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Professor, students create website to document Russian immigration in Oregon

November 08, 2013

  • News Image
    Vicky Radenkova ’14 and David Salkowski ’14
  • News Image
    Associate Professor of Russian Tatiana Osipovich and David Salkowski ’14

Thanks to the work of David Salkowski ’14 , Vicky Radenkova ’14, Tadhg Fendt ’14 and Associate Professor of Russian Tatiana Osipovich, the Russian-speaking community in Oregon has a new website dedicated to explaining their history and increasing overall visibility.

The number of Russian speakers in Oregon has grown exponentially over the course of the past two decades, to more than 100,000 immigrants. But despite the community’s size, it has remained widely unnoticed and unacknowledged.

“I was bothered by the seeming invisibility of Russian-speaking Oregonians, as well as by the lack of serious study surrounding this fascinating migration trend,” Osipovich said. “I wanted to know more about this community and research its history.”

Osipovich received a Mellon grant for the project, which allowed her to hire Salkowski, Radenkova, and Fendt for assistance with research and web design. While Osipovich initially intended for the website to serve as an educational tool for her students, she soon realized it would be a valuable resource to anyone interested in the history and current state of Russian-speaking immigration in Oregon.

Unlike Russian Portland, the new website does more than simply translate world news into the Russian language. Instead, it presents information in English about the individuals, programs, and organizations that contribute to the lives of Oregon’s Russian-speaking immigrants. It also provides detailed histories of the four distinct religious communities that make up the majority of the state’s Russian speakers.

Salkowski was the primary student assistant on this project, responsible for research, writing, and the general construction of the website. He found the research component most interesting as it allowed him to investigate primary sources with the Oregon Historical Society, and to explore the archives of the Oregon Jewish Museum. Salkowski also had the chance to speak with local activists and experts who provided him with unique perspectives on the history and culture of Russian speakers in Oregon.

“Aside from learning about a community that I initially knew very little about, it was a really good experience to interact with and contribute to local scholarship about a topic which is still very much alive,” Salkowski said. “This project gave me a practical, meaningful use for the Russian and research skills that I have acquired at Lewis & Clark.”

Katrina Staaf ’16 contributed to this story.