Yul Brynner

by ethnic on December 25, 2007

Birth Name: Yuliy Borisovich Briner

Date of Birth: 11 July, 1920

Place of Birth: Vladivostok, Far Eastern Republic (present-day Vladivostok, Russia)

Date of Death: October 10, 1985

Place of Death: New York City, New York, U.S.

*75% Russian
*25% Swiss-German

Yul Brynner was a Russian-born actor. He won the Academy Award for Best Actor for The King and I (1956). He worked mostly in American films.

He was born Yuliy Borisovich Brynner in Vladivostok, Far Eastern Republic (present-day Vladivostok, Russia). He was the son of Marousia Dimitrievna (Blagovidova) and Boris Yuliyevich Bryner. His paternal grandfather was Swiss (of Swiss-German) descent, while the rest of his family was Russian. Yul’s mother and her family were from Penza, Russia.

There are claims out there that Yul had Buryat (Mongolic), Japanese, Romani, and/or Jewish ancestry. It is not clear if any of these claims have been verified/documented. Many different variations on Yul’s background have been spread over time.

Yul was married to Malaysian ballerina Kathy Lee, until his death. He had a son with his former wife, actress Virginia Gilmore; a daughter with his former partner, Frankie Tilden; a daughter, fashion businessperson Victoria Brynner, with his former wife, Chilean model Doris Kleiner; and two children with his former wife, French socialite Jacqueline Thion de la Chaume.

Yul’s paternal grandfather was Julius/Jules Joseph Ivanovich Bryner (the son of Johannes Bruner and Maria Huber von Windisch). Jules was Swiss, and was of Swiss-German descent. Johannes was born in Mörigen, Switzerland, the son of Jakob Bryner and Elizabeth Wilde.

Yul’s paternal grandmother was Natalya Yosifovna/Iosifovna Kurkutova (the daughter of Josif/Iosfig Ivanovich Kurkutov and Alexandra Ivanovna Tyutrina). Natalya was Russian, from Irkutsk, Russia. Josif was the son of Ivan Gerasimovich Kurkutov. Alexandra was the daughter of Ivan Tyutrin.

Yul’s maternal grandfather was Dmitry Yevrgafovich/Evgrafovich Blagovidov (the son of Yevgraf Alexandrovich Blagovidov and Maria Ivanovna). Dmitry was born in Akshenas, Ishara, Penza (Mordovia), Russia. Yevgraf was the son of Alexander Blagovidov.

Yul’s maternal grandmother was Anna Timofeevna Kireeva (the daughter of Timofey Kireev).

Sources: Genealogy of Yul Brynner (focusing on his father’s side) – https://www.geni.com

Family background of Yul’s paternal grandfather, Julius/Jules Joseph Ivanovich Bryner – http://www.dmmserver.com

Pictures of Yul’s mother’s family – http://www.ym-penza.ru

{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

neiltennant March 31, 2016 at 8:29 am

Oh i rather like this guy !!!!!!!!!

i know him from his awesome movies which last longer than 3 hours :-)))

Interestingly i have heard from several people over the years that i remind them of yul brynner

and we talk about the time i had a lot of hair hahaha

but 3 weeks ago i was in a typical internet cafe which a black guy who saw also my father said we both remind him of YUL BRYNNER

ann April 14, 2015 at 2:40 pm

His paternal grandmother Natalya Iosifovna Kurkutova was daughter of Iosif Ivanovich Kurkutov and Aleksandra Ivanovna Tiutrina.
Yul’s maternal grandparents were Dmitriy Evgrafovich Blagovidov and Anna Timofeevna Kireeva. They, as his mother, were from Penza, Russia.

follers April 14, 2015 at 2:43 pm

Thank you. Is the story about the Jewish great-grandfather true?

ann April 15, 2015 at 2:38 am

There is some information that his maternal grandfather’s father was Jewish (Shari, later Blagovidov). But sources are not very reliable, and i find that Dmitriy’s parents were retired non-commissioned officer of Suzdalskiy infantry Regiment Evgraf Aleksandrovich Blagovidov and Maria Ivanovna.
About maternal grandmother’s father – Timofey Kireev, he was a peasant in Penza, not a Doctor.
Maybe Jewish roots it’s another rumor from Yul? I don’t know.
Photo of Yul’s mother with her parents and sister: http://www.ym-penza.ru/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=453:penzenskie-korni-yula-brinnera&Itemid=278

follers April 15, 2015 at 10:05 am

Thank you. Yul’s son wrote about the Jewish great-grandfather in his book, but it appears to be another myth.

Is there any truth to the claim that Brynner’s paternal grandmother was of Buryat descent?

ann April 15, 2015 at 10:34 am

Bryner’s family website stated: “Kurkutov’s ancestors were from the tribe, from time immemorial inhabited the territory of modern Mongolia. Family legend has it that the great-grandfather of Natalia converted to Orthodoxy and at baptism received the name of Gerasim, and the name he was given the name of the tribe from which he came – Kurkutov.” It is a family legend, but it no confirmation.

follers April 17, 2015 at 12:01 pm

Ann, I wonder if you could find something conclusive on the background of Sylvester Stallone’s Russian-born maternal grandfather. Was he Jewish or not? Most clues I found point to not.

follers April 14, 2015 at 2:43 pm

Ethnic, is there a picture, please?

ethnic April 17, 2015 at 12:37 am

this one seems to be eluding me

Xtina December 18, 2013 at 11:59 pm

All my life I used to think Yul was black

neiltennant March 31, 2016 at 8:30 am


0 % black

i always knew he has eurasian blood

Affellay March 13, 2013 at 8:06 am

He also claimed to be of Romani descent: http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F50D17FA385513728DDDAD0894DE405B888BF1D3

And possibly one of the non-Slavic nationalities cause of his paternal grandmothers surname Kurkutova which is of Turkic (or Tatar-Mongolian) origin. I meant Turkic not the Turkish. SO dont be confused:)

andrew March 13, 2013 at 3:06 pm

yeah I’ve already read that. This site claims a 1/4 gypsy ancestry for Brinner


Michele March 30, 2012 at 1:40 pm

People Yul brynner’s age may start out as having japanese ancestry,then all of a sudden become Filipino,Korean,Chinese,or something else.Actuaal Chinese Americans would walk around signs,which would be offensive language today,proclaiming they were no Japanese.

Michele March 30, 2012 at 1:38 pm

He was born in the right era that he would be vague about having japanese ancestry.He could have passed this to his son.

christian March 23, 2012 at 6:24 am

he looks very russian 95 percent

most russian have this looks, even the mongolid eyes

i am from northern AFGHANISTAN and i know a lot of people of my family who look the same

storm January 28, 2012 at 1:42 am

black man

Cossette October 22, 2015 at 2:58 am

Lol.. Not even close.

Selene-The-Immortal August 2, 2011 at 4:54 pm

I looked him up, and wow. He was very different looking. He was unique.

ana August 2, 2011 at 4:19 pm

He was a great actor i loved the ten commandens even though he didn’t looked egyptian

Cossette October 22, 2015 at 3:03 am

Egyptian’s were very drivers in looks but they were mostly Caucasian/Arab. So, many Egyptian’s looked like him.

rafael June 9, 2011 at 4:54 pm

awesome actor what ever race he was

Lil vacha February 27, 2011 at 3:59 pm


lookatme May 25, 2010 at 10:16 pm

He had an ambiguous look to him. That’s why he could play Egyptian in the Ten Commandments, Asian in the King and I, and white in many movies. Simply means $$$. Kinda like Jessica Alba.

LiL V4CH4 April 3, 2010 at 2:30 am

Actually he is mixed w/ Buryat blood, also. Source at: Brynner, Rock (2006). Empire & odyssey: the Brynners in Far East Russia and beyond. Steerforth Press. pp. 20-30, 80-82. ISBN1586421026. (Its on Wikipedia.org)

kim January 20, 2010 at 1:32 pm

I thought for sure he had some asian in him?? I just finished watching westworld, great classic movie!!

Taylor September 1, 2009 at 10:18 am

He is not white.He looks like a Native-American.

ethnic September 1, 2009 at 12:01 pm

I doubt he is Native American. some Russians have central Asian blood and he does look a slightly Asian in appearance.

berated1 June 14, 2011 at 2:00 pm

I heard that he claimed Mongolian ancestry.

Cossette October 22, 2015 at 3:07 am

He is mostly white actually. He most likely has Mongolian blood by at least 15%. Most Native Americans are Eurasian by genetic testing. So, yeah, he looks it but he is white.

ethnic February 28, 2009 at 5:04 pm

Profiled edited


R0CKiN D0N'T H4T3 February 28, 2009 at 9:35 am

His mom is actually Russian-Jewish [references at wikipedia.org]

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