Afro-Russians (Russian: афророссияне, also called "негры" — "the blacks") are Russians of Black African descent, including Black people who have settled in Russia and their mixed-race children. The Metis Foundation estimates that there are about 40,000 mixed-race Russians.
It is thought that the first Afro-Russians were a group of 20 men from Ethiopia who came as diplomats of the Abyssinian Empire, some of them being originally purchased as slaves and transported to the Crimea by Ottoman Turkish traders in the 1670s as gifts of diplomatic friendship from Abyssinia (as Ethiopia was otherwise known) to the Russians. They were subsequently turned into hired servants by the Tsarist Russian imperial family, the Romanovs. In fact, the Afro-Russian assistants in the Romanov estates rose in prominence, and often received an education. Pushkin's great-grandfather, Abram Petrovich Gannibal (1696–1781), was a black imperial page, originally of a chiefly family in his native Africa, that was raised by Emperor Peter the Great himself. He is supposed to have written literature that Peter enjoyed reading, and eventually died a nobleman of Russia.
After the revolution several Black African and mixed-race families came to the Soviet Union under the auspices of the Comintern. They were chiefly specialists in the spheres of industrial production and agriculture. The technical equipment, modest means, and professional experience brought by them were an appreciable contribution to economic development of a new state. Among them were Oliver John Golden and his wife Bertha (he brought with him a group of 16 Afro-American experts in the cultivation of cotton), well-known African-American poet Langston Hughes with a group of 22 filmmakers, Paul Robeson with his family and many others. Some of them stayed in Russia and their descendants still live there.
When African nations gained independence from colonialism, the Soviet Union offered scholarships to young people from these nations. About 400,000 Africans studied in the former Soviet Union between the late 1950s and 1990. The first significant arrival of Africans was for the 6th World Festival of Youth and Students held in Moscow in 1957. Many Africans also attended the Patrice Lumumba University. Hence colloquial terms for Afro-Russians born in the 1950s and 1960s are "Children of the Festival" (ru) or "Children of Lumumba". Some of these children subsequently returned to their African parents' countries or moved on to Western Europe or in the case of Jewish Afro-Russians to Israel.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union racism and xenophobic sentiments have increased in the modern Russian state, particularly, due to mass immigration and falling birth rates amongst Slavic Russians. Afro-Russians are subjected to threats and violence on the part of ultra-nationalists and white power skinheads. After the 1990s, there has also been new residents including professional athletes of Black African descent including African Americans and Afro-Brazilians playing for Russian sports teams.