Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

Toasting a Black Russian

Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

Toasting a Black Russian

Article excerpt

"Soul Man" by Anne Lounsbery, in Transition (2000: No. 84), 69 Dunster St., Cambridge, Mass. 02138. (www.TransitionMagazine.com)

It's a curious fact, often ignored in the past by white Americans, that Alexander Pushkin (1799-1837), the celebrated father of Russian literature, was descended from a black African slave. Pushkin himself was proud of his African heritage--and African Americans have long been proud of him, writes Lounsbery, a lecturer in Russian literature at Harvard University.

Pushkin's great-grandfather, Avram Petrovich Cannibal, "was probably born in what is now Cameroon, just south of Lake Chad," she says. "By his own account, he was the son of a local prince. Abducted as a child from his native city and taken to Constantinople around 1705, Gannibal was acquired as a slave by a Russian diplomat." At the court of Peter the Great, his intelligence so impressed the tsar that he made him his godson and sent him to France to be educated. Under Peter's daughter, the Empress Elizabeth, Cannibal became an engineer and a general in the Russian army. His son also became a general, and his granddaughter, "known in high society as 'the beautiful Creole,"' Lounsbery says, became Pushkin's mother.

In Eugene Onegin (1831), Pushkin reflected on his heritage, representing himself as an African in exile longing to live again "under the skies of my Africa," only then to sigh for "gloomy Russia, where I suffered, where I loved, where I have buried my heart. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.