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THE TIMES LITERARY SUPLLEMENT
September 19 1997 N° 4929 Supplement

Letter to the Editor

ABRAHAM Hanibal

Sir,

I was pleased to read T. J. Binyon's review of my book, Abraham Hanibal, l'aïeul noir de Pouchkine (July 18). Though it was an objective and informative account, he made some critical observations based on information which is now out of date. In his review, Binyon wrote that the information given by Pushkin saying that Abraham Hanibal's first wife, "Evdokya, "gave birth to a white daughter is supported by no evidence and rejected by most scholars". He is wrong because Pushkin was absolutely right: towards the end of September 1731, as stated in my book, Evdokya Hanibal gave birth to a daughter, who was named Evdokya. We have known this since 1974, when the Russian scholar Malevanov discovered in the archives a document dating from 1746 mentionning the names and the ages of the children of the then major general Abram Petrovitch Hanibal: << Evdokya - 15, (years) , Anna - 9, Elizabeta - 8, Piter - 6. We know that after the birth of Evdokya, and in spite of the uproar it provoked in the small provincial Estonian town of Pyarnu, Hanibal decided to bring her up.

As for my account of Hanibal's marital problems, I referred only to contemporary testimony: in 1737, Evdokya accused Hanibal of torturing her in 1731 (p 116-17). I also quoted Opatovitch (1877) who supported her accusations (p 116-117). But I also informed my readers that the same Evdokya wrote in 1746 that she had lied in 1737 and that she acknowledged her adultery and her attempt to poison her husband (p 153). I don't agree with scholars who wrote that Hanibal, having an affair with Christina at that time, wanted to get rid of his first wife, accusing her of adultery and torturing her to make her acknowledge it. Simply because it was impossible: the birth of the white daughter in 1731 was enough to prove to the court that Evdokya was unfaithful. If there was no adulterous child, this could be plausible provided that you prove that Hanibal knew Christina at that time. And no one can prove that Hanibal knew nor that he had an affair with Christina just after his marriage in 1730. The scholars who made this contention thought that Ivan, the elder son of Christina and Hanibal, was born in 1731 (Vegner, 1937). But we know now that Ivan was born in 1735 on May 5.

DIEUDONNE GNAMMANKOU

 

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