In the 1950s, tiny Richmond, Maine, a tight-knit community edging the Kennebec River south of Augusta, was home to the largest rural Russian-speaking population in the country. More than 500 Russians, Ukrainians, Cossacks, and Byelorussians arrived here after World War II at the invitation of Baron Vladimir von Poushental, a Russian émigré and veteran of the tsar's World War I air force. Von Poushental had settled here in 1947, purchased land and abandoned farms, and advertised cheap land and a climate and countryside resembled Russia in Russian-language papers. He even donated a farm to veterans of Russia's White Army.
At the heyday, this Slavic community on the Kennebec had a Russian restaurant, Russian bootmaker's shop, and three Orthodox churches; St. Alexander Nevsky, Maine's only Russian Orthodox church, celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2003. There was a balalaika orchestra and a Slavophil society. Even today, Russian onion-style domes standout among the town's Greek revival, colonial, and traditional New England farmhouse architecture.
Further up the Kennebec River, another town has a Russian connection. In 1812, Moscow was named for the Russian city that was burned by its citizens to dislodge French soldiers the same year.
Although not Russian, Maine's Samantha Smith earned international fame when, in 1982 during the Cold War era, she wrote to Yuri Andropov, Soviet Community Party Secretary General. The 10-year-old schoolgirl expressed her concerns about nuclear war. In response, she was invited to visit the Soviet Union. A statue honoring Smith stands in front of the Maine State Museum, in Augusta.