A Forgotten Diaspora: Russian-Koreans Negotiating Life, Education, and Social Mobility

  • Jon K. ChangEmail author
Part of the Multilingual Education book series (MULT, volume 32)


This study primarily deals with the Russian-Koreans (also known as “Soviet Koreans”) and their attempts to negotiate life, education, and social mobility during Tsarism and the Soviet era (to 1991). As “Russian-Koreans” (their ethnonym in Russian), they were seen as foreigners in Russia even while official Soviet policy preached a “class line” and the brotherhood of all of the proletariat peoples. This primordialist view of the Koreans from the USSR, in part, led to their deportation in Central Asia in 1937. Most Koreans were deported to Central Asian collective farms where their “nationality” (a people) typically formed the majority of the population. The Koreans organized, mobilized their resources, and persevered. Soon, the Korean “kolkhozes (collective farms)” in Central Asia became known as the most productive state farms throughout the entire Soviet Union. Approximately 12 elderly Koreans were interviewed in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. These informants remembered how even the non-Koreans (such as Russians, Ukrainians, Uzbeks, and Kazakhs) on the Korean collective farms assimilated to their language, culture, and ethos to help build their communities into rich farms with many of the amenities of urban life: finely paved roads, well-built schools, and state-of-the-art hospitals. Some also told of how they utilized the Soviet sports and special educational programs in order to become chess champions and modern dance instructors. The Koreans gained respect from the other peoples of the former Soviet Union because they treated their deportation as merely a “bump in the road” rather than as their denouement.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.American University of Central AsiaBishkekKyrgyzstan
  2. 2.University of CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA

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