Afro-Russian, Black Russian are Russians of African descent. They makeup 1% of one-hundredth of 1% of the country or 14,000, according to Cultural Foundation for Mixed-Race Children. Most are mix-race(metis)
Blacks began arriving in Russia during the 1700s-1800s as servants. It was the practice of the European aristocracy to have black servants. Black people in Russia usually arrived as slaves but were freed on the grounds, they became lifetime servants.
The most famous of those servants was Abram Hannibal, an Eritrean/Ethiopian, servant of Tsar Peter the Great and great-grandfather of Alexander Pushkin. Hannibal was sent to Paris for schooling in engineering by Tsar Peter the Great. He owned multiple estate and was considered Russia's first accomplished modern engineer. Hannibal's grandson Alexander Pushkin became one of Russia's greatest writers.
Blacks could also be found in the Caucasus Mountain, on the Black Sea coast of Soviet Georgia in the region of Abkhazia. Black Abkhazian lived in isolated communities. The most famous of Afro-Abkhazians were Shaaban Abash and Bashir Shambe.
Between 1960s-1980s, 400,000 African student studied in the Soviet Union. They developed social relationship with local women and fathered children. African students did not reside in Russia after their studies, because of lack of opportunities, discrimination, and racism in Russian society.
They did not return with their domestic partners and offsprings, due to the bureaucracy within the Russian government and KGB threats. The process of emmigration from Russia proved daunting. Women were prevented from communicating with their foreign amors and received death threats from the KGB. Because of the social stigma of having birthed a metis, many women gave up their offspring for adoption.
Many Afro-Russians are not viewed as Russian in the society. Because of having a darker complexion, they stand out. They have to deal with racism and racial animosity everyday. With increased fascist neo-nazi nationalist groups after the fall of the Soviet Union, Black Russians now have to contend with violent physical threats.
Black Russians are now coming together to address their concerns. Kontak the Russian Facebook boast 40,000-70,000 members on the Black-Russian-Ukranian-Belorussian-Kazakh community page. The Cultural Foundation for Mixed-Race Children in Russia has been also trying to address the needs of Afro-Russian. Metis a charity organization founded by Emilia Mensah supports families with mixed-race children.
Jean Gregoire Sagbo
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