Saturday, May 5, 2012
Slavic Community in the Pacific NW
Oregon Humanities: The history and future of Slavic refugees in Oregon Excerpt: "More than one hundred thousand people from the former Soviet Union now call the Willamette Valley home. . . About 40 percent of the more than one hundred thousand Slavic people who live in the region are from Ukraine. Others were born in Russia, Belarus, or other republics that formerly made up the Soviet Union. While the vast majority of these immigrants live in the Portland-metro area, about three thousand currently reside in Salem, with significant numbers also living in Woodburn and smaller towns such as Lebanon and Albany."
Slavic Community in Oregon: a historic overview from the 2010 report, "Communities of Color in Multnomah County: An Unsettling Profile:" The Slavic community is defined as people from the former Soviet Union, mostly who fled religious and political persecution and came to Oregon in several waves. The first is at the turn of the 20th century, when members of the Russian Orthodox faith moved to the area. Resurgence occurred at the close of the Russian Revolution in 1922. The third and most significant wave occurred as the Soviet Union began to unravel. In 1988, then President Mikhail Gorbachev allowed some religious minorities to leave the country. Numbers grew when in 1989, the USA eased immigration laws to permit Soviet immigrants. With the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Slavic community arrived in large numbers. Migration into Oregon and California was primarily evangelical groups, bringing histories of religious persecution and deep connections to fundamentalist churches. Helped with sponsorships by Christian church congregations, and recognition by the US government that their experiences were sufficient to warrant status as refugees (due to persecution for their religious beliefs), Slavic numbers grew to where they now are the largest refugee group in Oregon. The strength of the evangelical lobby in the USA has secured their ongoing status as refugees despite the end to religious persecution that coincided with the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Old Believers: A documentary about the Russian Old Believer community of Marion County, Oregon The Old Believers living in and around Woodburn, Oregon are descendants of Russian Christians who chose to retain the old rituals when reforms were introduced in the Russian Orthodox Church in the 1660’s. They were excommunicated and suffered persecution from political administrators and official church leaders. Many of the dissenters fled Russia. Largely because of this history, the Oregon Old Believers have retained a strong sense of cultural and religious identity. A teacher's guide to the film can be found here.
Photo credit: Helen's blog