History of immigration from Russian Federation

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Map of Russian Federation
Map date: 2013
Russians have been visiting Australia since the early 19th century, when exploratory ships were welcomed by the colonies. Despite this goodwill turning to mistrust during the Crimean War, some Russian immigrants began to settle in Australia. Many were Jews and Russian intelligentsia, escaping disadvantage and the riots and violence of the anti-Jewish pogroms. They mostly settled in Melbourne and Sydney. The Russia-born population of Melbourne almost quadrupled in the 1880s, to 1,172 by 1891.

In the early 20th century Russian immigration increased significantly. The first Russian revolution of 1905 caused many to seek new lives in Australia, including highly-educated former students, teachers and academics. In the years following the Russian Revolution of 1917, opponents of the new regime began to arrive in Australia. Their immigration was curtailed after 1925 on the basis of concern about Soviet agents in Australia.

After World War II many Russians arrived on assisted passages from Displaced Persons camps in Europe. Their numbers in Victoria increased from 1,401 in 1947 to 13,762 in 1954. A further group who had fled to China after the Revolution began to immigrate in the 1950s. The children of these immigrants, born in China, were recorded in the census as Chinese.

During the mid-1970s, a number of Russian Jews arrived under the sponsorship of the Jewish community in Australia. Since the 1990s, numbers have increased again following the break-up of the former Soviet Union and the emergence of the Russian Federation. The majority of these arrivals have been well-educated professionals, with a good understanding of the English language.

In 2011, there were 6,067 Victorians born in Russian Federation, the majority of whom lived around the suburbs of Caulfield and Carnegie. While 23% were Jewish, 29% were Russian Orthodox. Most members of the community today are employed as professionals, and speak Russian at home. Several cultural organisations across Victoria support the Russian community, including the Russian Ethnic Representative Council of Victoria in Fitzroy and Ormond.

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