Friday, November 18, 2011
Recently I have been reading about the small Afro-Russian population in the USSR. They are generally referred to as part of the Black Diaspora. But, unlike Blacks elsewhere outside of Africa, the Afro-Russians during the Soviet period seemed to have largely lacked some of the key components of being a diaspora. They did not seem to have any real connections with Africa, not even sentimental ties. Instead they seemed to be completely acculturated into Russian society on the surface including being legally classified as Russians in many cases on line five of their identification documents. They were of course subject to unofficial racial discrimination based upon their skin color and a presumption that they did not belong to the USSR. This outsider status was shared with a host of other groups in the USSR, most of which were also subject to varying degrees of official racialized discrimination as well as a broader social exclusion by Soviet society. This marginalization of course created an identification of being different by virtue of being Black, but there was no sense of a larger Afro-Russian community. There were a few villages in Abkhazia of people descended of African slaves that had become completely acculturated into the Abkhaz. But, most other Black Soviet citizens did not belong to any larger Afro-Russian community. They lived as dispersed individuals throughout the USSR in mixed race families with a White mother. They experienced racism thus entirely as individuals rather than as members of distinct communities. There is not an alternative word in the literature to replace diaspora when referring to Black Russians, however, I think the amorphous nature of this population makes them distinct from other Soviet diaspora groups such the Germans, Jews, Koreans, and Greeks.