Five Russian Americans who have changed the world

This June, we celebrate Russian American Heritage Month in the United States. The Russian American community is an integral part of both American economic and cultural life.


Additionally, many notable Russian Americans have made meaningful and impactful contributions across a wide variety of fields, from technology to business to the arts. Here are five Russian Americans that have not just impacted the United States, but the world.


Sergey Brin

Google was co-founded by a Russian American, Sergey Brin. Born in Moscow in 1973, Brin emigrated to the United States with his family when he was just six years old. In the United States, he went on to pursue his Ph.D. in Computer Science at Stanford University but ultimately dropped out of the program when a search engine he built with his classmate at Stanford, Larry Page, exploded in popularity. This project then became Google, which has transformed how we access information and use the internet.


Brin and Page officially incorporated Google in 1998, with the company quickly growing into a multi-billion dollar company. Today, Google is the Internet’s most visited website. It has revolutionized how we find information and made information on the internet much more accessible. For his work at Google and great societal impact, Brin was inducted into the National Academy of Engineering, one of the highest honors in the field. Additionally, through Google, Brin has also pursued a number of philanthropic initiatives, by organizing and contributing to projects focusing on climate change and global health.


Vladimir Kosmich Zworykin

Known as the “Father of Television”, Russian American inventor Vladimir Kosmich Zworykin for his integral work in developing the television. In 1919, Zworykin moved to the United States and began work on experiments that would lead to the future development of the television in Pittsburg. After receiving his Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh in 1928, he received a patent for a television. In 1938, he received patents for the kinescope and iconoscope, which were the two main parts of a television needed for it to function. Over his lifetime, he was granted an impressive total of 120 patents


Without Zworykin’s work, we would likely not have television as we take for granted today. For his integral work to developing the television and his contributions as a Russian American, Zworykin was inducted into the Congress of Russian Americans Hall of Fame in 1978.


Michael Bloomberg

While Bloomberg was born in Boston, both of his grandparents emigrated to the United States from Russia and helped connect him to his Russian heritage. Bloomberg got his start in the world of business and finance as a general partner at Salomon Brothers, an investment bank. However, after recognizing the potential of an in-house computer terminal system he developed, he left Salomon to launch the Bloomberg Terminal. Since then, Bloomberg has expanded his reach into news, radio, and other areas. Bloomberg has changed the way that people analyze financial data and make business decisions.


However, Bloomberg is most known for his tenure as the Mayor of New York City, as which he served for three consecutive terms. Bloomberg has also been active in the Russian American community in New York. Along with the Russian American Foundation, Bloomberg helped found the annual Russian American Heritage Month in 2002 during his tenure as Mayor of New York City. As Mayor, Bloomberg also took an active role in organizing many cultural events, such as concerts and exhibitions, featuring Russian Americans and celebrating their culture as part of Russian American Heritage Month.


Simon Kuznets

If you have ever taken an economics course, you have most likely been impacted by Simon Kuznets' work to completely transform the field of economics. Simon Kuznets is a Russian American who revolutionized the field of economics by shaping the modern study of economics to be an empirical and scientific discipline. Kuznets was born in what was the Russian Empire in 1901 and then emigrated to the United States in 1922, where he attended Columbia University. After receiving his Ph.D., Kuznets went on to do high-level work in various economics research organizations and government agencies. During this time, he developed many theories concerning economic growth, including the Kuznets Curve, which explains the relationship between a country’s level of economic growth and its level of economic inequality.


Kuznets is most known for his contributions to transforming economics into an empirical science and the developments of the field of econometrics. In 1971, Kuznets was recognized at the highest levels for his work in the field of economics, for this revolution of the field, and his work on theories of economic growth, when he won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for his work. Kuznets is credited with turning the study of economics into what we know it to be today.


Mstislav Rostropovich

Mstislav Rostropovich was a Russian American cellist and conductor, who made lasting contributions to the field of classical music, while also focusing on increasing awareness of Russian art and culture in the United States. Rostropovich was born in the Soviet Union in 1927 and attended the Moscow Conservatory for cello. During his time in the USSR, Rostropovich quickly rose to musical fame and was awarded at the highest levels for his performances. Rostropovich emigrated to the United States in 1974 and in 1977, achieved the prestigious position as musical director of the National Symphony Orchestra of the United States.


In addition to his contributions to classical music in both the United States and Russia, Rostropovich worked to extend the reach of Russian composers that have become almost household names in the United States. Was it not for the efforts of Rostropovich, prominent Russian composers, such as Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich, would not have the popularity that they have in the United States today. For both his accomplishments in the field of classical music alongside his efforts to spread awareness of Russian culture in the United States, Rostropovich was inducted into the Congress of Russian Americans Hall of Fame, like Vladimir Zworykin.