How Reggie Yates went from kids’ TV to confronting neo-Nazis

Posted in Articles, Arts, Europe, Media Archive, Texas, United Kingdom, United States on 2016-07-10 19:57Z by Steven

How Reggie Yates went from kids’ TV to confronting neo-Nazis

The Guardian

Hannah J. Davies

Louis Theroux 2.0: Reggie Yates in a cell at Bexar County Detention Center.

He braves Russian far-right rallies and Texas prison cells for his job. Meet the man helping to reinvent the documentary for Generation Y

While filming in South Africa in 2013, Reggie Yates experienced the two scariest moments of his TV career to date. “The director, sound man and I got caught up in a fight between two gangs,” he explains. “One of the guys pulled out a gun and I thought: ‘All bets are off.’ We got out of there, but we met up with one of the gangs again later on in this little hut and they all had their machetes out. I thought: ‘This could go wrong at any minute,’ but it didn’t. I think a lot of that came down to the respect we showed them; I don’t wear a bulletproof [vest] in these places, because [that would be] saying that I don’t trust someone or I think I’m better.” He laughs before adding: “It could’ve been worse!”…

…Starting out as a child actor in 90s barbershop sitcom Desmond’s, he went on to work as a kids’ TV presenter alongside pal Fearne Cotton on shows including CBBC’s Smile. Then came a move into radio DJing on 1Xtra, before a gig as the anchor of Radio 1’s Official Chart Show. Somehow he’s also found time to voice cartoon rodent Rastamouse and appear in Doctor Who, as well as writing and directing his own short films (his latest, Shelter, stars W1A’s Jessica Hynes). It even transpires during our conversation that he’s a “massive interiors nerd”, who teases that he might one day open a furniture store…

Read the entire article here.

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Invisible Bridges: Life Along the Chinese-Russian Border

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Arts, Asian Diaspora, Europe, Media Archive on 2016-02-15 20:31Z by Steven

Invisible Bridges: Life Along the Chinese-Russian Border

The New Yorker

Peter Hessler

In the summer of 2014, Davide Monteleone, an Italian photographer who had lived in Moscow for more than a decade, began to travel to the Russian-Chinese border in search of something that felt real and reliable. “I had been covering the uprising in Ukraine, and then the civil war and the occupation of Crimea,” he told me. “I was disturbed by how hard it was to remain neutral when there was so much press attention. I felt like whatever I did was going to be used for propaganda. So I thought about doing something far away.” After the European Union and the United States levied sanctions against Russia, the country began signing high-profile gas and trade agreements with China. “There were a lot of articles in Russia about this new friendship between Russia and China,” Monteleone said. “So I figured, let’s go and see what’s going on. Is this relationship real?”

In Moscow, Monteleone had read about a new bridge across the Amur River that the Russians were supposedly building at the city of Blagoveshchensk. “But you go there and there is no bridge,” he said. “People in Moscow knew about this bridge, but the people in this place didn’t even know they were planning to build it.” In the regions around the phantom bridge, he noticed other things that were also missing. “On the Russian side, there’s no agriculture,” he said. “It’s forest and that’s it. You ask the Russians why they don’t grow anything, and they say, ‘The weather is not very good; you can’t grow anything.’ And then you cross to the Chinese side, and there are plantations everywhere! It’s only two hundred metres, so the climate must be the same.”…

…Over the past two centuries, there have been periodic tensions between Russia and China, including some serious border conflicts, and historically Russia has usually held the upper hand. But nowadays, at the personal level, Monteleone notices a different dynamic. “In a remote place like this, the Russians just wait for something that is going to happen, while the Chinese try to do something,” he said. This disparity seemed to shape the interpersonal dynamics of many Russian-Chinese couples that Monteleone met on his travels. In Blagoveshchensk, he spent time with a Chinese businesswoman who runs a small empire of Russian hotels and restaurants. Back in her hometown of Harbin, she has a husband and a child, but across the border she has acquired a kind of modern-day concubine—a Russian husband, along with another child. “I suspected that the Russian husband—it’s also for practical reasons,” Monteleone said. “Chinese cannot open companies in Russia if they don’t have a Russian partner.” He found it fascinating to watch them interact: “She was saying, ‘Go and get the car!’ ‘Bring me there!’ ‘Call this person!’ He was a husband, but at the same time he was an employee. She was speaking Russian, but in a strange accent.”

That was one of the few mixed couples that Monteleone encountered in which a Chinese woman was paired with a Russian man. “The combination is usually Chinese men and Russian women,” he said. This may be a result of simple demographics: in Russia, there are only eighty-seven men to every hundred women, whereas in China there are a hundred and six men to every hundred women. But, in Monteleone’s view, it’s also a convergence of different social and economic forces. “It’s because men die much sooner in these parts of Russia,” he said bluntly. “In this kind of remote region, there’s no jobs, no activities, no way to spend time, so the men just drink.” He continued, “And Russian women here seem to be much more responsible than men. I’m sorry to say it, but they’re the ones taking care of things.” On the southern side of the border, he noticed that language schools are full of young Russian women who seem dedicated to acquiring Mandarin, and perhaps a Chinese husband…

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Black in the USSR: The children of Soviet Africa search for their own identity

Posted in Africa, Articles, Arts, Caribbean/Latin America, Europe, Identity Development/Psychology, Interviews, Media Archive on 2016-02-06 22:11Z by Steven

Black in the USSR: The children of Soviet Africa search for their own identity

The Calvert Journal

Photography by Liz Johnson Artur

Photograph by Liz Johnson Artur

“When people ask me about my background I usually start by explaining how my mum is Russian, my dad is Ghanaian and that I was born in Bulgaria,” says the photographer Liz Johnson Artur. “It often becomes a long explanation.”

The explanation goes something like this. Along with many African students in the 1960s, Johnson’s Ghanaian father was given the chance to study in Eastern Europe as part of the Soviet Union’s efforts to expand its influence across the African continent during the Cold War. His time in Bulgaria studying biochemistry was cut short after four years when all Ghanaian students were expelled from the country following a confrontation between African students and the police. By then he’d already met Johnson Artur’s mother, who gave birth to their daughter in 1964, a few months after his departure.

Johnson Artur spent her childhood in Bulgaria and then Germany and has been based in Britain since 1990. Her father was unable to return to Bulgaria and is now settled in Ghana. She only met him for the first time in 2010. After doing so, she felt moved to start documenting the stories of other Russians of African and Caribbean origin. “Most black Russians that I met in Moscow and St Petersburg had also grown up without their fathers. Some had been fostered or grown up in children’s homes and had never met their mothers. But we all agreed that we felt Russian as well as African.”…

Read the entire photo-essay here.

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A Russian-Chinese woman witnesses the ups and downs of the two nations’ ties

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Biography, History, Media Archive on 2016-01-17 22:45Z by Steven

A Russian-Chinese woman witnesses the ups and downs of the two nations’ ties

Global Times: Discover China, Discover The World

Zhou Yu

Li Yingnan stands in her home. Her home is filled with Chinese and Russian books and decorations. Photo: Li Hao/GT

It was a sunny August day in Moscow when three shuttle buses stopped at Red Square. A group of women were the first of the dozens of tourists to step off the buses. Though their appearances were barely different from those of ordinary Russians, they were, in fact, Chinese citizens, aged between 50 to 80.

“I was born in Moscow,” said one 80-year-old lady tearfully.

The ladies belonged to a tour group called Russian Mothers Seeking Roots in Russia, and all were the descendants of Russians. It was the first time since the end of World War II that a group of people seeking their roots had been organized by Chinese citizens.

For the next seven days, they would tour major sites in Moscow and St. Petersburg. These old ladies were so excited to see their ancestors’ hometowns, some even dancing on Red Square. Russian WWII veterans told them about the joint military operations between the two countries during the war.

Most of the group members’ mothers were Russians who came to China during the 1930s. In the 1920s, there were around 200,000 Chinese laborers who lived and worked in Russia doing construction work or running shops. Some Chinese workers participated in the Russian Revolution in 1917, and others even joined Russia’s Red Army.

At the end of the 1920s, when the Soviet Union’s strict economic planning system was implemented, the Soviet government closed down all private shops and forced Chinese shop owners to leave the country. Many of these Chinese businessmen had married Russian women, who followed their husbands back to China. Due to Russia’s geographical proximity of Xinjiang, most of these Russian-Chinese couples settled in Xinjiang and the women became Chinese citizens. There are around 15,000 such descendants of Russians still in China…

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Under the Sky of My Africa: Alexander Pushkin and Blackness

Posted in Anthologies, Anthropology, Biography, Books, Europe, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Social Science on 2015-12-21 01:46Z by Steven

Under the Sky of My Africa: Alexander Pushkin and Blackness

Northwestern University Press
May 2006
488 pages
6 1/8 x 9 1/4
Paper ISBN: ISBN 978-0-8101-1971-0

Edited by:

Catharine Theimer Nepomnyashchy (1951-2015), Ann Whitney Olin Professor of Russian Literature and Culture
Barnard College
Columbia University, New York, New York

Nicole Svobodny, Assistant Dean, College of Arts & Sciences; Senior Lecturer, International & Area Studies
Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, Missouri

Ludmilla A. Trigo

Foreword by:

Henry Louis Gates Jr., Alphonse Fletcher University Professor; Director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research
Harvard University

Roughly in the year 1705, a young African boy, acquired from the seraglio of the Turkish sultan, was transported to Russia as a gift to Peter the Great. This child, later known as Abram Petrovich Gannibal, was to become Peter’s godson and to live to a ripe old age, having attained the rank of general and the status of Russian nobility. More important, he was to become the great-grandfather of Russia’s greatest national poet, Alexander Pushkin. It is the contention of the editors of this book, borne out by the essays in the collection, that Pushkin’s African ancestry has played the role of a “wild card” of sorts as a formative element in Russian cultural mythology; and that the ways in which Gannibal’s legacy has been included in or excluded from Pushkin’s biography over the last two hundred years can serve as a shifting marker of Russia’s self-definition.

The first single volume in English on this rich topic, Under the Sky of My Africa addresses the wide variety of interests implicated in the question of Pushkin’s blackness-race studies, politics, American studies, music, mythopoetic criticism, mainstream Pushkin studies. In essays that are by turns biographical, iconographical, cultural, and sociological in focus, the authors-representing a broad range of disciplines and perspectives-take us from the complex attitudes toward race in Russia during Pushkin’s era to the surge of racism in late Soviet and post-Soviet contemporary Russia. In sum, Under the Sky of My Africa provides a wealth of basic material on the subject as well as a series of provocative readings and interpretations that will influence future considerations of Pushkin and race in Russian culture.

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Black in the USSR: 3 Generations of a Russian Family

Posted in Articles, Biography, Europe, Judaism, Media Archive, Religion on 2015-12-13 02:44Z by Steven

Black in the USSR: 3 Generations of a Russian Family

The Root

Steven J. Niven

Olver Golden; Lily Golden; Yelena Khanga

Escaping the oppression of a racist America, a black scientist named Oliver Golden took Soviet citizenship in the 1930’s and began a legacy for his family that endures in Russia today.

1932, the poet Langston Hughes spent Christmas in the ‘dusty, coloured, cotton-growing South’ of Uzbekistan, then one of the Soviet Union’s Asian republics. Hughes had been in Moscow, working on a film critical of American race relations, but the project was abandoned, in part because the Soviets were then seeking official diplomatic recognition and improved economic ties with the United States. After an exhausting 2000-mile journey on frozen, ramshackle Russian trains, he arrived on Christmas Eve in Yangiyul, near Tashkent, “in the middle of a mudcake oasis frosted with snow,” and visited “a neat, white painted cottage,” where “it was jolly and warm.

His hosts were Oliver Golden, a black Mississippian, and his wife Bertha Bialek, the white New York-born daughter of Polish Jewish immigrants, who had prepared traditional American meal capped off with pumpkin pie to celebrate the season—washed down, of course, with copious amounts of local cognac and vodka. Most of his fellow guests were black men and women. As he looked out his window on Christmas morning Hughes saw some tall, brown skinned Uzbeks on horseback, padding across the snowy fields, and was reminded of images he had seen in Sunday School when he was a boy in Kansas. “In their robes these Uzbeks looked just like bible characters, and I imagined in their stable a manger and a child.”

Oliver Golden was the driving force behind the presence of a group of black scientists in Tashkent to assist in the cultivation of cotton, which had prompted Hughes visit. Born in Yazoo County in the Mississippi Delta in 1887, Golden was the son of former slaves who had prospered during Reconstruction. By the time he reached his twenties, however, his family home had been burned down twice as part of the broad, violent, and successful campaign to restore white supremacy. He was drawn to the Soviet experiment in the 1920s and 1930s by its promises of racial equality, much as his grandfather had been inspired by the promise of Reconstruction…

Yelena Khanga was raised by her mother and grandmother, Bertha, in Moscow, where she enjoyed a relatively privileged upbringing as the child of a leading Soviet academic. Like her mother, she was a talented tennis player, and attended Moscow State. She graduated in 1984 with a degree in journalism, and worked for three years with the Moscow World News. In 1987, in the wake of Glasnost, President Mikhail Gorbachev’s liberalization of the Soviet system, Khanga was selected to take part in an exchange program between American and Soviet newspapers. She moved to Boston to work for the Christian Science Monitor.

While in the US she began to research her black and Jewish ancestry, and traveled to Yazoo, Mississippi, to visit the land once owned by her great-grandfather. She also met many of her African American relatives at a family reunion in Mississippi, and in 1992 published a memoir, Soul to Soul: The Story of a Black Russian American Family. In that book Khanga admitted that racism existed in Russia during the Soviet era and had worsened since communism’s collapse, but she was also clear that her own family had experienced more discrimination for being Jewish and American than for being black. Around this time her mother also began visiting the United States, and taught at Chicago State University in the 1990s, before returning to Moscow to help raise her daughter’s children. Lily Golden died in Russia in 2010…

Read the entire article here.

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African American Interest & Experiences in Russia: A Brief History

Posted in Articles, Europe, History, Media Archive on 2015-11-01 16:57Z by Steven

African American Interest & Experiences in Russia: A Brief History

Afropean: Adventures in Afro Europe

Robert Fikes, Jr., Reference Librarian
San Diego State University

Robert Fikes, Jr., Librarian at San Diego State University, recounts the history of the African American presence in Russia from the 19th century, noting that African Americans have had a long and prominent history in the region, continuing to the present day, with a focus on the scholarly interest in the history and language by members of the African American intelligentsia.

In early February 1869, Cassius M. Clay, the liberal American ambassador to Russia, was uncertain how Czar Alexander II would react to his personal request to have “a colored American citizen, presented to his Imperial Majesty, as there was not precedent.” He need not have worried however, as Civil War veteran and pioneering black journalist Capt. Thomas Morris Chester from Pennsylvania, was then asked to accompany the czar riding alongside the monarch and his staff in the annual grand review the Imperial Guard – stalwart men splendidly attired in tall black leather boots and gleaming gold and silver helmets crowned with a doubled-headed eagle – and following the awe-inspiring pageantry was treated to a fine meal at the dining table of the royal family. The educated and proudly erect son of an ex-slave, he gladly accepted the invitation and enjoyed an experience unparalleled for an African American in the 19th century. The black editors of the New Orleans Tribune thought the event significant enough that the ambassador’s dispatch to Washington concerning Capt. Chester’s gracious treatment in St. Petersburg was reprinted in the newspaper, believing it would be “instructive to the (racist) white population of the Southern States,” an example of how they should, in the ambassador’s words, “elevate the African race in America.”…

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Three Very Rare Generations

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Biography, Book/Video Reviews, Europe, Media Archive, United States on 2015-09-14 02:12Z by Steven

Three Very Rare Generations

The New York Times

Eric Foner, DeWitt Clinton Professor of History
Columbia University

Soul To Soul: A Black Russian American Family 1865-1992. By Yelena Khanga with Susan Jacoby. Illustrated. 318 pp. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. $22.95.

AMONG its other consequences, the demise of the Soviet Union has released an emigration of foreign-born leftists and their descendants. Along with Spanish Loyalists and exiled third-world socialists now returning to their countries of origin, this little-noticed diaspora includes Yelena Khanga, the granddaughter of a black American who had moved to the Soviet Union in 1931, along with his Polish-Jewish-American wife. “Soul to Soul: A Black Russian American Family 1865-1992” tells the remarkable story of Ms. Khanga’s family, shedding light into unfamiliar corners of both the Soviet and American pasts. Its title derives from a Russian expression for close friendship. In an American context, it also suggests encounters among blacks, and the book’s most interesting chapters recount the story of the black side of Ms. Khanga’s family tree.

Her great-grandfather, Hilliard Golden, born a slave, served on the board of supervisors in Yazoo County, Miss., during Reconstruction, and managed to become one of the areas’s largest black landowners (Ms. Khanga is not sure how). The restoration of white supremacy abruptly ended his political career, but Golden clung tenaciously to his property until 1909, when, like many other farmers in the New South, he succumbed to debt and lost his land…

…In 1931, with 15 other Americans — black agricultural specialists and their families — Ms. Khanga’s grandparents sailed for the Soviet Union to help develop cotton cultivation in Uzbekistan. The poverty and backwardness of the region, where polygamy still flourished, reinforced the Goldens’ sense of socialist mission. When their daughter, Lily, was born, they decided to remain in the Soviet Union “because they did not want to raise a racially mixed child in America.” The agricultural experiments succeeded, and Stalin then decreed that Uzbekistan should concentrate exclusively on cotton, transforming the area, ironically, into a one-crop economy bearing some resemblance to the South of Golden’s youth…

Read the entire review here.

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Kodiak Kreol: Communities of Empire in Early Russian America [Patricia Cleary Review]

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation on 2013-04-01 00:26Z by Steven

Kodiak Kreol: Communities of Empire in Early Russian America [Patricia Cleary Review]

William and Mary Quarterly
Third Series, Volume 69, Number 3, July 2012
pages 665-667
DOI: 10.5309/willmaryquar.69.3.0665

Kodiak Kreol: Communities of Empire in Early Russian America. By Gwenn A. Miller. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2010. 242 pages.

Patricia Cleary, Professor of History
California State University, Long Beach

In a period of imperial expansion in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, Russia founded only one overseas colony, in several sites off the Alaskan coast. On Kodiak Island, the focus of Gwenn A. Miller’s study, the Russian American Company pursued the fur trade and sought the support of church and state for its efforts. In the process, the company’s agents disrupted the lives of the indigenous Alutiiq people, not least through forming relationships with local women and creating an ethnically mixed Kreol population. In her exploration of this North Pacific outpost, Miller focuses on how these initially tenuous and later increasingly formalized relationships laid the basis for a distinctive category and community of people within the Russian empire.

Drawing on slim and occasionally challenging sources, Miller traces Russian colonial expansion, examining how conquest and the exaction of tribute from subjugated peoples in Siberia facilitated the Kodiak venture. Teasing out how Russians differentiated themselves from locals, Miller focuses narrowly on the inhabitants of one island outpost, whose interactions, both peaceful and violent, led to the creation of a “new world” that was “never wholly Russian or Alutiiq” (xi). Although less well known than other Russian ventures, such as that at Sitka, Kodiak was, Miller argues, important in no small part because it lay at the “crossroads of early Alaskan colonial contact” (xi)…

At the heart of Miller’s analysis is how mixed-race children came to be important both culturally and economically. Russian American children drew the interest of company leaders and government officials, who “singled out these children to be groomed for middling and at times high-level work within the colonial apparatus” (138). Demographic changes prompted such attention. With the overwhelming majority of native men forced to engage in the increasingly dangerous and difficult otter hunt, overhunting led to ever longer voyages, and growing numbers of men perished at sea. European diseases further contributed to the decline of the indigenous population. Company officials began to recognize two related needs: for young indigenous boys to remain in their communities “to train in the art of the sea otter hunt” (114) as their elders died at accelerated rates and for a population of future company workers to be educated appropriately. The hardships of life in the colonial outpost, the “difficulty of transporting substantial numbers of settlers from mainland Russia” (127), the skewed sex ratio among those who did emigrate, the declining Alutiiq population, and an expanding Kreol one turned the Kreol into “an important constituent of the subject population on Kodiak” (127), a few of whom were sent to study at the company’s expense in Saint Petersburg. State encouragement of mixed-race unions elsewhere, Miller states, typically took place in the earlier rather than later phases of colonial enterprises, with families rather than the state or firms responsible for making decisions about children’s educations. In stark contrast, Russian imperial officials “took increasing interest in this Kreol group of colonial residents as a loyal local population, and their expectations for the behavior of these people as European Russians was expressed in more concrete terms over time” (138), with the 1820s a high point. The church, state, and company all became more interested in these children; the company paid for their education in exchange for years of service, an arrangement that would turn “the local Kreol population into a literate managerial force that would be loyal to the Russian crown” (112)…

Read the entire review here.

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Kodiak Kreol: Communities of Empire in Early Russian America

Posted in Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Native Americans/First Nation, Religion on 2013-03-31 22:12Z by Steven

Kodiak Kreol: Communities of Empire in Early Russian America

Cornell University Press
248 pages
7 Illustrations
6.1 x 9.3 in
ISBN-10: 0801446422; ISBN-13: 978-0-8014-4642-9

Gwenn A. Miller, Assistant Professor of History
College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, Massachusetts

From the 1780s to the 1820s, Kodiak Island, the first capital of Imperial Russia’s only overseas colony, was inhabited by indigenous Alutiiq people and colonized by Russians. Together, they established an ethnically mixed “kreol” community. Against the backdrop of the fur trade, the missionary work of the Russian Orthodox Church, and competition among Pacific colonial powers, Gwenn A. Miller brings to light the social, political, and economic patterns of life in the settlement, making clear that Russia’s modest colonial effort off the Alaskan coast fully depended on the assistance of Alutiiq people.

In this context, Miller argues, the relationships that developed between Alutiiq women and Russian men were critical keys to the initial success of Russia’s North Pacific venture. Although Russia’s Alaskan enterprise began some two centuries after other European powers—Spain, England, Holland, and France—started to colonize North America, many aspects of the contacts between Russians and Alutiiq people mirror earlier colonial episodes: adaptation to alien environments, the “discovery” and exploitation of natural resources, complicated relations between indigenous peoples and colonizing Europeans, attempts by an imperial state to moderate those relations, and a web of Christianizing practices. Russia’s Pacific colony, however, was founded on the cusp of modernity at the intersection of earlier New World forms of colonization and the bureaucratic age of high empire. Miller’s attention to the coexisting intimacy and violence of human connections on Kodiak offers new insights into the nature of colonialism in a little-known American outpost of European imperial power.


  • Preface
  • Acknowledgments
  • Comparative Timeline
  • Maps
  • Introduction
  • 1. An Economy of Confiscation
  • 2. Beach Crossings on Kodiak Island
  • 3. Colonial Formations
  • 4. Between Two Worlds
  • 5. Students of Empire
  • 6. A Kreol Generation
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index
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