Monday, January 5, 2009

General Abraham Hannibal, General Ivan Hannibal, Alexander S. Pushkin and Descandants



General Ivan Hannibal


For the purpose of this article, among General Abraham Hannibal's children, three (Ivan, Peter and Ossip Abramovich) stand out the most. Despite Abraham Hannibal's objection and reservation, the eldest son, Ivan Hannibal, had a distinguished and illustrious military career, which almost equals that of his father's.

According to Professor Allison Blakley,

By the 1760’s Ivan Hannibal had attained the rank of lieutenant colonel in the field artillery. In 1770 Ivan Hannibal was made section master of naval artillery in the fleet under Admiral G. A. Spiridov, he participated in the taking of Koron and Navarino and in the battle at Chesma(Chesmensk). It is said that the officer in charge of the Russian forces at Navarino, who happened to be none other than one of the princes Dolgoruky, decided the fortress could not be taken. The assignment was given by Spiridov to Ivan Hannibal, who planned and carried out a successful fifteen-day seige by land and sea (he is considered the hero of Navarino and Chesma) .

In 1772 he was promoted to major general of brigadiers, and in 1776 to general of naval artillery. He was appointed a member of the admiralty college in 1777. By the mid-eighteenth century, the palace "German coup” that General Abraham Petrovich Hannibal had feared was completed. Empress Catherine II with her lover Prince Serenissimus Potemkin were in charge. After the ending of the Russian-Turkish war the territory of the Steppe between South Bug and Dnipro (Dnieper) was passed to Russia (the History of Kherson).

During this long war, in 1737 Russia had made fortification on the high right bank of the river Dnieper called Alexander Shantz. On the other side, the Ottomans had kept a powerful fortress. As a result, Russia was worried that the southern front was open for invasion. To strengthen this front, Empress Catherine II (the Great), some say, Potemkin decided to create a port capable of building ships, trade, quay, shipyard and a fortress. Again, some say, it was Empress Catherine II who chose the name of the port to be called Kherson -in honor of ancient Greek Khersonesus -
(History of Kherson), and others point out that it was Potemkin who chose the sonorous name, ringing with his neo-classical and orthodox dreams of Khersoneses (Sebag-Montefiore). This was the period when like his father before him, the palace intrigue caught up with Ivan Hannibal.

On 31 may 1778, Empress Catherine II adapted Prince Potemkin’s plan of creating a Black Sea fleet to ensure safety for the southern boundaries of the empire. As a result, on July 25, 1778, Prince Potemkin chose General (Admiral) Ivan Hannibal to be the first Governor of Kherson (modern day Ukraine). For the second time, the second generation of General Abraham P. Hannibal, was sent to tackle the Russian bear. Or was it hoped that the Russian bear would tackle General Ivan Hannibal first? The task was so daunting. There were 500 carpenters and thousands of workers who were to build Kherson. Potemkin’s obsession to have Kherson build was driving Ivan Hannibal relentless (Sebag-Montfiore). By August, Ivan Hannibal had established twelve teams of workers and bought timber on the upper Dnieper in Belarus and Poland which had to be floated down the river to Kherson. Consequently, Kherson grew tremendously.

What Abraham Hannibal had feared came true when a dispute erupted between the all powerful Prince Potemkin and General Ivan Hannibal. According to Blakley, even though, supposedly, Empress Catherine II supported General Ivan Hannibal in this dispute, he nevertheless, retired due to “illness” (or rather disgust) to one of his estates in 1784. General Ivan Hannibal was not only a brilliant military strategist and commander but also a generous person. He looked after his siblings and their affairs. Ivan Hannibal was not only aware of his Africaness but was also proud of it. Kherson, in memory of its first governor, General Ivan Hannibal, had built him a monument. General Ivan Hannibal died in 1801. His tombstone, reads: “the sultriness of Africa bore him, the cold calmed his blood” (Sebag-Motefiore).

Ossip Abramovich: The Direct Line (Alexander Pushkin’s Grandfather)

Ossip Abramovich, Pushkin's maternal grandfather

The other son, Peter (1742-1822) had somehow a respectable military and civil service which was more or less a quiet one. On the other hand, Ossip Abramovich had a modest official career, however, he had a more agitated and romantic private life (Troyant)

Continuing quoting Troynat,

"Promoted to the rank of major, he was sent in 1773, to the cannon foundries at Lipetsk. Twenty-two verts from there lived a landed proprietor named Pushkin (not the poet) and his daughter, Maria Alexeievna. Ossip was a handsome blade, talkative, witty, unstable, and fiery. He soon won the heart of the young lady, married her in 1773, had a child, Nadejda (Alexander Pushkin‘s mother), by her, and abandoned her three years later, after having deceived her with a few of the neighbors farm girls."

A few years later, he moved to the province of Pskov and married a woman named Justine Tolstoya without the annulment of the first marriage. As a result, Maria Alexeievna denounced him forcing the annulment of the second marriage. Ossip Abramovich appealed to the Holy Synod and later to Empress Catherine II. After Empress Catherine II declared the second marriage invalid, Ossip then being a naval officer in the Black Sea fleet left Russia with the fleet.
General Ivan Hannibal, in the meantime, took care of his brother’s wife and daughter. Ossip’s daughter known for her striking beauty (the Creole Beauty) was brought in the house hold of Potemkin’s first governor of Kherson, General Ivan Hannibal (Sebag- Motefiore)

Nadeja, Alexander S. Pushkin's mother.

Sergei Pushkin, Alexander S. Pushkin's father.

Maria Alexeievna, according to Troyant, was intelligent, economical, and active. She had secured a fourth of Ossip’s property estate at Kobrino for her daughter. Nadeja, at the age of twenty-two married a distant cousin of her mother called Sergei Pushkin (the Pushkin family on the poet’s father side had been a noble family for 600 years). Seven years before Ossip Abramovich died in
1806, Maria Alexeievna sold her estate at Kobrino and freed among others, a serf girl by the name or Arina Rodionovna (who would become the real “mother” and inspiration to Alexander S. Pushkin). Arina refused to accept the freedom she was offered and remained with Maria Alexeievna. Arina was a peasant woman, of forty two, gentle and talkative, and she knew all the old tales, folk-songs, and the sayings of her country. (Troyant)

It was these folk tales, folk-lores, fables and folk-songs told by Arina Rodionovna, which fired up young Pushkin’s imagination, boundless.

Arina Rodionovna

Next, Part Four.

The Third Generation
Alexander S. Pushkin: the Son and Sun of Russia
The Odyssey Continues


  1. Thank You Very Much for this blog and your research---God Bless You!

  2. Excellent research, beautifully presented. How interesting!
    Well done Issayas.
    Excellent reading material

  3. Issayas does it again! I love your work man. My father always asks me to send him an e-mail to your work when ever you updated your blog. My father is a historian and loves your work. Well done Issayas.