History of Russians
in Harvard

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.