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Russian Personalities

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Alexandra Kollontai

Alexandra Kollontai

Alexandra Kollontai


Noblewoman Kollontai had a love affair with the sailor Dybenko, but adored the revolution!

In the St. Petersburg district of Vesely Village there are two parallel streets: Kollontai Street and Dybenko Street. They are so close, because Alexandra Mikhailovna Kollontai and Pavel Efimovich Dybenko had a great feeling in life.
She was the friend of the famous translator Shchepkina-Kupernik and the second cousin of the salon poet Igor Severyanin, and he was a simple sailor.
Kollontai (Shura Domontovich) was born in 1872 into the happy family of General Mikhail Domontovich. But at the heart of the happiness of this family there was the rebellion of her mother Alexandra Alexandrovna, who took three children and left her first husband. Little Alexandra was born in love. From a tender child she turned into a pretty girl with cold blue eyes. So, people began to whisper behind her back. And the whisper of those who were shocked by her behavior, became a companion of Alexandra for the rest of her long life.

Ivan Dragomirov, a fan of Domontovich since childhood, shot himself because of her. Then she refused a marriage proposal from the adjutant of Tsar Alexander III. Mademoiselle Domontovich declared that she would marry only for love. A cheerful and modest officer, Vladimir Kollontai, soon became her husband. In 1894 their only son Mikhail was born.
But the family idyll did not warm Alexandra Mikhailovna for long. Working in a public library, she met with a group of freethinkers. Later she remembered: as a young mother she rushed to read the writings of Lenin and Marx when the baby fell asleep. The thirst for justice led Kollontai to the Bolsheviks.
She broke up with her husband, who, like Dragomirov, tried to shoot himself because of her, but, thank God, he was still alive. The relatives and nannies looked after her son. So, she became a revolutionary.
The proletarians, as enchanted, listened to the passionate speeches of the clear-eyed girl. The opponents of the Bolsheviks hated her. Kollontai was interested in women’s rights.
Pavel Dybenko, a simple guy from the peasants of Chernihiv region, was also interested in revolution. The handsome guy with a sonorous voice quickly became a notable figure at anti-government rallies. To tell the truth, he was an anarchist rather than a communist. In 1917 he was elected the head of the Central Committee of the Baltic Fleet.
45-year-old Kollontai fell in love with a simple 28-year-old sailor. Soon they got married. After that, the careers of both went up: she became a People’s Commissar of Public Charity, and he was a People’s Commissar of the Navy of the new country.
Drunken sailors led by Dybenko lost the battle to the Germans, who did not want peace with the Bolsheviks. After that, Lenin himself dismissed Pavel Efimovich from the post of People’s Commissar and ordered to arrest him.
Kollontai, with horror for herself, realized that it was much easier to hold a rally than to help the needy people. And she had to help her beloved husband. You know, she did it!
Soon, Dybenko was appointed to a much modest position – commander of the rifle corps in Odessa. The luxury-minded, gallant sailor arranged his mansion with chic and invited there his young mistresses. Alexander Mikhailovna was confused.
Eventually, during one of the family scandals, Pavel shot himself, but the Order of the Red Banner did not allow the bullet to enter the heart and Dybenko remained alive. However, after this episode the legendary sailor continued to be unfaithful to his wife. As a result, Kollontai divorced her husband. And she asked Stalin to let her go abroad. In 1923, she was appointed Soviet Ambassador to Norway, becoming the world’s first female ambassador in modern times.
Meanwhile, Dybenko wrote a lot of love letters to Alexandra. She began to think about returning to Russia. But then Kollontai was informed: Dybenko lived with a beautiful girl. The revolutionary could not forgive him.
Kollontai successfully continued her diplomatic work. She died in 1952, a couple of weeks before her eightieth birthday, which she was going to celebrate in the Moscow mansion.
Dybenko was shot in 1938.
Kollontai was the subject of the 1994 TV film, A Wave of Passion: The Life of Alexandra Kollontai, with Glenda Jackson as the voice of Kollontai. A female Soviet diplomat in the 1930s with unconventional views on sexuality, probably inspired by Kollontai, was played by Greta Garbo in the movie Ninotchka (1939).
The resurgence of radicalism in the 1960s and the growth of the feminist movement in the 1970s spurred a new interest in the life and writings of Kollontai in Britain and America. A spate of books and pamphlets were subsequently published by and about Kollontai, including full-length biographies by historians Cathy Porter and Barbara Evans Clements.

Alexandra Kollontai