Kimberly St. Julian-Varnon
Articles by Kimberly St. Julian-Varnon

Yelena Khanga, Belonging, and Blackness in Russia

Early in Episode 694 of the This American Life podcast, “Get Back to Where You Once Belonged,” hosts Emanuele Berry and Ira Glass are watching clips from the 1936 Soviet film “Tsirk.” They are both entranced by the story’s climax, in which a multiethnic array of Soviet citizens makes a show of accepting American circus performer Marion Dixon’s mixed-race baby (played by Afro-Russian James Lloydovich Patterson). The film led Berry to wonder if the lack of racism in the Soviet Union was real, so she found a Black Russian to interview — Yelena Khanga.

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