The World in NYC: Russia

By Walter Godinez

The World in NYC: Russia

The World in NYC: Russia
Photo by Wanwa

We have tasted their food, enjoyed their movies, and appreciated their art but the mystery remains, where in New York City do the Russians live? The Russian immigration wave to New York City stretches back to the 1800s but the big surge of modern day Russians in the United States is identified after the Soviet era (post-1991). The Russian population increased by 254%, totaling over 4 million Russians in the United States with over 90% of this population living in large urban areas, most notably New York City[1]. There are currently 700,000 Russians living in New York City and a quick trip out of Manhattan to Brooklyn will bring you to the heart of the Russian community.

 Brighton Beach

Often called “Little Odessa” because of its strong Ukrainian community, Brighton Beach is equally called “Little Russia” because of its vibrant and ubiquitous Russian community. Originally made up mostly of Russian Jews (immigrated in the late 1960s) the community has now grown to include a much wider Russian demographic. Unlike many of the watered down foreign communities across the United States, Brighton Beach is as Russian as it gets and doesn’t really try to cater to tourists. This is ideal for outsiders as you are treated to the everyday lives of this Russian community and it provides a sense of authenticity. On a stroll down Brighton Beach’s streets you will see a plethora of Russian delis, butchers, cafes, book stores, and clothing boutiques. Often when entering stores, you are greeted in Russian, but if you appear confused, English is almost always a second option. If you plan on making an entire day trip out of it, you’ll be amazed to see the transformation as restaurants turn into night clubs. When it comes to getting a taste of Russia without actually visiting the beautiful country, Brighton Beach is definitely a must visit.

Some of the neighborhood treats include:

Winter Garden: The Winter Garden, located on the boardwalk of Brighton Beach is a pleasant place to sit and drink great Russian beer over a nice conversation. The Winter Garden is at the end of a row of Russian eateries and provides colorful décor and delicious food. We recommend any of their salads and grilled meats.
Address: 3152 Brighton 6th Street, Brooklyn, NY 11235

Primorski Restaurant : Opened in 1981, Primorski Restaurant has a friendly atmosphere and a grilled lamb to die for.  Other treats include the breaded chicken and the mix of chopped chicken and mushrooms.

Address: 282 Brighton Beach Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11235

Tatiana Restaurant: Tatiana Restaurant is said to have the neighborhood’s best smoked fish, caviar and cheese if you’re in the mood for these specific dishes.
Address: 3152 Brighton 6th Street, Brooklyn, NY 11235

St. Petersburg Bookstore: St. Petersburg Bookstore is a mecca for readers and students of Russia’s language and culture. Often billed as the world’s largest Russian bookseller outside of Russia, you can get lost in this neighborhood gem.
Address: 230 Brighton Beach Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11235

Getting to Brighton Beach via subway is your best bet. Simply take the Q or B to the Brighton Beach stop.

If you can’t make it out to Brooklyn for some fine Russian cuisine, there are a couple notable establishments in Manhattan as well:

The Russian Tea Room: The Russian Tea Room is a very colorful and vibrant restaurant with an array of Russian cuisine including their delicious pork tenderloin and cherry and cheese blintzes.
Address: 150 West 57th Street  New York, NY 10019

Brasserie Pushkin: Brasserie Pushkin is a three story restaurant with two dining areas and a private vodka bar. It can make for a pricey meal but the service is great and you’ll feel like Russian royalty as soon as you walk in.
Address: 41 West 57th Street  New York, NY 10019

 

In addition to Brighton Beach, there are other New York City neighborhoods that Russians call home.

Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn: The influence of Russian Americans is strong in this Brooklyn neighborhood - most businesses have signs in Russian and English.

Bath Beach, Brooklyn: Located at the southwestern edge of Brooklyn, Bath Beach is becoming increasingly populated by Russian immigrants as well as Chinese and Latino.

South Beach, Staten Island: For a more modern and affluent Russian community, you can visit South Beach. Seems like the Russians like the beaches!

Russian Culture

The Russian community is a relatively old one when compared to other foreign populations and it has made its presence felt around the city with a number of cultural centers:

The Russian American Cultural Center: RACC provides cultural representation to the Russian American residents in the New York City metropolitan area. In addition to supporting cultural awareness and understanding of emerging Russian American artists, the RACC aims to promote cultural exchange and cultural diversity among all of NYC’s cultural communities.

The Russian American Cultural Heritage Center: The RACH is dedicated to collecting, preserving, and disseminating the best traditions, history, culture, and heritage of Russian Americans.

Millenium Theater: The Millennium Theater in Brighton Beach is the Lincoln Center for the Russian community longing to see their home country’s popular artists, actors, singers, composers, and operas.

We encourage you to take a trip out to these Russian cultural centers and tell us all about it on our Facebook and Twitter page!

 


Branko Milanovic, Income, Inequality, and Poverty During the Transformation from Planned to Market Economy (Washington DC: The World Bank, 1998), pp.186–90.

Article originally published : October 15, 2012