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.
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.
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]