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American Celebrities with Russian Roots

7. December 2009 by Michelle 0 Comments

In addition to these beautiful Russian brides, you may know someone personally who is part Russian, or you may have some Russian roots yourself. It can be surprising and interesting to learn about some American celebrities who share Russian heritage.


Whoopi Goldberg, real name Sama Karin Johnson, may be one of the least people you would have guessed to have Russian roots. Yet, Whoopi’s great-grandmother on the maternal side was born in Russia and lived there.


Leonardo DiCaprio has multiple ethnicities in his family, including Italian, German, and Russian. His grandmother’s name is Elizabeth Smirnova. She was born in the USSR but was taken to Germany right after the revolution. She refused to move to the U.S. with her daughter and grandson so Leo visits her when he travels to Europe.

Harrison Ford has more ties to Russia than just his starring role in the 2002 Russian submarine film K-19. His grandmother, Anna Nidelman, was a Jewish immigrant from Minsk, Belarus which was part of the Russian empire. Harrison was eager to travel to Russia for the filming of K-19 saying, “That brief Russian experience was important for me.” He has begun seeking out his distant Russian relatives.

Winona Ryder dreams of someday starring in a film about Russia and hears about her Russian roots from her grandmother. Born as Winona Laura Horowitz, her grandparents fled their homeland of Russia and their last name was mistakenly recorded as Horowitz, rather than their real name of Tomchina. Winona is working on compiling a complete family tree to better understand her Russian ancestry.

Nicole Sherzinger, the gorgeous singer and dancer from The Pussycat Dolls, embraces her Russian roots. Her full name is Nicole Praskovya Elikolani Valiente Scherzinger and while on tour in Russia she said, “I am Russian-American, but sometimes my friends call me Pasha!”

Gwyneth Paltrow's family emigrated to the U.S. from Russia, their original name being Paltrovichy. She has said, “It is an honor to be even a small part of this nation.”

Kirk Douglas’ original full name is Issur Danielovich-Demsky. His parents were born in Russia and decided to Americanize their last name before emigrating to the U.S.

David Duchovny is a big fan of Russian literature, possibly due to the Russian roots on his father’s side. He’s very proud of his last name which translates to “spiritual” in Russian.

There are many other American celebrities that can trace some Russian roots in their ancestry, such as Sean Penn, Lenny Kravitz, Joaquin Phoenix, Jennifer Connolly, and Monica Lewinsky. Sylvester Stallone, who has living relatives in Odessa, Ukraine, has said, “Each of us has a piece of Russian.” His mother even admitted to trying to find him a nice Russian bride!