The City of West Hollywood and its Russian-speaking Advisory Board hosted the 22nd Annual WeHo Mishka Festival at Plummer Park yesterday to celebrate the rich traditions brought to the United States by Russian-speaking immigrants from the former Soviet Union. Each year, the City recognizes Russian-speaking Community Cultural Heritage Month to embrace the diverse identities and cultural history of Russian-speaking community members whose origins span wide-ranging territories with varied religious and social traditions.
The event featured various booths, offered games, food, photo ops, and live entertainment with a special performance by Grammy-winning Motown Legend Thelma Houston. The event also feature the 17th Annual Russian-speaking Community Awards presentation and a reception for the Art of Wellness exhibition currently showing in Long Hall.
The former Soviet Union encompassed 15 republics — Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Belorussia, Uzbekistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia — and Russian culture, itself, has withstood centuries. With more than 100 distinct ethnic groups within the former USSR, Russian culture does not represent any one group. For Russian-speaking people, Russian language unites people and serves to connect and deepen a common culture across regions.
This year, as the devastation of war continues to grip Ukraine, Russian-speaking Community Cultural Heritage Month programming will continue to focus on standing for peace in Ukraine and bringing the diverse Russian-speaking community together to share the cultural heritage and welcome new members of the community.
The City of West Hollywood is home to a large community of people from regions of the former Soviet Union. According to a 2013 survey of the community in West Hollywood, there are 3,872 people who live in the City who identify a former region of the Soviet Union as their primary ancestry. This represents approximately 11 percent of the City’s total population of 34,399 people.
Photos courtesy of Catherine Eng
Many Russian-speaking community members established roots in West Hollywood after fleeing from discrimination and anti semitism. In the early 1970s, the then-USSR experienced a wave of emigration due to the politics of the government. Many people chose to come to Los Angeles to embrace the future opportunities of a free world for themselves and their children. They came here by way of support provided by local programs and nonprofits to assist Jewish immigrants in what would become incorporated as the City of West Hollywood. The City remains a thriving hub for the Russian-speaking community in the region.
Since 2001, the City has recognized the Russian-speaking Community Cultural Heritage Month to bring to life the cultural and creative traditions of Russian-speaking community members with programming highlighting rich visual arts, performing arts, language, and history.