When you walk along Brighton Beach Avenue in Brooklyn, it’s sometimes difficult to remember what part of the world you’ve wandered into. When my family moved to Brooklyn in the 1960s, nearby Brighton Beach was still a mostly immigrant neighborhood (predominantly Jewish) from Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union (an influx that began before the existence of the Soviet Union). In the ’80s, there was another influx of immigrants from the Soviet Union. Brighton Beach became known as “Little Odessa by the Sea.”
According to Wikipedia:
“After the fall of the Soviet Union in the ’90s, many ethnic Russian criminals illegally entered the United States, coming especially to Brighton Beach.” It’s “… considered a hot spot for the ‘Russian Mafia’,” which can make acceptance difficult for the majority of Russian and former-Soviet citizens who have no criminal ties and have simply brought an old neighborhood back to life.
To think Brighton Beach is said to have had its beginnings as land purchased from a Native American tribe around 1645 — for a gun, a blanket, and a kettle. These days, you can get a nice three-bedroom condo for just a couple million guns, blankets, and kettles — but you’ll have to pawn them first.
(Click the images to read the Cyrillic…. or to just make the pictures bigger.)