Ivan Abramovich Gannibal was a prominent Russian military leader who lived from 1735 to 1801. He was the son of Abram Petrovich Gannibal, a renowned military commander, general, and engineer of Tsar Peter the Great. He is also best known for being the great-uncle of Alexander Pushkin, Russia’s most famous poet.
He began his military journey at a young age, enrolling in the Naval Artillery School in the Russian Empire’s capital when he was only 9 years old. He later graduated from the Naval Academy and became an officer in the Imperial Russian Navy.
During the Russo-Turkish War of 1768-1774, the military leader played a crucial role. As a Brigadier, he led a detachment of the Imperial Black Sea Fleet that participated in the siege and capture of the Ottoman fortress of Navarino in the Peloponnese. Under Ivan’s command, the Russian forces bombarded the fortress, eventually leading to its surrender in April 1770.
He received the Order of St. George, third degree, for his actions in this siege and also took part in the Battle of Chesma in July 1770, where his ship, the “St. Eustathius,” was destroyed, and he had to be rescued from the water.
In 1772, the military leader was promoted to the rank of major general, and in 1776, he assumed command of the naval artillery in the Imperial Navy. The following year, Empress Catherine II (reigned: 1762 – 1796) appointed him to a seat in the Russian Admiralty, the supreme governing body of the Navy.
Ivan’s notable contribution includes his role in the founding of the city of Kherson, currently in Ukraine. In 1778, he was appointed as the commander of the Kherson fortress and was tasked with building both the fortress and the surrounding city. He accomplished this task efficiently, earning recognition and honors from Empress Catherine II.
For his efforts, he received the Order of St. Vladimir, first class (1780), the Order of St. Alexander Nevsky (1781), a jewel-encrusted snuff box with a portrait of the Empress, and a large estate southwest of Kherson. Gannibal is considered one of the founders of Kherson, and one of its squares bears his name.
Following his falling out with Prince Grigory Potemkin, a fellow Russian military leader who happened to be Catherine’s favorite, Ivan retired from the army in 1784. He held the rank of Général en Chef, the same rank his father had held two decades earlier.
He spent his retirement on his father’s estate in the village of Suyda, near Saint Petersburg, where he passed away in 1801. He died without any children and remained a lifelong bachelor. He was laid to rest in the Lazarevskoe Cemetery at the Alexander Nevsky Lavra.