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Georgian Americans are citizens of the United States who are of Georgian ancestry. The precise number of Georgian Americans is unknown since during their main stage of immigration – early 20th century - the immigration records often did not differentiate between various ethnic groups originating in Imperial Russia, of which Georgia was part until 1918.
Early stages of immigration
The earliest recorded Georgians are thought to have come to the United States as performers. One group came in 1890 as part of a troupe of Cossack horsemen hired by Buffalo Bill Cody and his Wild Congress of Rough Riders. The number of Georgians coming to the U.S. saw a dramatic increase after the political upheavals following the Russian Revolution when the Georgian nobility and intellectuals, including those residing in other parts of the Russian Empire, fled the country. A second wave of immigration of Georgians to the U.S. followed the Red Army invasion of Georgia when the remaining nobility and members of the intellectual class fled the country fearing deportation and imminent death in Russian Siberia. Even then, the main destination for Georgians remained Europe.
Immigration during and following the Soviet Union
Emigration from Georgia was brought to a halt when in the 1920s and 1930s the Soviet Union put in place increasingly strict restrictions on travel, both in and out of the Union. Despite this, some Georgians managed to flee to the U.S. during World War II, especially those who lived in liberated parts of Eastern Europe, as well as members of the military personnel who were stationed abroad.
Following WWII, emigration from Soviet Georgia was virtually nonexistent, aside from defections of artists and other segments of society thatwere permitted to travel abroad for work-related reasons. This changed in the wake of Soviet collapse in 1991, as a result of which an estimated one-fifth of the Georgia's population left. Unlike the first half of the 20th century, this final wave of emigration was not limited to the nobility, intellectuals, or military personnel.
In 1924, organizations of Georgian-Americans were founded in the cities of San Francisco and New York, which held cultural and social events, and provided various types of assistance to newer immigrants. Between 1955 and 1975, the American press was very active in Georgia. Kartuli Azri (Opinion Georgia) was the most popular newspaper and its maintenance was based primarily on donations from Americans in Georgia. Over the years, Georgians have adapted to American culture, although a few cultural associations continue to exist in areas with large Georgian presence, such as New York.
Most notable Georgian Americans
Notable Americans of Georgian descent include:
- General John Shalikashvili — the first foreign-born American soldier to become Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Born to a Georgian lieutenant-colonel, who fled to Poland and then to the U.S. following the Bolshevik invasion of Georgia. Former NATO supreme commander of Europe under Bill Clinton.
- George Balanchine — one of 20th century's most famous choreographers, a developer of ballet in the United States and the co-founder and balletmaster of New York City Ballet. A son of a Georgian composer Meliton Balanchivadze who initially emigrated to Russia.
- Andrew Eristoff — a Republican Party politician serving as New Jersey State Treasurer. Descended from the Georgian noble house of Sidamon-Eristavi, members of which emigrated to the U.S. following the Russian Revolution and the Bolshevik invasion of Georgia.
- Alexander Kartveli — one of the most influential aircraft designers of the 20th century.
- Svetlana Alliluyeva-Stalin (Lana Peters) — the only daughter of Joseph Stalin who defected to the United States in the 1960s.
- Prince Georges V. Matchabelli — an American perfumer and a former diplomat who emigrated to the U.S. following the Bolshevik invasion of Georgia.
- Alexander Tarsaidze - an American writer and historian who authored several books on the life in Imperial Russia.
- Alexander Toradze - a classical concert pianist, with career spanning over three decades. Defected to the United States in 1983.
- Giorgi Latso - a classical concert pianist, composer and doctor of musical arts. Emigrated to US in 2005.
- Georgian Americans
- Joseph Horowitz (2008). Artists in Exile: How Refugees from 20th-century War and Revolution Transformed the American Performing Arts. HarperCollins. ISBN 0-06-074846-X
- Georgian Association in the United States of America
- Georgian America Foundation
- Tvistomi Association - Georgian Community Organization in New York
- Tvistomi Medical Group, New York