"Until the death will separate us..." The wives of the
Decembrists. History of Russia.
On December 14, 1825 in St. Petersburg on the Senate Square there was the first in the history of
Russia organized action of gentry revolutionaries against the tsarist autocracy and tyranny. These
were the senior officers of the tsarist army. The revolt was suppressed. Five of its organizers were
hanged, others were sent to hard labor in Siberia, demoted to the ranks... Eleven wives of the
Decembrists prisoners shared their Siberian exile of theirs own free will.
In 1825, Maria Volkonskaya was 20 years old. The daughter of famous hero of the War against
Napoleon in 1812 General Rajewski, the beauty, glorified by poet Pushkin, the wife of Major-General
Prince Volkonsky, she belonged to elite society of outstanding people, intellectual and well-educated.
And all of a sudden - a sharp reversal of fortune.
There were eleven - women who shared the Siberian exile with husbands the Decembrists. Among
them - not noble, like Alexandra Yentaltseva and Alexandra Davydova, or lived in severe poverty in
childhood Pauline Gebl, the bride of Decembrist Annenkov. But the most part - Princesses: Maria
Volkonskaya and Catherine Trubetskaya, Alexandra Muravyeva - the daughter of Count Chernyshev,
Elizabeth Naryshkina, nee Countess Konovnitsyna, Baroness Anna Rosen, the general's wives
Natalya Fonvizina and Maria Yushnevskaya - they belonged to the nobility.
Tzar Nicholas I gave each of them the right to divorce her husband - "a state criminal." However,
women have gone against the wishes and opinions of the majority, they openly supported the
disgraced. They abandoned a luxury, left their children, relatives and friends and went after their
husbands, whom loved. The self-imposed exile in Siberia got a resounding public response.
Today it is hard to imagine what was Siberia in those days, "the bottom of sack", the end of the world,
too distant lands. For the fastest courier it was more than a month way. Lack of roads, vast flooding,
snowstorms and chilling horror of Siberian convicts - murderers and thieves.
The first one was Catherine Trubetskaya - just the next day she went after the convict-husband. In
Krasnoyarsk, the coach had broken down, the guide became ill. Princess continues her way alone in
the carriage. In Irkutsk governor harasses her for a long time, requires - again, after the capital! - a
written renunciation of all rights, Trubetskaya signs it. A few days later the governor declares the
former princess, that she can continue the way with criminals. She agrees...
The second was Maria Volkonskaya. Day and night
she rushes by the tent, not stopping for the night
without having dinner, and being satisfied with a
piece of bread and glass of tea. And so almost two
months - in severe frosts and blizzards. The last
evening before leaving the house she spent with her
son, who was not allowed to take with her. The kid
played with big beautiful seal of the king's letter in
which by highest command it was allowed the
mother to leave her son forever...
In Irkutsk Volkonskaya like Trubetskaya, had new
challenges. Without reading it, she signed the
dreadful conditions set by the authorities: the
deprivation of privileges of the nobility and the
transition to the position of the wife of prisoner,
limited rights of movement, correspondence. Her
children, born in Siberia, will be treated as state
Nicholas I took all the women's property and inheritance rights, allowing only a miserable living
expenses, in which women were supposed to report to the chief mines.
Negligible amount was kept Volkonskaya and Troubetzkoy on the verge of poverty. They have limited
food - soup, porridge, refused from dinners. Lunch has been prepared and sent to prison to support the
They settled near the prison in the village huts, cooked themselves, went to fetch water, heated oven.
Annenkova Pauline recalled: - "Our ladies often come up to me to see how I cook dinner, and asked
me to teach them to cook the soup, or cook the pie. When we had to clean the chicken, with tears in
their eyes confessed that they envy my ability to do things, and complained bitterly of themselves for
what could not take for that."
Women quickly became friends, although they have been very different. The bride of Annenkov arrived
in Siberia still under the name of mademoiselle Pauline Gebl. By "royal mercy," she was permitted to
connect her life with the exiled Decembrists. When Annenkov was led to the church to get married, he
was cleared off shackles and on the return again put on and taken to jail. Pauline, a beautiful and
graceful, blazed with life and fun, but all it was as if the outer shell of the deep feelings that led the
young woman to abandon her homeland and an independent life.
The overall favorite was the wife of Nikita Muraviev -
Alexandra. None of the Decembrists, perhaps, did
receive such enthusiastic praise in the memoirs of
the Siberian exiles. Even women who are very strict
to representatives of their gender and so different,
like Maria Volkonskaya and Pauline Annenkova,
here are unanimous: - "Holy woman. She died in
Alexandra Muravyeva was the personification of
eternal feminine ideal, rarely attainable in life,
tender and passionate lover, selfless and devoted
wife, caring, loving mother. "She was the
embodiment of love" - in the words of Decembrist
Yakushkin. "In matters of love and friendship, she
did not know the impossible" - echoes I. Pushchin.
Even during the transition convicts from Chita to
Peter factory the women's colony was enriched by
two voluntary outcasts - wives of Rosen and
Yushnevsky arrived. A year later - in September
1831 another second wedding was: bride of Basil
Ivashev Camilla Le Dante arrived.
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Women Decembrists had done a lot in Siberia, first of all, they destroyed the isolation to which the
government condemned the revolutionaries. Nicholas I wanted to make people forget the names of all
convicts, to get rid of them in memory.
Years dragged slowly in exile. Volkonskaya recalled: - "The first time of our exile, I thought that it
probably would end in five years, then I tell myself that it would be ten, then fifteen years later, but after
25 years I stopped waiting any longer, I asked God only one thing: that He had brought my children
Moscow and St. Petersburg have become
increasingly distant memories. Even those whos
husbands died, did not receive the right to return. In
1844, in this was denied the widow of Yushnevsky,
in 1845 - widow of Yentaltsev.
From behind the Urals there were new and new
parties of the exiles arrived. 25 years after the
Decembrists, the Petrashevists were taken to
prison, among them was Fyodor Dostoyevsky the
great Russian writer.
Few Decembrists had survived till the amnesty,
which came in 1856 after thirty years of exile. Of
the eleven women, who followed their husbands to
Siberia, the three stayed here forever. Alexandra
Muravyeva, Camilla Ivasheva,
Catherine Trubetskaya. The latest died Alexandra
Davydova in 1895, at age 93. She died, surrounded
by numerous descendants, by respect and honor of
all who knew her.
"Thanks to the women, they will give some great lines in our history," - said the Decembrists
contemporary, poet P. A. Vyazemsky when he learnt about their decision.
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