The Slavic Community in Multnomah County: An Unsettling Profile

2014 CCC Profiles - Slavic Report.jpg
2014 CCC Profiles - Slavic Report.jpg

The Slavic Community in Multnomah County: An Unsettling Profile

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The Slavic community is defined as those from the former Soviet Union. It is the largest refugee-based community in Oregon, with most arriving in the decade from 1990 to 2000. In 1988, then Russian 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 has slowed to a relative trickle with immigrants more frequently being family-class immigrants as families seek to repatriate their members.

It is a little unusual to consider the Slavic community as a community of color, for conventionally the community is considered White, and in all databases reviewed for this research, the community is included within the White community. So why this variation? The Slavic community has arrived in this part of the USA facing similar forms of discrimination and exclusion as did the Polish, Irish and Italians many generations ago. These communities struggled with language, employment, education and social exclusion. In much the same way, the Slavic community faces these barriers to parity and to equity. As a result, the Coalition of Communities of Color has formally recognized the Slavic community as a community of color. The experiences of the Slavic community have much solidarity with other communities of color. Earlier waves of immigrants from the former Soviet Union were known to achieve parity with other European immigrants to the USA within five years of arrival.1 Today, parity has moved further out of reach despite the fact that the local Slavic community has resided in the USA for an average of 20 years.