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Historical Insights Russian Immigration to America from 1880–1910

While first- and second-class passengers avoided long lines and meticulous inspections, the bulk of incomers arrived in steerage, where some 2,000 lived in close quarters under deck for the duration of the journey, sometimes lasting upwards of two weeks. About 1900, New York City. Credit: Universal Images Group/Getty Images

Russian Immigration to America from 1880–1910

Facing religious persecution and poverty, millions of Russians immigrated to the United States at the turn of the 20th century.

Widespread poverty and starvation cast a shadow over Russia during the late 1800s. For Jews, forced relocation to desolate areas coupled with ongoing persecutions and killings called pogroms inspired mass emigration. Between 1880 and 1910, more than two million hopeful Russians set out on foot, bound for port cities further east, where many sailed to the United States. Almost half of the newcomers put down roots in New York City, Boston, and Chicago, taking jobs in bustling factories, many as garment workers. Those who preferred rural living reaped the benefits of the Homestead Act and set up farms across the West, while still others worked in mills and mines in the American heartland. Russians contributed their diverse cultural traditions and devout faith (for some Judaism and others Russian Orthodox) to the places they settled. Unlike immigrants from other countries, few returned to Russia—America had become their homeland.