The word "Russia" doesn't conjure up warm and fuzzy feelings for most Americans.
Maybe it's a lifetime of Cold War movie villains, maybe it's the shadow of Vladimir Putin hovering over the 2016 U.S. election, or maybe it's Russians' famously reserved demeanor.
Portlanders need to get over those tired stereotypes—because Russia is also becoming a big part of this city's cultural life.
Russian is the third-most spoken language in Oregon, after English and Spanish. The Portland area is home to more than 50,000 immigrants and family members from the former Soviet Union, the largest number of which come from Ukraine, according to Portland State's Population Research Center.
That's much smaller than the Latin community, which numbers a quarter million, but it's also larger than any other group. In fact, no other state has as high a percentage of Russian and Ukrainian speakers as Oregon.
And yet, Russian émigrés have remained largely invisible. Though its culture is one of the richest and most influential in the world, Russia has not been celebrated nearly so much as, say, the much smaller Greek community, which joyously takes over half of Laurelhurst each October.
But maybe that's just because we haven't been paying close enough attention.
Portland arguably has the most famous Russian restaurant in the country, whose chef just authored the first Russian cookbook published in America in the past three decades.
Amid tens of Slavic markets, the Portland area is also home to a Russian-language advertising agency, a Russian city magazine, a Russian-language immersion school, an art gallery run by multiple generations of Russian folk artists and the nation's only radio station devoted solely to Russian pop music.
We've devoted this week's issue to exploring the bounty of Russian cultural life in Portland. We spent time with the leader of one of the country's most ambitious Russian dance academies, and took an emotion-filled trip to a Russian market with famed Soviet-born chef Vitaly Paley. After taking note of strange markings in a cornfield, we traveled to the tightly knit religious community of 10,000 Russian Orthodox Old Believers who've preserved their ancient ways on Marion County farmland next door to the one of Portland area's favorite pumpkin patches.
There's a lot more to Russia than what you see on CNN. Here's where to start exploring the culture here in Portland.