From Slave to General, Abraham Hannibal
Major-General Abraham Petrovich Hannibal.
Died May 14, 1781.
at aged 85.
Major-General Abraham Petrovich Hannibal was an African kidnapped and brought to Russia. He was a Black African slave who became a successful general and military engineer in Russia and governor of Reval and nobleman of the Russian Empire.
He is perhaps best known today as the great-grandfather of Alexander Pushkin, who wrote an unfinished novel about him, Peter the Great’s Lord.
Hannibal was born in the Eritrean highland.
There are a number of contradictions between the biographies of Pushkin and the German novel, The Blackamoor of Peter the Great.
Writings about Hannibal suggest he was born in 1696 in a village called “Lagon”, in present-day Eritrea, located “on the northern side of the Mareb River. which serves as much of the modern border between Ethiopia and Eritrea. The area corresponds to today’s Loggo Sarda, which had its own rulers, and which is inhabited by Christian Tigrinyans and Muslim Sahos. Others claim it to correspond to nearby Loggo Chewwa further west in Eritrea.
At the age of eight he was captured and taken to Turkey, where he was once again kidnapped and taken to Moscow.
He was given to the Czar, Peter the Great, who grew fond of him because of his intelligence.
For ten years Hannibal went everywhere with the Czar, who gave him the name Abram after the famous African general Petrovich after himself Hannibal.
He completed his early schooling and was found to have a natural gift for mathematics and engineering.
With his skill, he helped to assemble the naval port and fortress town of Kronstadt, which played an important role in the history of Russia.
The Czar sent Abram to Paris to study engineering, and he stayed in France for six years. During that time, he joined the French Army as a “commander,” taking part in the Spanish war of the Czar’s Guard as an engineer lieutenant.
Peter the Great died in 1725 and immediately Hannibal was banished to Siberia. There he built the fortress of Selenchinsk, escaping only to be recaptured and returned to exile.
In 1741, a new ruler came to power and Hannibal was restored to honor in the army, quickly rising to the rank of general.
With his skill and intelligence Hannibal made many contributions to Russia: He secured the boundary line between Russia and Sweden, and was appointed to a post to inspect the forts of Russia. But his greatest achievements were his selection as commandant of the city of Reval, and his promotion to a major in the Tomesk stronghold.
After retiring from service in 1733, with the accession of Peter the Great’s daughter Empress Elizabeth, he returned to the Court in 1741. She awarded him military promotions, engineering projects and an estate near St. Petersburg where he retired in 1762.
Hannibal illegally married Christina Regina Von Shoberg, the daughter of a German officer.
The couple had 11 children and in 1799, their granddaughter Nadezhda gave birth to Alexander Pushkin, the father of modern Russian literature and that country’s greatest poet.
Hannibal died on May 14, 1781, and though he never knew his grandfather, Pushkin was enamored with his African heritage.
Pushkin wrote a fictionalized biography of Hannibal The Negro of Peter the Great, in 1837.