Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Lagwen, Eritrea and Vilnius, Lithuania : A Connection?

Vilnius, Lithuania.
I'm sorry that I've been away for so long. I went to Lithuania at the beginning of July 2008 for work related business.A tee-shirt that I bought in Vilnius (the capital city of Lithuania) asks, "where the heck is Lithuania?" And you might say, "who cares?" Hold on. But, did you know that there is a connection between Eritrea and Lithuania, but specifically between Lagwen, Eritrea and Vilnius, Lithuania? I didn't think so!

What's Lagwen, a small village outside Asmara (the capital city of Eritrea) got to do with Vilnius, Lithuania? It's not because of sister-cities or sister-city/village connection. And the connection is not now. Let's say the connection was in 1705 AD. And 1705 isn't a typo. In other words, what's Lagwen and Vilnius, a city founded by Gediminas, Grand Duke of Lithuania (who based on a dream of an iron wolf that howled like hundred wolves) have in common? In short, Abraham Petrovich Hannibal.

You might ask who was Abraham P. Hannibal. Even though many countries claim him to be from their respective countries (Cameroon is the latest addition to the list: Eritrea, Ethiopia and Chad also claim him) but the strongest evidence places Eritrea as the birth place of Abraham P. Hannibal. Many renowned biographers of various nationalities of Alexander S.Pushkin (the great grand son of Abraham Hannibal) also support Eritrea as Abraham's birth place. In short, Abraham was kidnapped from Lagwen, Eritrea and was taken to Turkey and later to Russia. In Russia he became a general and became the maternal great grand father of Russia's greatest poet: Alexander Sergeevich Pushkin. I wrote a five parts series on this subject a while back on, and Using this article as a spring board, I will re-post the previous five parts soon.

I started writing this article from Hotel Narutis, which claims to be the oldest hotel in Vilnius (ANNO 1581) and finished it in the United States.

Hotel Narutis on Pilies Street, Vilnius, Lithuania.

Old town section of Vilnius is full of rich history. Tomas Venclova's City Guide is an excellent source about the richness of the city. Each building in the old section carries a multi-layered rich cultural and historical secret. Walking down the narrow alleys and roads, one feels like a time traveler. While I stayed in the old town, I dined at various Gothic cellar restaurants. The thought of Abraham Hannibal, who might have dined in one of the cellars, or who might have walked down one of the alleys of old Vilnius sent shivers down my spine.

Hotel Narutis is located on Pilies Street. It faces St. John's church: the church of Vilnius University (one of the oldest and most famous universities in Eastern and Northern Europe which was established in 1579). From Hotel Narutis going north on Pilies Street, there is a square where vendors sell their products. It is at this square that Pilies Street turns into Didzioji Street. On the left hand side is an old Russian Orthodox Church of Paraskeva (Piatnica). It was in this church in 1705 that Czar Peter I of Russia baptized Abraham P. Hannibal as his god-son. Every time I passed by the church, I got a sense of awe. A sense of tingling. Just think about it. In 2008, I knew how I got there and why I was there, but for a small boy who was kidnapped from Lagwen and ends up in Vilnius in 1705 to be the Son-in-Christ of a Russian czar is mind boggling!

Pilies Street, Vilinus, Lithuania.

Pilies Street turns into Didzioji Street

The Russian Orthodox Church of Paraskeva where Abraham Hannibal was baptized in 1705.

A plaque outside the Russian Orthodox Church indicating that Abraham Hannibal was baptized there in 1705. General Abraham Petrovich Hannibal.

At the main door of Vilnius University.

Inside St. John's Church of Vilnius University.

Formerly the summer home of one of Alexander S. Pushkin's descendants. Now Pushkin Museum, Vilnius, Lithuania.

The statue of Pushkin in Vilnius, Lithuania.

Narrow alleys and roads.

Examples of some of the magnificent buildings of Vilnius.

Finally, as I've mentioned earlier at the beginning of this introductory article, this will be a segue to re-post the previous five articles that I wrote about Abraham Hannibal and his descendants, soon.

As a footnote, however, I would like to add the following. Vilnius is not the only city that Lagwen, through Abraham Hanni
bal, had a connection with. Reval (now Tallinn the capital city of Estonia); Pernau, Estonia; Amsterdam, Holland and Paris, France were also some of the many other connections. General Abraham was a military commander of Reval for ten years from 1742-1752. Lagwen, through General Ivan, Abraham's oldest son, had also a connection with Kherson in Ukraine. General Ivan was one of the founders of the city of Kherson. Through the descendants of Alexander S. Pushkin, Lagwen's connections with other countries include Germany and Great Britain.


  1. Interesting, I know very little about Pushkin, and absolutely nothing about Abraham Hannibal.

    Maybe you can link to those articles that you wrote, so I can give them a quick read.

  2. Nice pictures- I have never seen anything from those countries. I am just curious, you say there is strong evidence that Abraham Hannibal was eritrea, I would like to know what is the evidence? And what do you think about the new claim of Cammaroon or Chad? Is DNA even possible?
    I am not trying to challenge- just would like know? Was the guy originally Muslim or christian, is that even known? Once of pictures says he was baptized there- does that mean he was Muslim? I thought the Turks only kidnapped or took children of Christians?

    Do you know of any source to get more information about him?

    Very interesting post!

  3. I just found your blog and it is wonderful! I have always known of Pushkin's Eritrean heritage, I have never heard him referred to as Ethiopian. The first time I saw the connection was actually in Russian literature about Ibrihim. I was reading about Hannibal's role in the Ottoman Empire. I have no idea how Cameroon and Chad are factored. The pictures are beautiful and your commitment to preserving our history is astounding.

  4. Mmmmm....This is something that I have heard before too. I am from Lagwen and It certainly would be interesting to know if Hannibal is a cousin.
    I had some doubts though.Often Ibrahim is believed to have been Muslim. In the current Lagwen, there are no Muslims although a certain book published a few decades ago,'Weledo Lagwen' claims that there are different Muslim groups who are decendants of Lagwen and are in different parts of Eritrea.
    What I would like to know is if there are some names available as to the parents of Hannibal. The book ,'Weledo Lagwen', could be used for cross referencing that information as it has an extensive list of names.

  5. my thank,that you are give a part of your time to search a very interesting history related to our blevoled country eritrea.please keep it up.we would love to hear and to know more about Abraham hannibal.if he is a man kind of eritrea we would like to welcome back him to eritrea and maybe we can create a museum get something for abraham hannibal,like pictures,wer eritreans people get to know him as well,without crossing the boarder to luthaun/europe.Awett Nhafash.USA

  6. You are misinforming the public here. Hannibal or Gannibal's origins have been traced back to Cameroon by several experts: From Russia, France and the USA. He was in fact from Logon and not Lagwen as you claim. Those who kidnapped him came via Lake Chad.The Logon words of his tribe of origin are still very present in the language and that was the starting point of the investigation. Plus DNA!
    The people of the Logon and Chari look very much like Ethiopians and that is why people think that he came from there.

    To find out more information, read these:Hugh Barnes, Gannibal: The Moor of Petersburg (London: Profile Books, 2005); Allison Blakely, Russia and the Negro: Blacks in Russian History and Thought (Washington, D.C.: Howard University Press, 1986); N. K. Teletova, “A.P. Gannibal: On the Occasion of the Three Hundredth Anniversary of the Birth of Alexander Pushkin's Great-Grandfather,” Under the Sky of My Africa: Alexander Pushkin and Blackness, Ed. Catharine Theimer Nepomnyashchy, Nicole Svobodny, and Ludmilla A. Trigos (Evanston, Northwestern University Press, 2006).

    You can also read about the expedition to Cameroon. It is all over google

  7. *In 1999, a Pushkin 200th anniversary expedition of St. Petersburg ethnographers and historians to Central African countries, headed by Igor Danilov with support of the Foreign Ministry, confirmed the assertion in 1964 by Russian poet and novelist, Vladimir Nabokov, and later supported by a French philologist, that Abram Hannibal had come from the now defunct sultanate of Logon, located on the border of present-day Chad and Cameroon, and not Abyssinia (Ethiopia) as previously believed. The project began in Russia when researchers located Hannibal's petition in 1742 to Empress Elizabeth for a coat-of-arms, in which he wrote: "I am a native of Africa..was born in the town of Logon, in the domain of my father, who had under him two other towns besides." The key evidence involved an elephant and the word "FUMMO", in Latin alphabet letters, on Hannibal's seal. The expedition, in two jeeps, reached the Kotoko tribe whose elders explained that the elephant was the patron and holy animal of their tribe, and that "FUMMO" meant "native land." Unconvinced, Ethiopia celebrated Pushkin's 200th anniversary and his "Ethiopian ancestry" with exhibitions, commemorative stamps and a street-naming ceremony in Addas Abba.

  8. your story linking Pushkin and Eritrea is a fiction built on another older fiction. please read this you will know what I mean. (I am an Eritrean by the way):