Did Russian President Vladimir Putin display a religious icon that featured a dark-complexioned man's face to show that "Jesus was black"? No, that's not true: The video in this post shows Putin displaying a copy of a Russian Orthodox Church icon that depicts a specific interpretation of Jesus Christ. In the original footage for this clip, posted on a Russian government-run news site, Putin says nothing about Jesus or his race. The Russian leader presented the copy of the icon to Russian military personnel as a gift for Easter.
The claim appeared in a video clip posted on Instagram on April 21, 2023. The caption said: "#russian #putin #fye #fyp #fypage #love #live #life #people #history #family #black."
The video opened with Putin presenting a gold-colored object resembling a church that, when opened, showed the portrait of a man's face inside. The text above and below the video reads:
PUTIN JUST REVEALED JESUS WAS BLACK 😳😳😳
1ST PUTIN SAID THAT THE BLACK PEOPLE IN AMERICA ARE ORIGINAL TARTTARIANS BORN HERE
This is what the post looked like at the time of the writing of this fact check:
(Source: Instagram screenshot taken on Wed May 10 19:23:51 2023 UTC)
The video in the post originated from a video on the Kremlin's official Telegram channel on April 18, 2023. The post on Instagram misinterprets what Putin is revealing. A clip from the 1:52 mark in the original video shows Putin taking out a gold-colored church-shaped box. He unfastens it to show an icon of Jesus.
An April 18, 2023, Guardian article reported that Putin visited troops in two locations in Russian-occupied Ukraine. The article reported that the Kremlin said that Putin "congratulated the servicemen on the Easter holiday and gave them copies of icons as a gift."
The state-run Russian news agency RIA Novosti's report about Putin's visit, which includes the footage used in the video on Instagram, stated that Putin gave the soldiers one of two copies of an icon ("Spas Nerukotvorny" -- literally, "The Savior Not Created by Hand") that once belonged to a tsarist-era minister of war and that now hangs in the Russian armed forces' cathedral in Moscow, the Resurrection of Christ. Russian-speaking Lead Stories staff confirmed that Putin made no remark in the video about Jesus' race.
The home page of the Resurrection of Christ cathedral website (scroll to the bottom) features an interactive version of the original icon with text that also does not refer to Jesus' race.
In a May 12, 2023, email, the Rev. John P. Burgess, a James Henry Snowden Professor of Systematic Theology at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, described to Lead Stories what exactly Putin is presenting in this video:
President Putin is unfolding a three-part icon. The camera focuses in on the central part of the icon, which shows Christ. In Orthodoxy, an icon depicts a holy person whom the Church venerates and to whom believers pray.
In accordance with many iconographic traditions, Christ is depicted with the features and skin color of a Middle Eastern person.
In a March 22, 2021, HISTORY article titled "What Did Jesus Look Like?" Robert Cargill, editor of Bible and Archeology and an associate professor of biblical studies at the University of Iowa, said that while he:
... agrees that these more recent images of Jesus--including darker, perhaps curlier hair, darker skin and dark eyes--probably come closer to the truth, he stresses that we can never really know exactly what Jesus looked like.
Cargill also concluded that Jewish Galileans, the group Jesus purportedly belonged to, "probably didn't have blue eyes and blond hair."
A Google News search using the keywords "Putin Said That The Black People In America Are Original Tartarians Born Here," had no results that would substantiate the other part of the claim in this post.
Lead Stories previously found the claim that Vladimir Putin said Africa is just a cemetery for Africans to be false.
Other Lead Stories fact checks concerning Jesus Christ and Vladimir Putin can be read here and here.