Why so many “Russians” are moving to North Carolina

An increasingly common sight in Buncombe County, NC

Actually, most of them aren’t true Russians, they are Slavic people from Eastern Europe, especially The Ukraine, which was once under Soviet rule, so that probably explains some of the confusion.

Eastern Europeans began to flood Buncombe County during the 1990s, with Asheville being at the center of the immigration activity. In the past decade or so, Slavs have become such a large chunk of the demographic here that signs in most of the downtown public buildings, such as the courthouse and the health department, are in English, Spanish, and Russian (or Ukrainian, which I think is similar to Russian and uses the same Cyrillic alphabet–I can’t tell the difference!).

Some long-time residents of this area complain about the huge influx of the “Russians,” as they do about the large Mexican population already established here. Personally I find both groups add a lot to the culture, and don’t cause any problems at all. In the case of the Ukrainians (to my understanding, the largest group of Slavs moving to Asheville and Buncombe County), they are escaping from an intolerable situation in their own country, where Ukrainians, in spite of declaring their independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, are facing religious abuse and their country is being torn apart by opposing political forces which are outside the interests of freedom. Here is an article (about a year old) from the Asheville Citizen-Times that goes into more detail about the discord going on in the Ukraine.

Sadly, this attitude is pretty common. The new immigrants aren’t even technically Russian.

Why have so many Eastern Europeans chosen the Asheville area as their destination? I’m not sure, but I think it could have something to do with the similar climate and terrain in the Southern Appalachians (the entire Appalachian range runs from Georgia through Maine) to parts of Eastern Europe (even though their climate is somewhat more continental and less humid–and has colder winters). The Southern Appalachians have been compared by many people to the Carpathians which run through the Ukraine, Romania, Slovakia, and Serbia, and one of the counties next to Buncombe County is even called Transylvania County due to it’s appearance. The 2003 movie “Cold Mountain,” a civil war epic about people living in western North Carolina during the mid 19th century and later, was actually filmed in Romania (it was cheaper to film it there, and the Carpathians are less untouched by modernity than the Smoky and Blue Ridge Mountains). I’ve seen photos of the Carpathians, and it’s almost spooky how similar they look to this part of the US!

carpathia blue_ridge
Which one is the Blue Ridge Mountains? (Click on the photos and the picture titles will tell you which is which).

The culture of the mountain people in both areas also have similarities. There’s an organization called the Carpathian-Appalachian Conference which holds meetings and sponsors educational and other events that seek to understand the similarities and differences between the two cultures.


10 thoughts on “Why so many “Russians” are moving to North Carolina

  1. Nothing says ignorance like carelessly misidentifying the people you ‘want out.’ And though Putin wants control, Ukraine is still not a part of Russia. At least I don’t think so. :/

    Such beautiful mountains in such a short distance…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Some people whose ancestors are from here want to keep it strictly Scots-Irish. :/
      People who aren’t from here are always surprised how much cultural diversity there is for a small Southern city. We have lots of Indians (from India), Italians, Mexicans, Greeks, Native Americans (Cherokee mainly), African Americans and now Eastern Europeans and Russians too (besides the original Scots-Irish and Germanic stock).

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  2. I love the Carolinas. Both – though my personal preference has been South, North is beautiful too. I’m with you – I would think an influx of any “new” nationality or culture can’t do anything but broaden the experiences in our lives.

    — and the Blue Ridge mountains earn their name – even in photographs 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • I used to appreciate it more than I do now (I’ve been living here since 1993) — it has gotten more congested than it used to be, but coming from the NJ/NY area, I do appreciate the cultural diversity here. Believe it or not, I’ve only been to the coast of NC one time and have yet to see the Outer Banks. I have taken some beach trips to Myrtle Beach in SC though. I much prefer North Carolina, although the beach is always lots of fun. The scenery here is a lot more majestic.


      • I’m with you in preferring NC to SC for various reasons, and I have come to generally appreciate the Appalachian mentality. BTW, my 20 something year old daughters and their boyfriends may be spending some time in Asheville right before Xmas. One of them has some ideas for things to see/do, but I would be interested in any “non-touristy” suggestions you might have. TIA


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