24 July 2010

Peter's Great Negro

Lately,  I've been into Russian literature, mainly poetry.  I now finally appreciate just how profound of an impact Pushkin had on modern Russian literature. Just as interesting is his background as the great grandson of "Peter's Great Negro", Abram Gannibal.

Abram Petrovich Gannibal, an Ethiopian (now Eritrean) was brought to Russia in 1704 as a gift for Peter the Great, by the Russian ambassador, on orders from Pyotr Tolstoy, the great-grandfather of Leo Tolstoy. 

One of many children kidnapped from aristocratic families, Gannibal was held captive in Constantinople until his relocation to Russia at the age of 8.  One year later in 1705, he was christened in St. Paraskeva Church with Peter I as his godfather.

Gannibal went on to become a major-general, military engineer, governor of Reval and untitled lord of the Russian Empire. His memory lives through his descendants among them the father of modern Russian literature Alexander Pushkin.