Alexander Pushkin, the Black father of Russian literature

Young Alexander Pushkin
Young Alexander Pushkin

Yes… that’s right! Alexander Pushkin, the father of modern Russian literature, was in reality Black.  His great-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 “Logon” 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).  Today, most agree that he was actually from Cameroon. Interestingly enough, Alexander himself was very proud of his African ancestry.

Alexander Pushkin
Alexander Pushkin

Just to give you a time frame, Pushkin lived from 1799 to 1837 in Russia, and even wrote a book about his great-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.

Pushkin's monument in St Petersburg
Pushkin’s monument in St Petersburg

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.

41 thoughts on “Alexander Pushkin, the Black father of Russian literature

  1. Pingback: Alexandre Dumas: Greatest French writer of… African descent « African Heritage

  2. Look out for my suriname blue blood is black blood museum, based on my research which states that the nobility and regent class elite in Europe was brown or black of complexion, with some showing classical African facial traits, like Pushkin. He was fourth generation African, yet looked very black and prognastic, because all other ancestors were brown or black. He painted his mother in law with a extreme black face.
    We need to reexamine what these people have written about Blacks and find out what our real history is.

    Egmond Codfried
    Curator Suriname Blue Blood Is Black Blood Museum


      1. InformationandQuality

        That’s merely a subjective study. According to the letters that Gannibal sent, he was from Lagona. Lagona was a part of Abyssinia (Modern day Ethiopia). Eritrea didn’t even exist back then.


    1. Abdul

      Here’s a smart Eritrean dude from another forum explaining how and why Ethiopians and other Africans like cameroon always had claimed Abraham Hannibal, despite having no evidence!Most of the evidence places his origins in Ethiopia, in the area of present-day Eritrea. By Hannibal’s own account, he was the son of a prince of that region and was taken prisoner and enslaved as a result of war with the Turks.

      This is also why the Russian government stated he is of Eritrean in ancestry and built a statue of Pushkin and a museum of Abraham in Asmara, Eritrea. Abraham Hannibal’s son in law stated in an 18th century letter that Abraham was “Habesha”


      1. Thank you Abdul for all the clarification. I will make the changes to show that Gannibal’s true origin (where he came from in Africa) is disputed. There is also the research by Dieudonne Gnammankou about Abram Gannibal’s Kotoko ancestry (Cameroonian).


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  5. I’m perplexed how Pushkin is black. I am black because my mother and father are bot indigenous africans. Puskin, at best, is biracial if not more european, since only his grandfather was black. The “one-drop” rule is racist. I am surprised we reject racism, yet accept one-drop as we do by saying Pushkin and A Dumas are black.


  6. The man’s mother was full European. His father was half white and half black. He himself was therefore 3/4 European. How in this world does that make him black? Some even also say Beethoven was black. How starved of self-worth are we?

    As Africans, have we not moved beyond trying to impress Europeans with our accomplishments, which behavior had always been, historically, in lockstep with that of those traitors who undermined us for the benefit of the Europeans during colonialism and Apartheid? Are our accomplishments not worth much by themselves in our own eyes? Probably not, and that is why, from Ethiopia to South Africa, we are still so miserable, with foreigners, including some who were colonized as we were, trampling over our economies, and we merely sit looking on. If we truly cherished accomplishment this would not be happening.

    Without understanding identity and truly grasping what it means to respect oneself, we will make no progress. All those pretenders walking the “corridors of power” around the world, though they may seem to be accomplished yet, in the light of our troubles on the continent, are of no use whatsoever to us. Worse, they are merely lackeys of European imperialism.

    How has this “father of Russian literature”, even if he were “black”, helped Cameroun or Eritrea or Ethiopia. This is foolish and empty vain glory. I daresay some fools would one day erect a statue of this man at the african union, whiles our own, who look 100% like us, and who fought hard for the “freedoms” we have now to travel the enjoy the world are unknown by our children. Which Africans ever praised Martin Luther King or Malcolm X, or Paul Robson, or Sojourner truth, who were more worthy ancestors with accomplishments directly relevant to us?

    My achievement must be worth enough in my own eyes, regardless who regards or does not.


    1. Hello The Bantu, yes… your achievements are worth enough in your own eyes. Just like the achievements of any child of Africa who lived in Africa or any other continent on earth. I think it is worth celebrating the achievements of ALL children of Africa, including those of African descents… . We celebrate outstanding achievements of children of Africa. Lastly, there is nothing wrong with stating the truth about someone’s identity. It is just correcting history. Moreover, it will be false to say that the works of Martin Luther King or Malcolm X did not influence many African leaders (and leaders around the globe), particularly those who were fighting for independence or fighting against apartheid. So their works too… need to be celebrated.


      1. Abuild

        Ha, Ha, He was proud to be African root Eritrean he see him self black
        and he look African. You need to asked him why he was to be proud!


    2. Great to see Alexander Pushkin Abraham Hannibal here, I have been researching about him and I am so exited by what I read, yes Eritrean and Russian people are proud of the achievement of this linage of hero…..and they have the right to be, and the rest of the world that appreciates literature loves and respects Alexander Pushkin.


    3. Lilly

      Finally some common sense! I met a mixed raced american girl who tried to convince me that purely black people can get white kids and that is how white race was created at the first place and that she knows one black couple who got a redhead white skin child. They are really really light blacks she said… Turns out that she was talking about two mixed raced people who were more of “white” than of the “black” origin.
      That is really sad that after all you suffered you’re doing that to yourselves.
      It seems that many of those people have problem to see that black race is a race just like any other. That they don’t have to prove themselves to anyone. That one doesn’t have to be superior in order to be worth of respect and worth of living no matter what color he or she is .
      And by the way, color was never the reason it was just an excuse for them. Slav(ic) people had the same treatment as black people from that same group but they were harder to keep imprisoned cause it was easier for them to hide as they were white too. But they hate us with the same passion they hate you.
      Before Germanic tribes came to Europe u don’t even have traces of wars in Europe. After they arrived you have numerous skeletons with clear signs of violent death many of which were skeletons of infants. And as you can guess they were not Germanic.
      And it’s really sad if you too, just like them, see others through color. Hasn’t anyone of you really noticed that he(Pushkin) was a full righted citizen and a part of society(high class society) in that country in 17th century?Not only him(mixed raced) but his grandfather(pure black) too.
      How many talented, smart, brave black man in America in 16th and 17th century got that same chance to achieve something? To become general or even poet? None, right?


      1. In the demographic census, is there a check box for race as MIXED? To this day, in this world, there is no place with MIXED person… Why? because you are either one or the other… so dear Gary… you are actually the one hating yourself!


  7. IchBinMeisterin

    I think a more accurate description of Pushkin would be that he had African racial heritage, as his lineage is of mixed, rather than black, race. Pushkin was very proud of his African great-grandfather, but in his self-portrait we can see he idealized himself as resembling a more European look. It is therefore very likely that most pictures of him present him as being lighter-skinned than was the reality. Pushkin is quoted as having questioned the English painted George Dawe thus: “Why is your marvellous pencil sketching my blackamoor profile?” This gives credence to his African heritage, but also his passive internalization of racist beauty standards. (Source: Gannibal- Hugh Barnes, Image insert).


    1. What a shame that we are almost.fighting about identity of someone who obviously had a white wife and uich less black children. Is this subject worth all the time we devote Regardless puskin being “black” resolve it our governance and social development issues back home in africa? Are we so desperate for examples of heroes as africans that we clutching at straws?


  8. Joe

    Abram Petrovich Gannibal, Alexander Pushkin’s great grandfather, was most likely from what is now Cameroon. The thought, that he was from Eritrea in east Africa, came from the inability of Europeans in the 1800’s to believe, that someone as accomplished as Gannibal, could come from central Africa, where, at the time, there was little, if any, signifigant white racial heritage. East Africans had been mixed with whites for thousands of years. After all, The Queen of Sheba and King Solomon were an “item”. …It was in this light, that European historians of the 1800’s “established” that the great Abram Petrovich Gannibal was from Eritrea in Ethiopia. Later, far less biased research, figured him to be from what is now Camaroon. Also, although it may be meaningless, Abram Petrovich Gannibal looks like a mathmatician I knew from Cameroon, who was a professor of mine in engineering school.
    Although Alexander Pushkin was proud of his great grandfather, because of the time he lived in, he was almost debilitatingly self-conscious about his mixed racial heritage. The 1800’s were a peak time for racism and unfortunately, a conflicted Pushkin, sometimes tried to conceal and was wrongly embarassed by his black heritage, something that his great grandfather didn’t have to worry about a hundred years earlier, since racism wasn’t nearly as big a deal in Gannibal’s time. During that 100 years, racism became more codified into law and justified by incorrect science. Sure, there’s been racism for thousands of years, but it wasn’t of much day to day significance, until it became “Officially Sanctioned” by Government!


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  11. I remember hearing about that sometime last year. I thought it was crazy until I looked it up and realized that Pushkin really had some African ancestry. It’s so crazy thinking that a Russian would have some Black DNA in them.


    1. Yes… the world is so small… and we think it weird that a Russian would have some Black DNA, and we forget the effect of slavery, colonization, etc. As a lookout, you will be surprised to find out that about 30% of Greeks suffer from has sickle cell disease… which tells you that Greece is mostly made up of Africans!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, and it still blows my mind that it would happen in Russia of all places. I didn’t know about that percentage of Greeks with sickle cell. That is surprising until I remembered some things about that country. Going back to ancient times, Greece was possibly the first multiracial or at the very least biracial society since there were Africans who lived there and I know Greece did business with the ancient Egyptians, Nubians, and Ethiopians way back when. Even Ethiopia was name-dropped in some of their stories such as The Iliad and The Odyssey (fictionalized, obviously, but it was still mentioned). It also explains why Greeks are darker on average compared to most European ethnic groups. I even heard that in America, Greeks weren’t considered “White” until roughly the early-mid 20th century.


  12. gARY



    1. When they describe you in the census… what do they put? At least in the US, they will put BLACK (there is no such thing as Mulatto in the census)… thus PUSHKIN was BLACK, and he was very proud of it!


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  16. Pingback: Racial passing, ethnic identity and DNA as all-embracing metaphor | Antipodean Atheist

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