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How Alexander Pushkin Was Inspired By His African Heritage

Alexander Pushkin is often regarded as the greatest Russian author. Many readers are unaware that he was influenced by his African great-grandfather, General Abraham Petrovitch Gannibal. “Boyar credentials, African heritage, and a personal link to Peter the Great were all vital to Pushkin’s identity,” says Anne Lounsbery, a Russian literature researcher. To emphasize his connection to Gannibal, the author acquired the moniker “afrikanets,” which means “the African.” His relationship with his relative manifested itself in other ways as well. Gannibal (sometimes spelled Hannibal) was a youthful captive who was stolen from Africa and sent to Constantinople. From there, he was transported to Peter the Great’s Court in St. Petersburg by a Serbian Count named Sava Vladislavi. The tiny youngster won the Tsar‘s heart. He made him his godson, giving him the patronymic Petrovitch, meaning “son of Peter,” and sending him to France to study. Gannibal’s rank and talents earned him noble nobility by the time Peter the Great’s daughter Elizabeth ascended the throne. Gannibal, however, argued in a 1742 letter to the Russian Senate that his noble position was due to his father’s standing as an African chief. “I am of African descent, descended from a prominent local nobility. I was born in the city of Logone, on my father’s estates, which he also ruled over two other cities.This is the only documented evidence of his African …

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