Legend has it that Ibrahim, great-grandfather of the Russian poet, Alexander Pushkin, was the son of a petty Ethiopian prince, who, as a child, was sold to Constantinople. At Peter the Great's request the child was sent to St. Petersburg, where he became the Tzar's "black valet". Peter became fond of the boy. and. baptising him in the Russian Orthodox faith, adopted. him. When Ibrahim grew up, the Tzar sent him to France to be educated, where the boy did well, especially in engineering.
On his return from France, the young Ibrahim fell in love with the daughter of a nobleman, Rtishchev, and this episode forms the central part of the film.
Pushkin's unfinished novel, 'Peter the Great's Blackamoor', and the few letters surviving, offer little detail of this period, so the writers of the film were able to give free rein to their imagination in re-creating the episodes surrounding the central story. In Alexander Mitta's own words, the film makers set out to create 'a poetic tragicomedy ... a blend of tragedy and melodrama, adventure and psychological cinema . . . Yet, despile the entertaining narrative, we tried to raise some serious questions'.