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No, Russian president Putin hasn’t ‘revealed’ that Jesus was black – images of a black Jesus go back centuries

IN SHORT: According to a video posted on social media, Russia’s president Putin has “revealed” that Jesus was black. But Putin is not the first to say this and whatever the Christian messiah’s skin-tone, there is no convincing evidence of it in this claim.

Russian president Vladimir Putin recently “opened an ancient box revealing that Jesus was black”.

At least, that’s the claim circulating on social media in Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda and elsewhere since late March 2024.

The claim includes a video divided into three frames. At top is footage of Putin at a table with uniformed men, opening an ornate golden box. Inside we briefly see a Russian Orthodox religious artwork, or icon.

The frame at bottom left shows a similar artwork, of a dark-skinned Jesus, and at bottom right is a photo of Putin pointing a finger.

The video starts with an artificial-sounding voiceover: “Putin reveals to the world a secret that European has been hiding from African for millennium, that Jesus was black.” A millennium is 1,000 years.

The clip then cuts to a second section headed with the text “Russia says Jesus was black with proof.” 

A different voiceover claims Russia has “opened its cellars” to “reveal biblical icons featuring darker-skinned figures”. The footage shows paintings in what seems to be a museum.

Then, one by one, nine different artworks of people from the Christian tradition appear on screen. All have darker hair and skin than the common western image of a blond-haired, blue-eyed Jesus.

The voice adds that “Americans turned the bible white”, but “Russians didn’t get the message”.


The claim can also be seen here, here and here.

But is the video really evidence that Putin has “opened an ancient box revealing Jesus was black” and that Russia “says Jesus was black with proof”?

Putin gives icon copies to military leaders in Ukraine

The footage of Putin shows the logo of the Daily Mail, a UK-based tabloid newspaper. Africa Check searched the Daily Mail’s YouTube channel using the keywords “Putin icon”. This led us to the original video, posted in April 2023.

Its description reads: Vladimir Putin visits illegally annexed Kherson, Ukraine.

According to several news reports based on a Kremlin press release, Putin made a surprise visit to the Russia-occupied Kherson region of southern Ukraine on 18 April.

There he held a meeting with Russian military commanders and presented them with copies of Russian religious icons.

Russia’s state-owned Tass news service reports that the copies were bought from a private collector in the US. The original icons had belonged to Pyotr Vannovsky, Russia’s minister of war in the late 1800s.

There are no reports that Putin “revealed that Jesus was black” during his Kherson visit. And the “ancient box” he is seen opening in the viral video is actually the covering of a relatively new icon replica.

The icon image below the footage of Putin seems unrelated to his gifts. A reverse image search shows it is a 17th-century artwork in the permanent collection of the Tomsk Regional Art Museum in central Russia.

Footage of 2011 exhibition

The footage and artworks in the second part of the viral video are not “proof” that Russia recently “opened its cellars” to reveal that Jesus was black.

The footage is from an exhibition of 40 Russian icons from the 1400s to the 1900s held at the Castel Sant’Angelo museum in Rome, Italy in September 2011. One report has it that the works were hidden during the 1917 Russian Revolution to “protect them from anti-religious destruction”.

And while the nine artworks are in an icon style, not all of them are Russian or particularly old.

One (here) is by contemporary Norwegian artist Ove Svele, two (here and here) by contemporary US artist Robert Lentz, and another (here) celebrates the Sudan-born Catholic saint Josephine Bakhita, who died in 1947 and was canonised as a saint in 2000. The rest – here, here, here, here, here and here – have been online for years.

The idea that Jesus and other biblical figures were black isn’t new. But this claim doesn’t prove it or that the Russian president has made any such revelation. 


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