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Pushkin's African background - the Pushkins and the Gannibals

Enlarged image Explanatory note
Presumed portrait of Abram Petrovich Gannibal   Family tree
Presumed portrait of Abram Petrovich Gannibal (1696-1781), now known to be falsely attributed
British Library Ac.9088b, p.12
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  Copyright © The British Library Board
     
Enlarged image Enlarged image
Sergei Lvovich Pushkin   Nadzeha Osipovna Pushkina

Sergei Lvovich Pushkin (1767-1848)
British Library Ac.9088b, p.18

Copyright © The British Library Board

  Nadezhda Osipovna Pushkina, known as 'la belle Creole' (1775-1836)
British Library Ac.9088b, p.18

Copyright © The British Library Board

According to his son-in-law and first biographer, Abram (or Ibrahim) was the son of a ruler in Africa: possibly Chad, possibly Abyssinia. At an early age he was either abducted or sent to the court of the Turkish Sultan in Constantinople. Bought from the Sultan, Abram arrived in Russia and was baptised with Tsar Peter standing as his godfather. Peter visited France in 1717, and at the same time Abram was sent to study there. He returned with the conventional skills of an officer of artillery, but he had also acquired a new surname, Hannibal (in Russian, Gannibal), and the name had significant echoes of republican defiance. A respected military engineer, he was promoted under successive rulers and lived on into the reign of Catherine the Great. There is no reliable likeness of Gannibal. Hugh Barnes, in his book Gannibal: The Moor of Petersburg (2005), has shown that this portrait, long thought to be of Gannibal, cannot be of him.

Gannibal's third son (of 11) by his second marriage Osip Abramovich married Marya Alexeevna Pushkin, and their daughter was Pushkin’s mother Nadezhda. Pushkin’s father Sergei Lvovich Pushkin came from a family of boyars (nobles) whose fortunes had declined under Peter the Great. Sergei Lvovich inherited the family estates, and had the reputation of being idle, frivolous and miserly. He was also a fluent French speaker and had a large library of French literature and philosophy, both of which offered Pushkin a solid grounding for his later education. Pushkin’s mother inherited the family estates from her father Osip, but he had left it so heavily encumbered with debt that, during her lifetime, the income went into paying it off. She was beautiful and elegant, but Pushkin was no closer to her than he was to his father.

Guest-curated for the British Library by Mike Phillips

Childhood and Schooldays Next - 'Childhood and Schooldays'

Introduction Introduction
Alexander Pushkin
Alexander Dumas Alexandre Dumas
George Polgreen Bridgetower George Polgreen Bridgetower
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Samuel Coleridge-Taylor
John Archer John Archer
 
 
 
Discover more:
Introduction
Introduction
Alexander Pushkin
Pushkin's African background - the Pushkins and the Gannibals
Childhood and schooldays
Childhood and schooldays
Pushkin, poet and troublemaker - the early years
Pushkin, poet and troublemaker - the early years
Pushkin in exile - the prisoner of the Caucasus
Pushkin in exile - the prisoner of the Caucasus
Back from exile - life on the family estate
Back from exile - life on the family estate
The Decembrist disaster
The Decembrist disaster
The Negro of Peter the Great
The Negro of Peter the Great
Pushkin takes a wife and writes The Bronze Horseman
Pushkin takes a wife and writes The Bronze Horseman
Pushkin's death and its aftermath
Pushkin's death and its aftermath
Alexandre Dumas
Alexandre Dumas
George Polgreen Bridgetower
George Polgreen Bridgetower
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor
John Archer
John Archer
 
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