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She says that being married to David, a Nigerian former professional soccer player, is normal for her and her parents.“Mixed” or “international” marriages are not uncommon in today’s Russia, but they are still far from the norm.

Despite the initial deception, Vladimir and Gayane continued talking and eventually started dating.

As an ethnic Tatar, Sharip was encouraged that she “knew Islam.” She also related well to his children.“I never imagined that I would find a woman who could accept and respect my children,” Sharip says.

Both families were supportive of Sharip and Irina’s decision to marry and start a family together. Sharip says his Chechen relatives would have “preferred I marry a Chechen.”Irina’s parents and friends also had concerns—unfortunately, Chechens “provoke a subjective reaction,” she says euphemistically.

The children of these unions were called “festival children” after the 1957 World Festival of Youth and Students, held in Moscow.

The problem is changing norms, says Elena Khanga, a Russian journalist born to a Zanzibari father and and a mother of African-American and Jewish ancestry.

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