shortage of offensive terms used here to refer to blacks, Mexicans/Hispanics, Jews, gays/lesbians, Asians, Arabs/Muslims etc. I can’t really think of one for Russians (maybe “Russkies” - but I think it’s usually used in humorous, Dr. Strangelove sort of sense).

never experienced anything of the sort despite my obviously Russian accent. Maybe the Russian engineer in the OP was unhappy with the state of the labor market, with [del]2nd coming of Gorbachev the destroyer of nations[/del] President Obama or with some other aspect of America unrelated to people’s attitude to his background.

A lot of Russian immigrants are highly educated in fields where they can’t find work in this country. This sometimes leaves them disgruntled. In this situation back during the Soviet days, they were usually just grateful to be here, no matter what they had to do to make a living. One man I worked with who came here in the 80’s found the US to be a remarkable country. He and his family arrived with nothing but the clothes on their backs, and strangers provided them with housing, food, and helped him find a job. He wasn’t the least bit unhappy with his life here, nor would he have cared about any percieved discrimination.

While I find Russians to be wonderful people with a great culture, I’ve seen a lot of bad mouthing of them in the area where I grew up. Bascially, people act like they’re all drunks who love to fight. Don’t ask them to do a job for you, because they’re too drunk to show up or will fuck it up anyway. The one thing I will say about them, though is that I noticed where I used to live a lot of Russian women (as in off the boat types not third/fourth/fifth generation Russian Americans) have no problems with their American born children not speaking any English. America is a country where those don’t assimalate aren’t taken kindly to.