Monday, September 19, 2005

Brighton Beach

The Russian community in Brighton Beach is primarily a Russian Jewish commmunity. It began forming in the 1970s as the Soviet Union began allowing Jews to emigrate; other ethnic groups were more restricted. A second wave of immigration came with the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, but quickly petered out as new immigrants avoided the neighborhood for less traditional places.

An 8 October 2003 article from the New York Times, To Young, a Russian Enclave Is Too Much the Old Country, describes the culture shock felt by recent immigrants from post-Soviet Moscow. Since Brighton Beach never underwent the massive Capitalist transformation Moscow did in the 1990s, recent immigrants find themselves standing in the middle of an historical anachronism. Many choose to settle outside of the area, in Bensonhurst or suburban New Jersey.

A quote from Novoye Russkoye Slovo journalist Alexander Grant from the New York Times article sums it up: "It's like an amusement park. "People go there to look but not live. It reminds them of their background. New people who come from today's Moscow — everything is done with a grand flourish there. They see this as provincial."

Perhaps this will be the reason for the Russian enclave's eventual disappearance. Today, new immigrant groups are settling in Brighton Beach, including those from Asia, the Middle East and Central America. However other new immigrant groups who do speak Russian are also coming - just not from Brighton Beach's traditional hohme territories in Belarus, Ukraine and western Russia, rather from the former Soviet Central Asian republics and the Caucusus.

Nevertheless, the Russian patina of the neighborhood remains popular with visitors - regardless of whether they speak Russian. The 23-28 June 2005 issue of Time Out New York featured Brighton Beach on the cover and a massive overview of the area, Moscow on the Boardwalk.

It starts out with a bit of geography: Brighton Beach is sandwiched in between Coney Island and Manhattan Beach in Brooklyn, and is bordered by the ocean and the Belt Parkway. The main artery is Brighton Beach Avenue.

Here's a sampling of the listings Time Out provides:

  • St. Petersburg Books (230 Brighton Beach Ave between Brighton 2nd and 3rd Sts, 718-368-4128)
  • Kalinka gift shop (402 Brighton Beach Ave between Brighton 4th and 5th Sts, 718-743-4546)
  • M&I International Foods (249 Brighton Beach Ave between Brighton 2nd and 3rd Sts, 718-615-1011)


  • Cafe Glechik (Ukrainian; 3159 Coney Island Ave between Brighton Beach and Oceanview Aves, 718-616-0494)
  • Cafe Shish-Kebab (Russian/Caucasian; 414 Brighton Beach Ave between Brighton 4th and 5th Sts, 718-368-0966)
  • Eastern Feast (Russian/Caucasian; 1003 Brighton Beach Ave at Coney Island Ave, 718-934-9608)
  • Mimino (Georgian; 1111 Brighton Beach Ave between Brighton 13th and 14th Sts, 718-934-2600)
  • Ocea'n View Cafe (Russian; 290 Brighton Beach Ave at Brighton 3rd St, 718-332-1900)
  • Tatiana Grill (American/Russian; Boardwalk at Brighton 4th St, 718-646-7630)
  • Varenichnaya (Russian; 3086 Brighton 2nd St between Brighton Beach Ave and Bridgewater Court, 718-332-9797)

Supper Clubs.

  • National (273 Brighton Beach Ave at Brighton 2nd St, 718-646-1225)
  • Rasputin (2670 Coney Island Ave at Ave X, 718-332-8111)
  • Tatiana (3152 Brighton 6th St at the Boardwalk, 718-891-5151)
  • Odessa (1113 Brighton Beach Ave between Brighton 14th St and Seacoast Terr, 718-332-3223)
  • Atlantic Oceana (1029 Brighton Beach Ave between Brighton 11th and 12th Sts, 718-743-1515)

Also check out Close up on Brighton Beach in the Village Voice, and for more sociological information, Survey of the Use of Russian Language in the Brighton Beach Area of Brooklyn by Yevgeniy Palatnik and Pat DeAngelis.


Anonymous said...

This is a big american and mass media stereotipe about russians in New York.
Brighton Beach is NOT russian community at all...
The majority of people are Ukrainians and the rest - people from all former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe as well...
Probably would be better to say "russian-speaking" community wich is not actually true...

Anonymous said...

Hi! My name is Liz. I am a student studying Russian language. Last semester I studied in St. Petersburg. This summer I want to continue practicing my russian with native speakers. So, I am looking for a homestay in NYC for 4 to 6 weeks in june and july. I would like to stay with a native Russian speaker or a russian speaking family. Perferably one that would like to share at least one meal a day with me so that I am sure I will be speaking and hearing Russian. I will pay rent, do chores, or babysit as well. My number is 862 438 0093. My email is

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