Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin (Russian: Алекса́ндр Серге́евич Пу́шкин, pronounced ( listen)) (6 June 1799 – 10 February 1837) was a Russian author of the Romantic era who is considered by many to be the greatest Russian poet and the founder of modern Russian literature. Pushkin pioneered the use of vernacular speech in his poems and plays, creating a style of storytelling—mixing drama, romance, and satire—associated with Russian literature ever since and greatly influencing later Russian writers. He also wrote historical fiction. His The Captain's Daughter provides insight into Russia during the reign of Catherine the Great.
Born in Moscow, Russia, Pushkin published his first poem at the age of fifteen, and was widely recognized by the literary establishment by the time of his graduation from the Imperial Lyceum in Tsarskoye Selo. Pushkin gradually became committed to social reform and emerged as a spokesman for literary radicals; in the early 1820s he clashed with the government, which sent him into exile in southern Russia. While under the strict surveillance of government censors and unable to travel or publish at will, he wrote his most famous play, the drama Boris Godunov, but could not publish it until years later. His novel in verse, Eugene Onegin, was published serially from 1825 to 1832. Due to his political views and influence on generations of Russian rebels, Pushkin was portrayed by Bolsheviks as an opponent to bourgeois literature and culture and a predecessor of Soviet literature and poetry. In 1937, the town of Tsarskoe Selo was renamed Pushkin in his honour.
Pushkin's father Sergei Lvovich Pushkin (1767–1848) descended from a distinguished family of the Russian nobility which traced its ancestry back to the 12th century. Pushkin's mother Nadezhda (Nadja) Ossipovna Gannibal (1775–1836) descended through her paternal grandmother from German, Scandinavian nobility. She was the daughter of Ossip Abramovich Gannibal (1744–1807) and his wife Maria Aleksejevna Pushkina (1745–1818). Ossip Abramovich Gannibal's father, Pushkin's great-grandfather, was Abram Petrovich Gannibal (1696–1781), a black page raised by Peter the Great. The only known fact was that he himself wrote in a letter to Empress Elizabeth, Peter the Great’s daughter, that he was from the town of “Lagon.” Russian biographers concluded from the beginning that Lagon was in Ethiopia, a country with Christian associations. Vladimir Nabokov, researching Eugene Onegin, cast serious doubt on the Ethiopian angle. Dieudonné Gnammankou outlined the strong case in 1995 that “Lagon” was a town located on the southern side of Lake Chad, now located in northern Cameroon. There is no conclusive evidence. After education in France as a military engineer, Abram Gannibal became governor of Reval and eventually General-en-Chef for the building of sea forts and canals in Russia.