Why Did Russians Come to America?

Caption: Emperor Alexander II of Russia

Did you know that Russia once owned land that is now part of the U.S.? The first Russians "immigrants" came in the 1700s. Explorers from Siberia discovered what is now Alaska and claimed it for Russia. Eventually, Russian settlements spread southward to what is now California.

For many hundreds of years, Russia was a huge empire. It included lands such as Ukraine, Lithuania, and Poland. The empire was ruled by czars, who were much like kings. When a czar was murdered in 1881, the crime was blamed on the Jews. They were falsely accused of planning and carrying out the murder.

The Jewish people of Eastern Europe faced a wave of destruction that was sponsored by the government. These massacres were known as pogroms. Angry mobs burned Jewish villages. Russian soldiers murdered innocent Jews.

At this time, Russian Jews came to the U.S. using any means possible. Many defied the czar's laws against leaving the country. They traveled at night, avoiding guards and bribing officials. They went by boat in horrible conditions in order to be free in the U.S.

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