Google Co-founder: My Family Left Russia Because of anti-Semitism

Sergey Brin says that both his parents were subjected to discrimination in Soviet academia.

Guy Rolnik
TheMarker correspondent
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Guy Rolnik
TheMarker correspondent

Distress due to anti-Semitism was the main reason his family left Russia, Google co-founder Sergey Brin told TheMarker in an interview over the weekend.

Brin, 34, was in Israel for President Shimon Peres' presidential conference "Facing Tomorrow," and visited Google's Israeli offices as well.

He was born in Moscow in 1973 to a Jewish couple, who belonged to the city's intelligentsia. His father wanted to study physics at university in order to fulfill his lifelong dream and become an astronomer, but was turned down because the Communist Party banned Jews from physics departments, in order to prevent them from accessing the country's nuclear secrets.

Mikhail Brin decided to study mathematics instead, and was offered a place although the entry exams for Jews were sat separately, in rooms that were notoriously known as "the gas chambers." In 1970, he graduated with distinction. Later, he gained his PhD from the University of Krakow, and worked for the Russian economic policy planning agency.

Sergey's mother, Evgenya, worked in the research lab of the Soviet gas and oil institute. Like her husband, she had struggled against the anti-Semitic discrimination which prevailed in the Soviet academia, and defied it.

In previous interviews, Sergey Brin said that as a child he was not aware of the anti-Semitism that troubled his parents, and came to grips with it only in hindsight. He said, however, that even as a child he didn't feel at home in Russia.

The Brins decided to leave Russia in 1977. It was the multitude of opportunities that the West had to offer, of which Mikhail became aware during an international conference, that tipped the balance. Despite the fear of being declared "refuseniks," Evgenya was adamant to leave.

In 1978 they applied for emigration permit, and as a result Mikahil was fired and Evgenya had to resign. The family barely got by for several months until their application was approved in 1979. Shortly afterwards, the gates of the Soviet bloc were hermetically closed for emigration.

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