Sunday, 28 January 2018

Abram Petrovich Gannibal - The Black Governor of Tallinn

There are many fascinating stories that fill the history pages of Tallinn.  Perhaps one of the most interesting is the life of Abram Petrovich Gannibal. He was an African boy who escaped a life of slavery and went on to live a priviledged existence in the Russian court. Whilst most Estonians were bound to lords of their manor at this time, Gannibal enjoyed freedoms that most Estonians did not.

Born in Central Africa some time between  1696–1698, Abram was kidnapped as a child and taken to Russia to serve in the royal household. He was presented as a 'gift' to Peter the Great who took a liking to his intelligence and had him freed. Peter the Great then adopted Abram and had him raised in the Russian Court as his godson. Abram was baptized in 1705, in St. Paraskeva Church in Vilnius. The date of Abram’s baptism was used as his birthday because he did not know his actual date of birth.

Abram valued his relationship with his godfather, as well as that of Peter’s daughter Elizabeth, and was loyal to them as if they were family. Starting at a young age Abram would travel alongside the Tzar during his military campaigns, serving as his godfather’s valet.

Abram received a good education He was fluent in several languages and excelled in mathematics and geometry. In 1718 Abram joined the French Army with hopes of pleasing his godfather by expanding his learning in military engineering. He enrolled in the royal artillery academy at La Fère in 1720. It was during his time in France that Abram adopted the surname "Gannibal" in honour of the Carthaginian general Hannibal (Gannibal being the traditional transliteration of the name in Russian).

After the death of Peter the Great in 1725, Prince Menshikov gained power in Russia. Menshikov was not fond of Gannibal and had him exiled to Siberia in 1727. In 1730 Gannibal  was pardoned and his technical skills were put to use. He worked on many construction projects in Siberia and became a master engineer.

In 1741 Peter's daughter Elizabeth became the new monarch of Russia. Abram became a prominent member of her court during her reign and rose to the rank of major-general.  Empress Elizabeth placed much faith in Abram and made him mayor of Tallinn in 1742. He held that position until 1752. A letter signed on 22 March 1744 by "A. Ganibal" is held at the Tallinn City Archives. In 1742, the Empress Elizabeth gave Abram the Mikhailovskoye estate in Pskov Oblast with hundreds of serfs. He retired to this estate in 1762.

Letter signed by A. Ganibal on 22 March 1744. Tallinn City Archives.

Abram married twice. His first marriage was an arranged one and was quite volatile. His Greek wife Evdokia Dioper despised her husband and had a string of affairs from the onset of  the marriage.  When Abram found out that she had been unfaithful to him (Dioper gave birth to her lovers' white child), he had her arrested and thrown into prison, where she spent eleven years. After they divorced Dioper was sent to a convent for the rest of her life.

His forner residence in Tallinn.

Abram's second marriage was a much happier one. He married Christina Regina Siöberg in Tallinn in 1736 and they had ten children together.  Abram appreciated Christina's fidelity and affection towards him and they lived a happy existence. Many of Abram's descendants can still be found in aristocratic circles today. In England,  Natalia Grosvenor, Duchess of Westminster and her sister, Alexandra Hamilton, Duchess of Abercorn. George Mountbatten, 4th Marquess of Milford Haven, a cousin of Queen Elizabeth II are all desceded from him.

Perhaps one of his most famous descendants is his great-grandson, Russian author and poet Alexander Pushkin.

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

The next Estonian Song & Dance Festival has been named 'Minu arm'

2019 will see two major jubilees take place in Estonia. The Estonian Song Festival will celebrate its 150th birthday and the Dance Celebration will take place for the twentieth time. The name given to the 2019 celebration, 'Minu arm' (my love), was released today and refers to the love of the Estonian homeland. The event will take place from 4th -7th July 2019. 

The first Estonian Song Festival took place in 1869 during the nascent Estonian national awakening. The Song Festival was also a great musical event which created the Song Celebration tradition. The first Song Festival was organised by Johann Voldemar Jannsen and ran from 18-20 June 1869. 51 male choirs and brass bands gathered for the first Song Festival in Tartu. Today it is a rich tradition that takes place every five years.

Registration to participate in the coming event is now open.

For more information, please refer to the official Estonian Song Festival website:

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Estonia 100 online and pop-up store now open

It's not long to go now until Estonians across the globe officially celebrate the 100th birthday of the Republic of Estonia. No doubt homes and offices will be patriotically decorated with the beloved blue, black and white colours of the national flag. If you are in need of some EV100 merchandise then you'll be pleased to know that the EV100 online store is now open as well as the pop-up store in Tallinn. The store is located at Mere pst 8, Tallinn.

To buy online, please click here: EV100 webstore

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Lonely Planet: Estonia gears up for worldwide centenary celebrations

Estonia is to celebrate a very special anniversary this year. Festivities will take place across the world to mark the centenary anniversary of the independence of the country. The official programme of commemorations from ESTONIA 100 will feature a wide range of events that cover everything from heritage to design, music, and nature.

“The centenary is celebrated around the world and the Estonia 100 international programme is Estonia’s greatest cultural export project so far,” Jaanus Rohumaa told Lonely Planet. “In addition to the domestic programme, the celebrations will bring around 200 events to 30 countries around the world, introducing Estonia and its culture globally. Undoubtedly one of the greatest events will be World Cleanup Day on September 15, 2018, which will be a gift from Estonians to the world.”

Estonia’s capital Tallinn was named as one of the best value destinations in 2018 by Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel. Half of the country is populated by forest and encompasses over 2000 islands.

To read the full article, please click here: Estonia gears up for worldwide centenary celebrations

Monday, 1 January 2018

VIDEO: NYE fireworks across Estonia

Brilliant displays of colour lite up the sky above Estonia on New Year's Eve. With a full moon aglow and mild weather, people were out to party! If you weren't in Estonia to celebrate on New Year's Eve, don't worry, this video released by Delfi TV captures all the highlights!

To watch the video, click here: VIDEO | Ilutulestiku-gurmaanid, see on teile: Tallinna, Kuressaare, Viimsi, Pärnu, Narva ja Tartu valgusmängud kõik ühes videos!

Head uut aastat / Happy New Year !

Happy New Year everyone! Here's to 2018! May the coming year be full of many new adventures, joyous times and prosperity! Now that it's January it means that EV100 is only a month away and I will be back in Tallinn once more. Can't wait!