«Jewish Observer»
JEWISH UKRAINE
16/35
August 2002
5762 Elul

WHO NEEDS SOMEBODY ELSE'S LAURELS
BORIS GELMAN
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For already several years different Jewish editions publish an Aaron Peisakhovich's article about the famous Russian naval commander and legendary defender of Sevastopol with an enticing title "The Son of the Jewish nation Admiral Nakhimov". The author claims that he has traced his centuries old parentage.

The genealogy is related well: grandfather Nakhim was a town shoemaker, father Samuil attached himself to a passing through their settlement regiment when he was 12. Well, really? How could that Jewish boy who, most probably, did not speak Russian rush into a military formation? Who accepted him there when there were no cantonists? Without any doubt the author writes the following, "After Samuil had been baptized he was called Stepan and was given the surname of Nukhimov".

Peisakhovich keeps it a secret where he found this moving tale. Neither does he mention the name of the town or inform in what parish register he found the fact of Samuil's baptizing. The way has been paved. "Later", explains the author, "he changed one letter and became Nakhimov". Became! That's it. If you want evidence look for it yourselves.

According to Peisakhovich, " though baptized, the drummer (why not a shoemaker, the trade that he could learn from his grandfather, or a groom, or a cook?) Samuil was having a rough time". In spite of that he served until sergeant major and in 1785 Stepan Nakhimov, father of the admiral, was promoted to the rank of an officer.

This is the version. But as soon as one turns to quite accessible scientific sources, Aaron Peisakhovich's concoction is reduced to dust.

Due to the recent 200th anniversary of P.S.Nakhimov's birth a book exhibition has been opened in Sevastopol naval library. Let us open the book "P. S. Nakhimov. Documents" (Moscow, Voenizdat, 1954).

On page 29 we see "Birth-certificate of the birth of P.S.Nakhimov. Smolensk province, Viazemsk district, the village of Spas Volzhensky, the Church of Salvation Sacred Image, was Number 1 according the registers of birth kept in that church: Major Stepan Mikhail's son Nakhimov and his wife Feodosia Ivanovna gave birth to a legitimate son Pavel on 23rd of June 1802. The priest Georgy Ovsiannikov baptized him on June27. During his baptizing his godfather was second lieutenant Nikolai Matvey's son Nakhimov and maid Anna Stepan's daughter Nakhimova from Viazemsk district. We testify to this with the touch of the church seal. 11 March 1846. This testimony is signed by Priest Vasily Ovsiannikov, Viazemsk district, the village of Spas Volzhensky. Deacon Georgy Ovsiannikov, Sexton Grigory Ruzhentsev. ("Naval Collection", 1902, #6. L. Salom. Admiral Pavel Stepanovich Nakhimov, pp. 26-27. The original is kept in the Black Sea Fleet Museum in Sevastopol).

This is what the document says.

But A Peisakhovich makes the daughter of the shopkeeper Yankel from Pinsk Revekka Pavel Stepanovich's mother, having baptized her Raisa. Only Peisakhovich knows the archives he used.

And we shall believe the deacon Georgy and the sexton Grigory and will leave Pavel with his real mother Feodosia Ivanovna.

Below the birth certificate there is "Ivan and Pavel Nakhimovs' request addressed to Alexander I to send them to the Naval military school" dated April 23, 1813.

We see, first, that Ivan and Pavel Stepan's Sons Nakhimovs belong to the Russian gentry of Greek denomination and, second, that "our dear father Stepan Mikhail's son Nakhimov serves...in the rank of Guards Captain and is retired Major". Major, not second lieutenant.

Such absurdities are in abundance in Peisakhovich's article.

Among the many books of the exhibition there stands out the biographical essay "Admiral Pavel Stepanovich Nakhimov" published by the Naval Ministry in 1868.

The author, captain A.Aslambekov (a future vice-admiral) defends the honour and dignity of the famous naval commander from the attacks of an anonymous author who published an ungainly account of P.S.Nakhimov in the journal "Russian Archives". A.Aslambekov indignantly calls this "the result of poisonous envy or hissing spite". Had the anonymous author from the "Russian Archives" had, at least, a minor fact about the Jewish origin of Nakhimov, whom he was busy defaming, he would have been sure to use it.

But Peisakhovich wants to make Pavel Stepanovich a Jew once and forever. He ascribes the wife Rachel to him. He claims, "She refused point-blank to be baptized", - not giving even a hint at the source the point-blank refusal is taken from. Most likely, he does not know what he is talking about. It is the Russian admiral Alexey Greig (in 1816-1833 he was a military governor of Nikolaev and Sevastopol, Commander-in-Chief of the Black Sea Fleet and ports) who had a Jewish wife. The name of the Nikolaev merchant's daughter was Leika, it was she who was baptized Julia.

This fact was first published by a well-known writer and historian Yuri Davidov, a naval officer in the youth. He wrote a documentary novel "Nakhimov". Since Yury Davidov had "no mercy" on A.Greig, would he have kept Pavel Stepanovich's descent a secret?

In Sevastopol, near the monument to Admiral Nakhimov I often have to converse with guests from the Jewish communities of Ukraine, Russia, with Israelis. And very often the following dialogue takes place.

- You know, Nakhimov was a Jew?

- No, I don't know.

- Haven't you read the articles?

- I have, but they are faked.

- Why were they published?

- I wish I could ask those editors.

Some ploughmen working in the field of the Jewish history suffer from the itch to add new names to the list of outstanding Jews. Maybe, it will be recognized as a discovery. And they follow the principle; "I hear Hemingway used to be a Jew in his childhood". As for the document and facts they take no interest in them.

"Rassvet", Sevastopol
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