Although the vast majority of Africans are unfamiliar with Pushkin's monumental works, most students of literature are aware of his "Blackamoor of Peter the Great," the biography of the poet's black great-grandfather, Ibrahim Petrovitch Gannibal.
Born in 1799, Aleksadr Segeyevich Pushkin published his first novel at the age of fifteen and by the time of his graduation from the prestigious Imperial Lyceum, was respected within the literary establishment. His Evgenii Onegin which he published at the age of 34 is considered the greatest masterpiece of Russian literature. Critics stated that Pushkin played up the family tradition that he was an Ethiopian princeling but he did not need to embellish his forebear's history. Pushkin was brought up by French Tutors and governesses. His Alma Mater was founded by Emperor Alexander I with the objective of educating children from families of note to occupy important posts in the Imperial service. Although his family was of modest means, Pushkin's father was of Russian nobility, while his mother's paternal grandmother was of mixed German and Scandinavian stock. Her paternal grandfather (Pushkin's great-grandfather) was Abram Petrovich Gannibal, a page born of Ethiopian nobility in either Lagon, Eritrea or Ethiopia and raised by Peter the Great.
At court, Ibrahim Petrovitch Gannibal was treated no less than a member of the royal family as Peter the Great extended his paternalistic relationship with his serf nation to the young Negro, setting out to prove through him that by sheer dint of hard work, men of all backgrounds (including blacks and slaves) could obtain knowledge and civilization. The Emperor himself was godfather of Ibrahim at his baptism at the age of eight years. His godmother was the Queen of Poland. This experiment went on to prove that any man regardless of colour or race could rise to great prominence under the right circumstances. Peter's expectations for Ibrahim were as though he was a son of his own loins. His role as Russia's reformist Emperor cast on Ibrahim the responsibility to defend it. In 1717 the young blackamoor was sent to France for an education in both civil and military engineering. He returned to become governor and later on General-en-Chef in Reval.
A number of Pushkin's descendants married into British and Nassau nobility. Media covering the wedding of Pushkin's descendant Nadja Mounbatten's wedding at Buckingham Palace snidely pointed to Nadja's African ancestry, speculating that this branch of the Royal Family would produce black babies. The bride's relationship with the great Russian poet was duly mentioned but editorials centered on the morganatic backgrounds of both spouses.
In spite of numerous publications of the Mountbatten's history, few references are made to Nadja who was Marchioness of Milford Haven, aunt and step-mother to Prince Phillip during his adolescence. When his parents were exiled from Greece at the beginning of the war, Prince Phillip was sent to his mother's elder brother, the Marquis of Mountbatten in Milford Haven. Nandja's husband and brother-in-law Louis (Viceroy of India), were both Navy men and Nadja herself made news when along with her sister in law Alice (who was of Jewish ancestry) piloted a two seater aircraft across Eastern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa.
This piece of history gives an insight into Prince Phillip's liberalism in spite of the anti-black and the anti-semetic sentiments that ruled the day during his formative years. It is well known that the Queen's family changed its name from Hanover to Windsor, while Prince Phillip's family changed its name from Battenberg to Mountbatten to prevent backlash from anti-German sentiments that accompanied the First World War. Less well known is how the Royal Family might have dealt with their ancestry, had they not been who they were as they would most certainly have been ostracized from political power.
Pushkin would have been quite pleased to know British royalty would be numbered among his descendants today. He would have probably also found it ironic that if he had stressed his royal Ethiopian ancestry, he might have removed the stigma of 'morganatic' from the marriages of his daughter and his granddaughter, after all, his great-grandfather was an Ethiopian prince. Furthermore, the Ethiopian Royal House belonged to the dynasty founded by Menelik, the son of the Old Testament King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba.
It is said that the Gannibals were not the first black noble family of Russia. The name "abach" means Abyssinian, hence the princely house of the Abachidze is believed to be Ethiopian in origin. They intermarried with and became lineal ancestors of the royal houses of Imerithia and Georgia of the Caucuses.
The Arapovs have filled military posts as generals and governors since 1613. The Arapovs claim they derive their name from the word, "arap" or arab, which is Russian for Negro. The Axakovs also trace their ancestry to Africa, having come to Moscow in the entourage of Prince Danila Alexandrovitch of Souzdal before 1300.
Petr Alexeevitch aide de camp to Catherine the Great was a descendant of Chimon Afrkanovich who arrived in Russia and entered the service of the Grand Duke Iaroslav Vladimirovich of Kiev. His descendants carried the name, Isleniev and held high ranking positions in the army.
Last Updated on Monday, 19 May 2014 14:17
Written by Sage