Yes… that’s right! Alexander Pushkin, the father of modern Russian literature, was in reality Black. His grandfather was actually an African slave, Abram Petrovich Gannibal, who later became a general to “Peter the Great”. The regional origin of Gannibal is often contested as it is often said that he was born in 1696 in the village of “Lagon” in modern-day Eritrea (a statue of Pushkin was erected in Asmara in 2009), while others claim that he was from the Logone-Birni area in Cameroon (possibly from the Kotoko kingdom or the Kanem-Bornu Empire). Interestingly enough, Alexander himself was very proud of his African ancestry.
Just to give you a time frame, Pushkin lived from 1799 to 1837 in Russia, and even wrote a book about his grandfather entitled “Peter the Great’s Negro,” also known as “Blackamoor of Peter the Great.” He is considered to be the greatest Russian poet and pioneered the use of vernacular speech in his poems, plays, mixing both drama and romance. Alexander Pushkin introduced Russia to all the European literary genres. He brought natural speech and foreign influences to create modern poetic Russian. Even though he lived a short life, he left examples of nearly every literary genre of his day: lyric poetry, narrative poetry, the novel, the short story, the drama, the critical essay, and even the personal letter. He lived a life entirely based on his favorite quote: “Live by the pen, die by the sword.” He lived a very provocative life, and was a real playboy. He died in a duel.
Monuments have been erected in Russia, in St Petersburg, Moscow, and schools do carry his name. PBS did a piece on Frontline, entitled Pushkin Genealogy. It is said that Leo Tolstoy‘s book’s character Anna Karenina is based on Pushkin’s daughter (Maria Gartung), whom Tolstoy described as being extremely beautiful and intelligent. Check out some of his books on Amazon: Eugene Onegin, The Queen of Spades, Boris Godunov, and others… Check out Wikipedia to learn more about the father of modern Russian literature.