Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin was born in Moscow on June 6, 1799 (May 26, 1799 according to the Julian calendar used in Russia until 1917. All dates that follow will be given as Pushkin experienced them, “in the old style”). The poet’s father, Sergey Lvovich Pushkin, came from an illustrious, if impoverished, noble family. He was known for his wit, French library, and literary salons, in which he read Molière aloud. The poet’s mother Nadyezhda Osipovna, née Gannibal, was known as “la belle créole”. Her black grandfather, Ibrahim Gannibal, had been kidnapped in childhood from Central Africa, sold by slave traders to the Turks, and then bought and sent as a “gift” to Tsar Peter the Great. Peter baptized the boy Abraham, raised him fondly, and sent him to study military engineering at Vauban’s academy in France. Abraham became Russia’s chief fortress builder, and wrote textbooks in French on military engineering. Proud of his African heritage, he chose his last name in honor of the great Carthaginian general Hannibal. Repeatedly decorated for valiant service, he rose to the rank of General en chef of the Imperial Russian Army; Empress Elizabeth, Peter’s daughter, endowed him with estates, including Mikhailovskoye, in Pskov Province. Upon retirement, the former slave had become a Russian nobleman—owning 800 serfs (white slaves) himself. Pushkin inherited many of his great-grandfather’s African features, including thick lips, somewhat frizzy hair, and tan-colored skin. On his writing desk he kept an inkwell with a statuette of Negroes unloading cotton bales, and joked proudly of being a “Moor”:
Зачем твой дивный карандаш
Рисует мой арапский профиль? Why does your pencil so divine
Attempt to draw my Moorish profileAlexanderSer
The above is excerpted from a larger biographical profile, for more on Alexander Pushkin click on:http://alexanderpushkin.com/content/view/16/39/1/3/ or cut and paste.
Sunday, November 8th 2009 at 5:01PM
You can also
here to view all posts by this author...