“That Little Devil Tasha” – Pushkin’s Daughter – Part I

Dear Readers:

Today I have something completely different for you:  It is the story about Natalia Alexandrovna Pushkina, aka “Tasha”, the youngest daughter of Russia’s greatest poet.

Tasha Is Born

On  23 May 1836, the little girl Natalia was born into the family of Alexander Sergeevich and his wife Natalia Nikolaevna Pushkina-Lanskaya.

Based on the family tree, as shown above, Tasha’s direct ancestor was the Moor Abram Petrovich Hannibal  [Russian:  Gannibal] (1696-1791).  Hannibal was a military engineer and General of the Russian armed forces during the reign of Peter the Great.

General Hannibal

Hannibal married Kristina Sheberg (1717-1781) and begat Osip Abramovich Hannibal (1744-1806).  Osip married Maria Alexeevna Pushkina (1745-1818).  They begat Nadezhda Osipovna Hannibal (1775-1836) who in turn married her cousin (Sergei Lvovich, 1770-1848) from the other side of the family, whose surname, conveniently, was also Pushkin; hence Nadezda was known as Hannibal-Pushkina.  This couple (Sergei Lvovich + Nadezhda) begat Alexander Sergeevich Pushkin, the great Russian poet.  Pushkin later married Natalia Nikolaevna Goncharova, and between the two of them they begat four children, two boys and two girls.  Their youngest child Natalia, about whom is this piece, was only eight months old when her dad was killed in a duel.  Hence, she never knew him.  And yet portraits show that she was his spitting image.

The face, the nose, the tilt of the head, the tight lips, the curly hair.  And, incredibly, even four generations down, she still shows some faint African features of her ancestor Hannibal.  She also shows Hannibal’s sharp aquiline nose and piercing eyes.

Tasha was to go on to live a long life and only died in 1913, on the eve of the Great War.

A Struggling Family

After the death of her poet husband, Natalia Nikolaevna was left in a tough situation.  She had four children to feed and had inherited many debts from her sometimes careless husband.  The creditors were always knocking at the door.  Fortunately, the Emperor Nikolai came to the help of the struggling family.  He had their debts paid off and assigned a pension to the widow.  In addition, he established pensions for the daughters, up until such time as they married; and also gave the two sons jobs as pages in his court.

Tsar Nicholas helped Pushkin’s family.

The widow Natalia continued to dress in mourning clothes and refuse suitors, right up until 1844, when she finally re-married.  Her new husband was General Petr Petrovich Lanskoy, who had served in the regiment with her brother.  Some gossip about Natalia is given in her wiki page:

Much was made of Natalya’s relationship with Nicholas I after Pushkin’s death; it was even rumoured that she became his mistress. In 1843, she met Petr Petrovich Lanskoy (1799-1877), who served at the same regiment as her brother. After having been blessed by the tsar, their wedding was held in Strelna on 16 July 1844. Lanskoy was in favour with the tsar, and he had had a remarkable career before his marriage. Following the marriage, Natalya gave birth to three daughters: Alexandra (b. 1845), Elizaveta (b. 1846) and Sophia (b. 1848). Natalya died on 26 November 1863 and her ashes were laid in the cemetery of the Alexander Nevsky Lavra.

This shows that Natalia Goncharova was a fruitful woman, bearing seven children in all, from two husbands, some of them even in her mid 30’s!

A Budding Beauty

History records a curious incident which occurred on the day of Natalia’s wedding to Lanskoy.  The wedding ceremony was disrupted by the highjinks of a 17-year-old adolescent named Nikolai Orlov, the son of Count Orlov (the notorious Head of the Secret Police under the Tsar).  Young Nikolai climbed up onto the bell tower of the church where the marriage ceremony was taking place.  Accidentally bumping the bell, which then sounded and revealed his presence.  It was said that the lad was trying to get a better look at the bride’s youngest daughter, Tasha.  Given that Tasha was only eight at the time, this is creepy; however, it is a fact that (a) Orlov became a frequent guest at the Lanskoy’s household; and (b) Tasha was already becoming a person of interest to grown men, even before reaching puberty.  A fact which caused her mother endless worries, as can be imagined.

[to be continued]

This entry was posted in Celebrity Gossip, Russian History, Russian Literature and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to “That Little Devil Tasha” – Pushkin’s Daughter – Part I

  1. Lyttenburgh says:

    “Hannibal was a military engineer and General of the Russian armed forces during the reign of Peter the Great.”

    A small correction – he achieved a rank of General of Artillery not in Peter the Great’s lifetime, but during the reign of Elizaveta Petrovna, czar Peter’s daughter. Thus he became the first European general of the African descent – long before the father of Alexander Dumais (pere), whose father was a general during the 1st Republic (and who had a serious falling out with Napoleon).

    It was under Elizaveta I that he received Mikhailovskoye as his familial votchina.

    And let’s not forget that it was Ibrahim Petrovich who inspired young Suvorov to overcome his constantly failing health and choose a military career. He even presented the future generalissimos with a saber, which he in turn received from Peter the Great.

    Hannibal’s coat of arms:


    • yalensis says:

      Thanks, Lyttenburgh!
      The coat of arms is awesome. Did Hannibal regard himself as a descendant of the actual Carthagian Hannibal from Roman times?


      • Lyttenburgh says:

        “Did Hannibal regard himself as a descendant of the actual Carthagian Hannibal from Roman times?”

        Well, no. 🙂 Only as a descendant of Ethiopian prince or high rankin noble. He adopted “Hannibal” as a surname only when he came to France to serve in French army.

        Actually, he was not from Ethiopia, but from a small kingdom near lake Chad. He could be a son of a chief or even sultan, sold to the Turks by a rival faction.


        • yalensis says:

          Or he could be just a mere low-born commoner pretending to be high-born. (haughty sniff)


          • Jen says:

            Lyttenburgh’s argument seems more plausible. The young Abram Petrovich was probably traded as a child hostage as part of a post-war series of negotiations and reparations between two African kingdoms or among several kingdoms. Children of chiefs and nobility could have been more valuable as hostages than children of commoners. The boy could also have been enslaved to settle a long-standing debt or kidnapped.



            • yalensis says:

              I like this bit:
              “To Hannibal’s misery, his protector Peter the Great died in 1725, leaving the black artillery lieutenant in the dependence of the royal advisor Prince Menshikov, who–due to his dislike for Hannibal–assigned him to Siberia and later to the Chinese border where his task was to measure the Great Wall.”

              Menshikov was quite the douche, for his time! I think he was just jealous of anybody whom Peter liked better than him. Can you imagine a boring job like measuring the Great Wall?


        • I. Blyden says:

          Abram Petrovich Petrov was the name and signature of Gannibal used throughout the reign of Peter I and after his death. It was the name the czar christened him with in Vilnius , standing as his godfather and the Polish princess Christina Eberhardina as godmother. When Peter died Menshikov who became Minister of State sent him on a mission to the border with China . It was on his return from this mission that he began to pen the name “Gannibal” as his surname. Btw, Elizabeth Petrovna awarded him the Province of Pskov and some surrounding villages which he later divided among his sons. He was the first and only African civil and military engineer in the Russian empire for about 40 years. Peter I also made him military trainer of the Preobrazhensky Regiment. He retired when Ekaterina II came to power.


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