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History of St. Petersburg Museum: Rumyantsev Mansion

 

Black Russians

Historical links between Africa, America and Russia were unravelled at an academic conference last month in St. Petersburg.

Published: October 12, 2007 (Issue # 1314)



  • Russian national icon Alexander Pushkin is considered Europes first black poet.
    Photo: For The St. Petersburg Times

  • Russian television journalist Yelena Hanga has written about her African ancestry.
    Photo: For The St. Petersburg Times

Scholars from the U.S., Russia, Europe and Africa celebrated 200 years of U.S.-Russian diplomatic ties in St. Petersburg last month by exploring the once-hidden African-American contribution to Russian and Soviet history.

The legacy of African-Americans in pre-Revolutionary, Soviet and post-communist Russia was the focus of Russian-American Links: African-Americans in Russia on Sept. 20-21 at the Russian Academy of Sciences with academics and speakers presenting more than 30 papers that mediated the past with the present and smashed stereotypes surrounding the role of African-Americans in Russia.

At a time when Europeans were solidifying their grip on Africa and as [segregational] Jim Crow laws etched the division lines between black and white deep into the fabric of American society, there emerged a new state with a broad and emotional appeal to the worlds downtrodden, Dr. Maxim Matusevich of Seton Hall University said, referring to the emergence of the Soviet Union in the early 1920s.

Africans on the continent [of America], the diaspora [and] the prominent political and intellectuals among them, traveled to the Red Mecca [the Soviet Union] to experience firsthand the reality of deracialized egalitarianism, Matusevich explained.

Professor Lily Golden countered by saying that the notion that the so-called influx of Black Americans following the formation of the Soviet communist state early last century was motivated by a lust for greener pastures denied at home, seems to be highly exaggerated.

Golden then cited the example of her father, Oliver John Golden, an African-American agronomist from Mississippi who resettled in the Soviet Union.

Oliver John Golden also selected only Sixteen African-Americans [for] their academic merits amid thousands of applications he had received from his black compatriots seeking employment opportunities in the new Russia in the early 1930s, recounted Professor Golden.

When Oliver John Golden died in 1940 in the Uzbek capital of Tashkent, his daughter Lily and wife, Bertha Bialek, a Polish Jew who originally hailed from Brooklyn, New York, were left behind in the U.S.S.R.

As Dr. Fon Louise Gordon from University of Central Florida put it, in a review of Professor Goldens daughters book about her family, the Goldens were left to reflect on the intergenerational and diasporic questions of race, authenticity, self-definition, family and negotiations on tradition, modernity and creolization.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Wednesday, Dec. 17


Although the next trade event at Lenexpo convention center isnt until January, the center is playing host to Monet to Cezanne: The French Impressionists, an art show that brings 19th-century art classics to life. Using state-of-the-art technology, the show takes the work of the French masters and adds another dimension to them using light and shadow.



Thursday, Dec. 18


Improve your English and knowledge of British culture during todays FORM lesson at the British Book Center. These free English lessons with a native speaker elaborate not only on grammar particulars but cultural topics as well. Todays event will discuss the BBC Two documentary Victorian Farm Christmas.



Friday, Dec. 19


Test your mastery of parlor games during Game Evening at the British Book Center. Learn how to play a variety of classic, mentally challenging games and use your newly acquired skills to crush weaker opponents. The event beings at 5 p.m.



Saturday, Dec. 20


The citys Babushkina Park on Prospekt Obukhovskoy Oborony will be invaded by dozens of rocking-and-rolling Santa Clauses during todays Santa Claus Parade. Not only will they parade through the park but there will also be competitions amongst the festively-clad participants and a musical master class. There will also be a prize for the best-dressed Santa Claus.


Stock up your record collection during the Vinyl Christmas Sale at the KL10TCH bar on Konyushennaya ploschad today. Spend the afternoon perusing the records for sale while listening the classic, clean sound of records spinning out hits from a variety of musical genres and time periods.



Sunday, Dec. 21


TheZenit St. Petersburg basketball team returns to the northern capital this evening for a matchup with Krasny Oktyabr, a Volgograd-based basketball club. Tickets for the game, which tips off at 6 p.m. this evening, can be purchased on the clubs website or at their arena, Sibur Arena, on Krestovsky island.


Satisfy your sugar cravings during Sweet New Year, an ongoing seasonal festival at the Raduga shopping center. Each weekend of December will welcome hungry visitors to taste hundreds of different kinds of desserts made from a plethora of sweet treats. Workshops are open to visitors and seasonal gifts can also be purchased for those rushing to finish their New Year shopping.



Monday, Dec. 22


Pick out the latest fashions as holiday gifts for loved ones or as early presents for yourself during the Christmas Design Sale at Kraft on Obvodny Kanal, starting on Dec. 20 and continuing through Dec. 27. Designer clothes will be on sale every day of the week or you can buy something more festive to decorate the home while sipping on hot coffee and perusing the various master classes.



Tuesday, Dec. 23


Meet Arctic explorers Fedor Konukhov and Viktor Simonov during SPIBAs and Capital Legal Services event Arctic Expedition this morning in the Mertens House business center at 21 Nevsky Prospekt. The meeting will discuss the explorers ongoing eco-social project and how companies can use the project as a unique marketing opportunity. Email office@spiba.ru by Dec. 22 if you wish to attend.



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