Russian Women's Studies: Essays on Sexism in Soviet Culture

By Tatyana Mamonova; Margaret Maxwell | Go to book overview

3
Nadezhda Turova: A Russian
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A ballet called The Ballad of a Hussar is currently being performed in many theaters in the Soviet Union.My sister-in-law, Natalia Shikareva, dances the leading role in it at the Kuibyshevsky Theater.It was Natalia who led me to the idea of writing about the woman who inspired this ballet.It is the story of Nadezhda Turova, heroine of the Napoleonic War in 1812. In the 1960s, before the scenario for the ballet was written, a film was made in the Soviet Union with the same title as the ballet, and there was a small re-issue of Zapiski Cavalerist-devitsy ( Notes of a Cavalry-Woman), which had been lying unnoticed on library shelves since the first half of the nineteenth century.In its own time, it was regarded as something of a sensation.

Nadezhda writes in her Notes that her mother was cursed by her own father, a "power-loving Little-Russian (Ukrainian) landowner" because of her choice of a husband: a Muscovite and, what was more, a military man. Her mother was forced to run away from home to marry her chosen one, which was excusable, adds Nadezhda, thanks to Turov's virtues: "a most wonderful man, with a gentle temper and a captivating manner."1

Nadezhda's mother, counting on the charity of her stern father — for she knew the "patriarchal ways of the Ukrainian land" — dreamed of presenting him with a cupid-like grandson.Pregnant, her time drew near in ( 1783), ... "and the pangs preceding my birth," continues Nadezhda with great humor, "surprised my mother in a most unpleasant way: they had no place in her dreams, and created on her my first bad impression."2 The physician found it necessary to have her mother bled, and shortly afterwards our heroine appeared in the world.The baby was put on its mother's knee. Alas! This is no son, beautiful as Cupid, it is a daughter, and a daughter Hercules! "I was unusually large, had thick black hair, and cried loudly.My mother pushed me from her knees and turned to the wall." 3 The newborn didn't take to her mother's breast, and once even bit her, so the young mother put her in the care of a maid.When Turov's regiment left Kiev for Kherson, from each

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