Rus Articles Journal

Why Nikolay Gumilyov went to Africa?

3(15) of April, 1886 Nikolay Stepanovich Gumilyov, the Russian poet, an osnovopolzhnik of acmeism, the researcher of Africa, gentleman twice of St. George, the first husband of Anna Akhmatova, the father of the historian Lev Gumilyov was born.

In the childhood he was a weak and frail boy, but it did not prevent it to take part in noisy games with other children. However more games interested him travel and expeditions, military campaigns and feats. Even the first collection of verses he called “A way of konkvistador“. It also, it is similar to one of lyrical heroes of the poems, “cheerfully pursued a star“, and this star conducted future founder of acmeism to Africa.

“I then was exhausted by the woman...“
Attempt to win love

the First trip on the dark continent took place in 1907. The poet since the childhood dreamed to visit there, but the father told that he will not give it either money, or blessing for dangerous and reckless travel. Gumilev managed to save the necessary means from the parental “grant“ sent him while he studied in Sorbonne, and started on the journey. Shortly before a trip he once again made the proposal of a hand and heart to Anna Gorenko who soon will become the famous poetess Anna Akhmatova, and was refused. Perhaps, this refusal influenced the decision 21 too - summer Nikolay to go to Africa - thus he wanted to prove to the beloved that he is worthy to be near it.

Information on the first trip of Gumilyov to Abyssinia very little: it is known that, having returned, he with delight told about the impressions and that travel carefully disappeared from parents. Provident Nikolay wrote to the family several letters in advance, and friends sent them to Russia each ten days. The small trip, spontaneous and unexpected, became the beginning of big love of the poet to Africa and his research activity.

“I know cheerful fairy tales of the mysterious countries“.
the scientist`s Birth

B 1909 Gumilyov nevertheless tries to obtain Akhmatova`s hand and again goes to Africa, as a part of the expedition organized by the academician Radlov this time. Researchers pass the desert, repeatedly are attacked by natives (many tribes had a custom on which only the one who already killed the person could marry), are transported in baskets on ropes through the river teeming with crocodiles - and come back to Russia only in February, 1910. Gumilev is cheerful, inspired, he gets married Anna, publishes the collection of verses of “Pearls“, and impressions of a trip will form a basis for the poem “Mick“ and “Abyssinian songs“ later.

While he is happy, married and goes with the young wife to a honeymoon trip to Paris. However there at Anna the affair with the artist Amadeo Modigliani flashes. Gumilyov insists on return to Russia and in September leaves again - this time absolutely one. But in this expedition he behaves as the real researcher - collects local folklore and household items, studies customs and traditions, comes into houses, inquires about purpose of objects unknown to it, describes customs of the local people, photographs, hunts wild animals...

Gumilev in March, 1911, sick tropical fever returned. It seemed, the illness has to stop trips, doctors assured the family of the poet that for health reasons he cannot go to Africa any more, but Nikolay Stepanovich thought differently.

“We saw mountains, the wood and waters, we slept in tilt carts of others plains“.
Expedition of Academy of Sciences

One and a half years he struggled with an illness, wrote verses, processed the African impressions and considered the plan of new expedition. He wanted to pass the desert between Abyssinia and the Red Sea, to investigate local tribes which can try to be united and civilized. He offers this option of Academy of Sciences, but academicians reject it as expensive.

In April, 1913 Gumilyov and his nephew Nikolay Sverchkov are sent to official expedition. Gumilev writes: “I had to go to Djibouti port from there by rail to Harar, then, having made a caravan, on the South, to the area between the Somali peninsula and Rudolf, Margarita`s lakes, Zvay; to occupy perhaps bigger area of research“ .

Expedition was pursued by troubles: at first from - for indistinct ways researchers could not reach by rail Harar, on one of crossings on the way to the settlement Sheikh - Gusseyn Sverchkova nearly dragged off a crocodile, after that there were problems with provisions, but nevertheless the objectives were achieved. There Gumilyov decided to check the sinfulness - by Abyssinian tradition he had to bared to creep in a narrow crack between two stones. If the examinee got stuck, then died in terrible tortures - nobody dared to help to get out to him and even to give waters or bread. At stones the set of bones lay, probably, there were many sinners. Gumilyov risked - and safely returned. In September the poet and his nephew returned home.

All materials collected in expedition were transferred to Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography where are stored still.

“I will also die not on a bed, at the notary and the doctor“

Gumilyov wanted to organize some more expeditions to Africa to investigate at least part of this huge not studied continent, but World War I which burst in August, 1914 overset its plans. It left on the front, its time reckless bravery brought it two St George`s Crosses and an officer rank. Final research of Africa was given by revolution up as a bad job.

Gumilyov was completely given to literature, published several collections of verses, but in 1921 everything was over: On August 3 he was arrested on a charge of participation in Tagantsev`s plot and the Petrograd fighting organization. At the end of the month the poet and 60 more people were shot. Exact date and the place of execution are unknown still.

But also years later its contribution to studying of Africa remains to one of the biggest in Russia. The rejected poet who rushed off to Africa to prove to the beloved and itself(himself) that he is a worthy and real man, turned into the big researcher, the anthropologist, the ethnographer who could change history of several countries if not fatal events of the Russian and world history...