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    Posted May 4, 2012 by
    XeniaPG
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    RUSSIAN-SPEAKING DIASPORA'S AWAKENING: WHAT CHANGES DO WE SEEK? Part 2

     
    By Dmitri Glinski; Photo Katya Pugacheva

    As the continuous marginalization of political opponents by the regime left virtually no room for any public career outside of the Kremlin’s orbit, talented Russians felt suffocated by the lack of a sufficiently open public space where their visions of a better society and leadership ambitions could be put to play. Thus, this most recent emigration from Russia is driven more by politics and cultural resentment of the Putin regime rather than by economic need or ethnic tension.

    Further, these latest Russian immigrants in America encounter a virtually nonexistent public space in the Russian-speaking community for their non-commercial careers and activities - at least compared to many other immigrant ethnic groups. This is a significant obstacle to their successful integration in American society. In contrast to Hispanic, Asian, Jewish, Arab and many other communities, Russian-speakers have virtually no nonprofit organizations in America that would provide advocacy services to the community on matters of its socio-economic and political interest, counteract significant anti-Russian prejudice in the media, labor market, and workplace, and employ at least a few of the community’s mass of highly skilled immigrants with nonprofit backgrounds, helping them to move into the public arena. Existing nonprofit organizations in the community are either focused on Russian arts and culture, or, those that are part of the Jewish community, on Israel security and public image and to a lesser extent on social services. While all of these are very noble and worthwhile causes in and of themselves, important for many Russian-speaking immigrants, they are no substitute for addressing the issue of Russian-speakers’ representation in the public arena or the serious socio-economic problems of the community (as noted in a proposed congressional legislation on the need to negotiate the payment of pensions to former Soviet employees by their native states, in 2009 37 percent of immigrants from the former USSR were not in the labor force – not part-timers, not freelancers, but without any work at all). And it leaves a glaring gap in the place of organizations that would help advance Russian-speaking Americans in public affairs, as citizens of their new homeland proudly conscious of their origin and rightly concerned with the state of affairs in their native country. There is no nationwide organization of Russian-speakers that would be even remotely comparable to such nonprofit agencies serving other immigrant communities as the National Council of La Raza. And Russian-speakers are also severely underrepresented in nonprofit leadership roles outside of their community and in the government service at all levels, including New York City and State, where their vital interests are particularly affected. As a result, the community, while being the eighth-largest immigrant group by language in the country and third-largest in New York, is barely visible in the public arena, and its concerns and opinions are easily dismissed (as, for example, in the case of the recent redistricting in South Brooklyn).

    In light of these observations, there is increased effort in the community to move it to a more advanced stage in its internal organizing, so that it is able to address the needs of its latest wave of immigrants, along with many more who are likely to come during Mr. Putin’s third presidential term. The starting point of this organizing is the awareness that existing nonprofit organizations have failed to address these needs. TO BE CONTINUED

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