A Thin Thread
of Destiny

A Novel
by Lara Prodan

History of Russians in Harvard

History of Russians in Harvard


The college was founded in the first half of the 17th century, in 1636, and got its name three years later after the British missioner John Harvard. The school was not meant to be a religious educational institution, but the majority of students started as future clergymen. With the time the program was getting more and more secular.

Step by step, Harvard became one of the most prestigious universities in the country and started attracting thousands of students not only from different states of America, but also from other countries. By the way, eight presidents of the USA were graduated from Harvard.

Russians in Harvard

Russian people started coming to America long time ago. One of the biggest waves of immigration took place at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. Many of newcomers and their descendants wanted to receive the adequate education that would allow them to get better jobs and higher positions in the society.

There are many famous Russian names in the history of Harvard. Let’s just remember Vladimir Nabokov. He was born in the noble family in Russia. In the turbulent years of the October revolution Vladimir had to leave his country. He had spent several years in European countries, before he succeeded to come to America. In Harvard University he worked as a researcher.

Another Russian scholar, Sergey Eliseyev, was born in the family of a merchant, in other words, he was considered to be a representative of bourgeoisie. Eliseyev immigrated to Finland. In 1940-s he came to America and became a professor of Oriental culture department of Harvard. Sergey Eliseyev had a huge influence on the bilateral relationships between America and Japan.

It is not surprising that there are many books describing the life of Russian immigrants, who connected their lives with Harvard. For example, in the book “The thin thread of destiny” by Lara Prodan, one of the main characters, Alex Ukhtomsky, turns out to be the great grandson of the Russian Duke. His grandfather decided to escape from the country during the revolution, while his two brothers stayed. Alex studied in Harvard and then founded his own law company.

Russian Bells

Harvard has some special symbols, and one of them is “the bells”. The bells literally came from Russia. Instead of destroying the bells, the Soviet authorities sold them from Danilov Monastery to one American entrepreneur from Chicago named Charles Crane. The bells became the inseparable part of Harvard. They used to ring when the university team won the match against Yale university team. Bells stayed in Lowell House of Harvard for about 80 years.

The time passed, and religion in Russia was not forbidden anymore. The Russian authorities, and especially the Russian Orthodox Church asked the university to return the historical bells. Harvard agreed to return the precious relics to the monastery. Later the United States received the replicas of all the 17 bells made in Russian city of Voronezh.

Seattle: The Russian City

Seattle: A Russian City

The earliest records about Seattle date about the year 1850. The first inhabitants of the city were represented by settlers from other parts of the country as well as colonists from Europe. It may seem that the city is not old and has just a little more than 150 years. However, the historical evidence shows that the first American Indians’ settlement existed on that place even several centuries BC.

The development of the city’s production and economy started with the timber industry which supported Seattle during many decades. The city became a prosperous place attracting attention of thousands of settlers – and Russians made up the large part of them.

The first wave of Russian immigration started in the 18th century and lasted till the end of the next century. In this period people mostly escaped from religious and governmental persecutions in their motherland. Moreover, this was a time of a famous gold-rush, and many Russian adventurers came to Seattle in search of fortune.

Thanks to the port, the city gained a strategic part and became a connection link between the USA and other countries. At that time the Russian population in Seattle was so significant that St. Nicolas and St. Spiridon Orthodox churches were built there. They received the financial support directly from the Russian Empire and Tsar Nicolas II. Already in 1925 statistics reported about 5 thousand Russians in Seattle only.

Gradually Seattle became famous for electronic industry, computer technologies, ship and aircraft construction. Many people came here from distant corners of the country in search of jobs.

In the beginning of the 20th century Seattle and smaller towns around it became the destination for the second wave of immigration from Russia in revolt. Lots of Russians tried to escape from the political crisis in their native land. The intelligentsia and nobility were especially exposed to the outrage of the new authorities. The USA became a new hope for these people, promising the better and more tranquil life. The settlers tied their hopes for the future of their families with this land of opportunities.

Now you can find various stories and descendants of the Russian dukes and
duchesses who moved from Russia and settled here, in America. For example, one of such fascinating stories is described in the novel by Lara Prodan, “The Thin Thread of Destiny”.

It tells about the elder son of Ukhtomskiy duke, who moved to America after the October revolution in Russia. In general, many pages of the city’s history are tightly connected with Russians. Just remember the two-week dockers’ strike in 1919, when the workers refused to load weapons designed for Kolchak on the ships.

Later the third wave of immigration started, provoked by the Soviet regime. Now the estimated quantity of Russians coming to Seattle yearly is about 10 thousand people.

Usually they live in communities and try to preserve their nation traditions and culture. You can often hear Russian music here and see press in their native language. Lately some advertising companies even decided to make Russian ads to cover the larger quantity of customers.