During the heyday of sugar production at the turn of the 20th century Hawaii supplied much of the worlds sugar. Labor demands were filled with foreign immigrants from far away lands such as Japan, Philippines, China, Korea, Portugal, and Pureto Rico. That much we know, evident with the overwhelming multi-culture blending of modern day Hawaii.

Early on, Asian laborers were the backbone of the industry. Japanese workers dominated the work force. With timid relations between the United States and Japan, the US Government grew apprehensive of the Japanese population growing rapidly in it’s controversial acquisitioned territory. In 1909 thousands of Japanese laborers went on strike demanding better pay and work conditions. While the Hawaiian Board of Immigration looked to retrofit it’s operation, the US Government intervened and influenced the immigration board to help “save” Hawaii from the Japanese by strengthening white emigrant labor.

Russians

What goes unnoticed, buried deep in archived history, having many residents of Hawaii unaware of it ever taking place is the hidden story of plantation workers descending from Siberia, Russia; yes, the Soviet Union, the USSR. More than 1,500 Russians were promised a new life of wealth and prosperity in beautiful tropical Hawaii.

As it turns out, the Russian immigrants found it difficult to adjust to foreign lands. The language barrier seemed to be a large hindrance and unlike other foreign laborers, weren’t able to adapt their nordic lifestyle, culture and traditions to the warm tropical climate. After getting a taste of plantation life and reality of the matter, the Russian immigrants went on strike seeking the same demands of the Japanese work force. Majority of the Russian people left Hawaii in search of a better life in California and New York, a few returned back to their Siberian homeland.

Resource & Credits:
PRI – Reporter Alina Simone
UH Manoa – Russian Passport
Eastview Press – Russian Settlers – PDF File