RUSSOPHONE LOS ANGELES RESEARCH COLLECTIVE is a virtual public platform for the museification of the Russian history of Los Angeles. Our development goals include preserving and researching the city’s Russian heritage, creating exhibits, public outreach, and education.
The Russophone Los Angeles Research Collective is an independent organization, which collects, preserves, researches, and popularizes the rich history of Russophone immigration to Southern California. It was created in response to the mass migration from the former Russian empire and the USSR caused by a century of wars and political crises. “Russophone” here acts as an umbrella term to denote speakers of Russian, one language among the 224 languages spoken in our multilingual city. We chronicle, preserve and share the history of Russian-speaking migrants to Los Angeles, a group comprising a diverse range of nationalities and creeds and representing five waves of immigration from the early 1900s to the present.
At the Russophone Los Angeles Research Collective, we see a world where communities share their values through their local histories and cultures, interpreting and reinterpreting them as markers of belonging. We envision ourselves as an inclusive social environment inspired by cross-cultural contact among diverse ethnic groups. We honor all migrant communities in the city who have historically performed acts of care for their members, bringing support and a sense of a shared purpose to their daily lives. By studying these often invisible groups and their histories, we aim to amplify migrant voices, thus building community resilience. We invite people of all traditions to engage in diasporic dialogue and cultural collaboration.
Spanning the past 100 years, our collection includes periodicals, photographs, video and audio materials, publications, and ephemera relating to community schools and organizations, as well as to prominent members of the Russian community. Many of those community members were employed in the entertainment industry: motion pictures, theater, music, and ballet. The collection is currently housed at the Holy Virgin Mary Russian Orthodox Cathedral at 650 Micheltorena Street, Los Angeles, CA 90026.
Founded in 2020, the Russophone Los Angeles Research Collective is run by Ivan Podvalov, a historian and athlete from Kazakhstan, Sasha Razor, a Belarusian-American scholar and archival activist, and Liane Schirmer, an American actress, L.A. historian, and aficionado of the city’s Latino, Persian, and Russian hidden histories.
650 Micheltorena St, Los Angeles, CA 90026
Sasha Razor is the co-founder of Russophone Los Angeles Research Collective. She holds a Ph.D. degree from the UCLA Department of Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies, where she completed her dissertation titled “‘We Were the River’: Screenwriters of the Left Front of the Arts, 1923–1931.” In 2020, Razor received ASEEES Internship Grant and completed her internship at the Museum of Russian Culture in San Francisco. She is a regular contributor to the Los Angeles Review of Books and a curator of the following exhibitions: “Dream of the Revolution” (UCLA, 2017), “Exiles, Protesters, Envoys: Russian History in Photographs” (City of West Hollywood, 2019), “The History of Belarusian Vyzhyvanka” (UCLA, 2021), and “The Code of Presence: Belarusian Protest Embroideries and Textile Patterns” (University of Michigan, 2022).
Ivan Podvalov is a co-founder of Russophone Los Angeles Research Collective. He is a curator, historical consultant, and contributor specializing in the first and second waves of Russian immigration to Los Angeles. He is the author of the following books: Russkie v Los-Andzhelese [Russians in Los Angeles] (2012) and Istoriia prikhodskoi shkoly pri Preobrazhenskom sobore v Los-Andzhelese [History of the Parochial School at the Holy Transfiguration Cathedral in Los Angeles] (2016). Ivan also curated the exhibition titled “Contribution of the Golitsyn Family to the Cultural and Social Life of the City of Los Angeles,” which inaugurated the opening of the Museum of Holy Virgin Mary Russian Orthodox Cathedral in 2018. Ivan is an active member of the Congress of Russian Americans, the Russian Nobility Association, the Russian Imperial Order, and the Russian Children’s Aid Fund in memory of Princess Lyubov Golitsyna.