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Alexander Pushkin
Portrait of Alexander Pushkin, 1827. Orest Adamovich Kiprensky/The Bridgeman Art Library/Getty Images

Considered the father of Russia's Golden Age of literature, Alexander Pushkin, was born into nobility in the summer of 1799. He was the great-grandson of an Ethiopian prince named Ibrahim Gannibal, who had relocated to Russia and become a general in the army of Peter the Great [source: PBS].

Puskin became a member of a revolutionary group dedicated to social reform and wrote poems that reflected his views. His work, which included "Freedom" and "The Village," came under scrutiny by Russian authorities and led to his exile in 1820 to his mother's estate [source: Shaw].

Six years later, he was pardoned by Czar Nicholas I and free to travel; he married in 1831 and later challenged one of his wife's admirers to a duel in 1837. He died two days later from injuries he sustained in the battle. Pushkin's most famous works include the poem "The Bronze Horseman," the verse novel "Eugene Onegin" and the play "Boris Gudunov" [source: Shaw]. He also left behind an unfinished novel about his Ethiopian great-grandfather.