Author discusses impact of Russian immigrants on US tech industry

Chase West

Daniel Satinsky, a business consultant and associate at Harvard University, spoke on campus Thursday about his new co-authored book “Hammer and Silicon: The Soviet Diaspora in the U.S. Innovation Economy.” 

During the event hosted by the Department of Slavic and Eurasian Studies, Satinsky said his new book explores the impact highly educated Russian immigrants have made in the intellectual hubs of Silicon Valley and the Boston-Cambridge area. He spoke to a small group of mostly graduate students and professors at Burdine Hall. 

“Immigrant scientists have played a key role in U.S. technological leadership,” Satinsky said. “This book is a complicated story that interweaves geopolitics with immigration, law and personal stories. And in many ways, it is about the human side of events that transpired in the grand stage of politics.”

Satinsky said the economic collapse of the Soviet Union was one of the key historical factors that led to Russian emigration. While members of the Department of Slavic and Eurasian Studies examine Russia’s impact on the United States as part of a broad historical perspective, he said the contributions of Russian immigrants to today’s U.S. tech industry have largely gone unnoticed or unacknowledged.

 



“It’s important that Texas students and American students in general understand what’s going on in Russia and the surrounding region because, historically, Russia has been very important for U.S. power and the U.S. position in the world, and history repeats itself,” said Michelle Daniel, a graduate student in Russian, East European, and Eurasian studies. “In order for history to not repeat itself in the same negative way that it has before, it is important that we build bridges by building knowledge.”

As a business consultant, Daniel Satinsky said he uses his broad knowledge of Russian history, culture and entrepreneurship to facilitate Russian-American business. He said his understanding of Russian-American identity formation assists him in bridging the cultural barriers between Russian entrepreneurs and potential American business partners. 

“(The event) really focused on the contributions of the Soviet diaspora in U.S. innovation, which is honestly overlooked,” international studies junior Janet Abou Elias said.“It is really interesting because he focused on a lot of other things, like how people have to transition not only politically to get through different states but also the formation of their identity and how they constructed that and came to terms with that.”