Not So Sugary Sweet For Russian Siberian Plantation Immigrants

During the heyday of sugar production at the turn of the 20th century Hawai’i 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 is evident with the multi-culture blending in Hawai’i.

What goes unnoticed, buried deep in archived history, many Hawai’i residents are unaware that a Russian recruiter named Perelstrous promised more than 1,500 Russian Siberian immigrants a new life of wealth and prosperity in beautiful tropical Hawai’i.

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 arctic lifestyle, culture and traditions to the warm tropical island climate.

In 1909 thousands Japanese plantation laborers went on strike. The worried plantation owners decided to try what was called haole labor, or white labor. Which is when the Russian Siberians were brought to Hawai’i. It was an attempt to make the islands, now a U.S. Territory less Asian and more white.

After getting a taste of plantation camp life, the Russian immigrants went on strike seeking better opportunities and higher wages. It never happened. Majority of the Russian workers left Hawai’i in search of a better life in California and New York, some returned back to their Siberian homeland.