Russians in the World

Project Goal: Use passenger arrival records from US archives to explore the social history of Russian migration.

“Russians in the World" examines the spatial and social history of migration in its many forms (voluntary and coerced, individual and collective). The centerpiece of the project is a large dataset provided by the US National Archives. It consists of half a million passenger arrival records and ship manifests across six decades, from 1834 to 1897. We are interested in reconstructing the social and cultural identities of those who migrated, as well as the political, economic, and geographical contexts of these phenomena. Because the data has never been studied as a whole, it provides an opportunity to ask new macro-level questions about mobility practices alongside micro-level questions about the experiences of individual travelers. 

Why we are excited (and you should be too) 

  • This project involves big data - about as big as it gets in the field of historical GIS.

  • We are converting messy historical records into usable data and building statistical models that allow us to explore temporal and spatial patterns.  

  • Visualizing these records allows us to paint rough portraits of the individuals who made the life-changing transition from subject of the tsar to citizen of the United States. 

Take a look behind the curtain

The Immigration Act of 1891 introduced regulations that made US records more detailed and more systematic. Our data predates those changes. Despite its inconsistencies and ambiguities, it shines a bright light on the identities of the men, women, and children who undertook the long journey from Russia to the United States.

Get a sense of what the data reveals by exploring this visualization. Use the "reign" filter to see changes in the occupational profile of the immigrant population. (Note: 702 different occupations were recorded in the passenger data. We have grouped them into 14 categories.)


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