Alexander Pushkin is known as the quintessential Russian writer. What many readers don’t know is that he took particular inspiration from his African great-grandfather, General Abraham Petrovitch Gannibal. According to Anne Lounsbery, a scholar of Russian Literature, “Boyar credentials, African heritage, and a personal link to Peter the Great were all crucial to Pushkin’s identity.” Playing up his connection with Gannibal, the author adopted the nickname “afrikanets, ‘the African.” His connection with his relative showed up in other ways, too. Gannibal (sometimes written Hannibal), was very young when he was kidnapped from Africa and sent to Constantinople as a slave. From there, a Serbian Count named Sava Vladislavić brought him to the Court of Peter the Great in St. Petersburg. The Tsar became very fond of the young boy. He made him his godson, conferring upon him the patronymic Petrovitch, son of Peter, and sent him to study in France. By the time Peter the Great’s daughter Elizabeth took the throne, Gannibal’s rank and accomplishments allowed him noble status. But, in a 1742 letter to the Russian Senate, Gannibal insisted that his noble status was linked to his father being an African chief. “I am of African origin, of an illustrious local nobility. I was born in the city of Logone, on lands belonging to my father, who reigned, furthermore, over two other cities.” This appeal is the only
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