Russian Personalities

People well-known in art, sport, film, fashion

Category Archive: History

Princess Zinaida Volkonskaya

Princess Zinaida Volkonskaya

Princess Zinaida Volkonskaya


Princess Zinaida Volkonskaya, nee Princess Beloselskaya, was a literary salon hostess, writer, poet, singer and composer. You know, she was a prominent figure of Russian cultural life of the first half of the XIX century. Also she was an opera singer who performed in Paris and London.
Pretty girl was born on December 14, 1792 in Dresden into the family of Prince Alexander Mikhailovich Beloselsky-Belozersky and Varvara Yakovlevna Tatisheva. Her father was called Moscow Apollo as he was very handsome. By the way, he was intelligent and educated and he was friends with Mozart and Voltaire.
In 1808, Zinaida was lady-in-waiting of Queen Louise of Prussia and she was close to Emperor Alexander I of Russia.
Two years later, in 1810, Zinaida married Alexander’s aide-de-camp, Prince Nikita Volkonsky. Soon she gave birth to a baby. They say that that boy’s father was Emperor Alexander the First. To tell the truth, the main mistress of the Emperor was Maria Antonovna Naryshkina.
More »

Praskovya Gagarina – first Russian woman, who flew in a hot air balloon

Josef Grassi. Portrait of Praskovya Yurevna Gagarina

Josef Grassi. Portrait of Praskovya Yurevna Gagarina


Praskovya Gagarina (Kologrivova, nee Trubetskaya, 1762-1848) was a famous beauty, the first Russian woman, who flew in a hot air balloon.
She was the daughter of a privy councilor – Yuri Trubetskoy (1736-1811).
You know, Praskovya was married to Major-General Fyodor Sergeevich Gagarin. During the Russian-Turkish war (1789-1791) she followed her husband and went to Iasi. There Praskovya became known after she slapped Highness Prince Potemkin. Thereafter she followed her husband to Poland, where he was killed and Praskovya was in custody. By the way, she gave birth to her daughter Sophia in captivity.
More »

Maria Naryshkina, Princess Sviatopolk-Chetvertinskaya

Maria Naryshkina, Portrait by Salvatore Tonci

Maria Naryshkina, Portrait by Salvatore Tonci


Emperor Alexander I was famous not only for his military exploits. You know, he is called one of the most amorous Russian rulers. He had a beautiful wife and several mistresses. His love affair with Maria Naryshkina was the longest and most serious. They spent together 15 years, Maria gave birth to three his children. In some sources she is described as a modest, silent beauty, in others – as a self-confident and impudent femme fatale.
Alexander I was the grandson of Catherine II and the eldest son of Paul I. His grandmother chose a wife for him – Princess Louise of Baden, later known as Elizabeth Alexeievna. The girl was meek, delicate, and very beautiful.
Masha Naryshkina (nee Princess Sviatopolk-Chetvertinskaya) was not the first favorite of the emperor, but many called her the only strong passion of Alexander I. All of his previous love affairs were short-lived, and this lasted for 15 years. By the way, her elder sister Jeanette had “a shadow family” with the younger brother of the emperor, Konstantin.
More »

Countess Elena Zavadovskaya

Countess Elena Zavadovskaya

Countess Elena Zavadovskaya


Countess Elena Zavadovskaya (nee Vlodek) was the daughter of the Polish general (her mother was Russian). She was the wife of the chief prosecutor of the Senate V.P. Zavadovskiy (1798-1855). Charming lady of St. Petersburg was called Star of the North. Elena was one of the brightest beauties of her time. Great poets including Alexander Pushkin, Ivan Kozlov, Vyazemsky dedicated their poems to her. She was a friend of Russian poet Mikhail Lermontov.
Pretty girl was born on December 2, 1807. She was the daughter of Polish nobleman Mikhail Fyodorovich Vlodek (1780-1849) from his marriage to the Countess Alexandra Dmitrievna Tolstaya’s lady-in-waiting (1788-1847).
On October 31, 1824, Elena married the chief procurator of the Senate, Count Vasily Petrovich Zavadovsky (1798-1855). About their marriage Vyazemsky wrote that “one of the northern flowers, and the most beautiful one, yesterday was picked by Zavadovsky”. They were considered to be the most charming and fashionable couple in St. Petersburg. However, everything changed when Count Zavadovsky began to drink. In the marriage there was only one child son Peter. The boy was born in 1828. On December 20, 1842 Peter died in Naples from a nervous fever and was buried in the Alexander Nevsky Lavra cemetery.
More »

Nadezhda Khodasevitch Leger

Nadezhda Khodasevitch-Leger

Nadezhda Khodasevitch-Leger


Nadezhda Khodasevitch Leger was a Russian muse, student and wife of French artist Fernand Leger. Very often talented, successful women are forced to remain in the shadow of the great men. Despite the fact that Nadezhda dedicated her life to the work of her beloved husband, she remained as an independent personality in history who was appreciated by her contemporaries.
Talented girl was born on October 4, 1904 in the village near Vitebsk. Her family was large and poor. They had to wander from one village to another because of the First World War. Since the early childhood she had a passion for painting. At the age of 15 the girl left home and entered the state artist workshop in Smolensk. There she had a chance to meet Russian artist Kazimir Malevich.
Later Nadezhda was in Warsaw, where she entered the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts. The girl lived in a convent orphanage. At the Academy Nadia met artist Stanislaw Grabowski, the son of a wealthy Polish official. Stanislaw and Nadia got married despite the protests of the groom’s parents. The young couple decided to continue their studies in Paris.
More »

Olga Korbut – Sparrow from Minsk

olga korbut

Olga Korbut – Sparrow from Minsk


Olga Korbut is a Soviet gymnast, four-time Olympic champion, absolute champion of the USSR (1975), three-time world champion, Merited Master of Sports of the USSR (1972). The legendary Soviet gymnast became the first girl to perform a dangerous somersault on a log at the Olympic Games (Korbut Loop). She is famous for unique tricks and bright achievements in sports.
Pretty girl was born on May 16, 1955 in Grodno, Belorussian SSR, USSR. Her parents were simple people: the father was an engineer, and the mother was a cook. The girl has three sisters.
In 1963, little Olga was engaged in gymnastic and by the end of the 1960s was among the best Soviet gymnasts.
When Korbut was 10 years old, she entered the sports school. Olympic champion Elena Volchetskaya was her coach. A year later, in 1965, Olga was in the group of Honored Coach of the USSR Renald Knish. He wanted to create something new, unknown to the sports community. The coach invented special elements and actively introduced them with the help of the young gymnast. It was a hard cooperation full of tears. But as a result there were success, popularity and fame.
More »

Margarita Konenkova – Einstein’s last love

Margarita Konenkova - Einsteins last love

Margarita Konenkova – Einstein’s last love


A brilliant scientist, a charming Russian spy and a passionate affair during the Second World War…
Margarita Konenkova (1895 – 1980, nee Vorontsova) was a Soviet spy. She was Einstein’s last love. In 1998 love letters written to Margarita by Albert Einstein (physicist who formulated the theory of relativity, grandfather of the atomic bomb) were consigned for sale at Sotheby’s auction house. The letters, written in elegant German script and preserved in blue envelopes, reveal a sensitive man who writes with humor, warmth and love. Einstein was 66 years old, and she was 51.
Margarita was born in 1895 into the family of a lawyer. She graduated from female school in Sarapul, and then studied law at Madame Poltoratsky courses in Moscow.
Margarita was familiar with many famous people of that time: Fyodor Chaliapin, Sergei Yesenin, Anatoly Mariengof, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Vsevolod Meyerhold and many others.
More »