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Class Year

2011

Abstract

Since his untimely death in 1837, the nineteenth-century romantic writer Alexander Sergeevich Pushkin has been renowned the world over not only for his literary achievements, but also for being a paradigm of "Russianness." However, Pushkin himself was by no means a "pure" Russian. Like many of the inhabitants of the Russian empire during his time, he was borne of a veritable hodgepodge of ethnicities. The most surprising of these is his African ancestry; his great-grandfather, Abram Petrovich Gannibal, was an African slave brought to Russia in the early eighteenth century. Remarkably, this same slave became the godson and close confidante of Peter the Great himself. Although the link to Gannibal and his inspiring story was one of Pushkin’s greatest points of personal vanity, it was also a constant, painful reminder of his disconnection from Russian society and the aristocracy into which he was born.

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