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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russian Emigre Voters Shifting Left

BOSTON -- When Banya Rozenberg came to the United States from the Soviet Union nine years ago, she was a big fan of President Ronald Reagan. His successor, George Bush, also received her support. This year, however, she will be voting for President Bill Clinton, "with both hands, if I could."

Rozenberg, 71, said she's not backing Republican nominee Bob Dole this year for a variety of reasons. Most importantly, Rozenberg said she's impressed with Clinton.

"He's a good-hearted man, an intelligent man," said Rozenberg, citing the Family Leave Act as an example of good legislation Clinton has pushed.

Her views were shared unanimously by the seven other senior citizens sitting outside their apartment building on Wallingford Road in Boston on a warm November afternoon.While far from a scientific survey, these Boston emigr?s show a defection, mostly by elderly naturalized Russians, to the Democratic party in the last eight years.

During the 1980s, there were few more avid Reagan supporters than Russian emigr?s. With the dissolution of the Soviet Union, however, Cold War issues seem irrelevant, and economic considerations have risen in importance for Russian emigr? voters.

"It used to be that when there was a Cold War, they could be counted on as Republicans," said Curtis Gans, director of the Committee for the Study of the American Electorate in Washington D.C. "Now, I don't know."

To Edward Lozansky, the shift has been quite clear, and troubling as well. Lozansky, chairman of Russian-Americans for Dole-Kemp, said Russians can no longer be counted on as a monolithic voting bloc.

"I think that the pattern is that those who are successful, who own their own businesses, are definitely Republican. But the older voters, who are not so well off, are voting Democratic. There is an obvious division of the community."

Despite the indications of a developing schism in the ranks of Russian voters, they are still more likely to back Dole.

"The Russians I know are still quite conservative," said Marshall Goldman, Davis professor of Russian economics at Wellesley College. "I don't see any sign of them going to vote Democratic. The Russians I talk to are very unhappy with Clinton. They want a hard line. And they don't want taxes."

The Democrats, he said, have been more successful in convincing Russian voters, many of whom depend on Medicare or Medicaid, that their party will provide a social safety net.

"I disagree, but we have been losing the propaganda war," said Lozansky.

"When we had the Cold War, the most important thing was the hatred of communism. ... And they voted for Republicans because they were better in the fight against communism and winning the Cold War. Things have changed now."

People had suffered so much, that just to escape was enough. They were so grateful for their freedom.

Lozansky, who writes articles occasionally for Novoye Russkoye Slovo, the largest newspaper for Russian emigr?s in the United States, said the newspaper's conservative political stance has been attacked by its readers.

"We're getting letters from old people, saying that the Republicans want to take away Social Security. I think it's demagoguery, but it works."

Still, Lozansky is not without hope. About a month ago he put an advertisement in the newspaper, announcing the creation of a new Russian Republican group. Lozansky said he's already received 500 responses.

Boston resident Raya Mishkovich, 61, said she's supporting Dole this election, the first in which she will be able to vote since she came to the United States 15 years ago.

"After Russia, we don't like to hear nice words. We don't trust them. I trust Dole to tell the truth."

Raisa Kegan, on the other hand, is casting a pox on both parties this year. She has been in the country for 16 years, and voted for both Ronald Reagan and George Bush. This year, however, she is not voting. While she doesn't like Clinton, she thinks Dole is "too old for that position. He should give up."