Military Review

Cavalry Maiden Nadezhda Durova

World история She knew a great number of examples when women were forced to hide their belonging to the fair sex in order to engage in activities that in those years were considered exclusively male. A living example was Nadezhda Andreevna Durova, who became one of the heroes of World War 1812 of the year, as well as the first female officer in the Russian army, forever entering Russian history. This story was so unique that it has survived to the present day, leaving its train in art as well. For example, a considerable contribution to the popularization of Nadezhda Durova played the film “Hussar Ballad”. It is believed that Nadezhda Durova became the prototype of Shurochka Azarova from this Soviet film.

Even the birth of this amazing woman was preceded by a romantic story. The father of the future girl-cavalry commander of the squadron of the Akhtyrsky hussarsky regiment is the captain Andrei Vasilyevich Durov, married “taking away” Maria Alexandrovich, the daughter of a Ukrainian landowner, whom her father had defended a more prestigious party. Having escaped, the young people married in secret without the instruction of a parental blessing, the field of which the father cursed Mary. And only after the birth of 17 in September of 1783, the firstborn of Hope, he was able to forgive the young couple.

The childhood of the girl was difficult to call cloudless. Her mother wanted a boy, but in due course a daughter was born in a young family. Her father was glad to have a firstborn of either sex, but Maria could not love the girl. Later in her memoirs Nadezhda Andreevna wrote that once the mother simply threw her out of the window of the carriage, just because the child was crying. Fortunately, in the fall, the girl just scratched her cheek. However, this cruel act prompted her father Andrey Vasilyevich to hand over the girl to the care of non-commissioned officer Astakhov, he was simply afraid to leave the child with his mother. This, apparently, and determined the fate of our heroine. Up to five years she was in the care of non-commissioned officers and soldiers. Of the women, only the nurse looked after the girl, but very soon the need for her disappeared. So the upbringing of hussars and life in barracks made the girl more like a tomboy.

Cavalry Maiden Nadezhda Durova
Nadezhda Durova in her youth

In 1789, the father of Nadezhda resigned and got a seat of the mayor in Sarapul of the Vyatka province (today the Udmurt Republic). Here, on the bank of the Kama, her mother again took up the girl’s upbringing, but she didn’t like any girlish activities. Mother tried to teach the girl to needlework, economic affairs, but without much success. Her favorite occupation was riding a Circassian horse Alkides, which the girl gave her father. Gradually she turned into a girl, but never made friends, and for a man’s society she was a stranger.

In October, 1801, at the age of 18, following the will of her father, Nadezhda married the president of the Sarapul lower district court, V.S. Chernov. However, their family life did not develop, and the birth of Ivan’s son in 1803 did not help either. Consent between the spouses did not add the birth of the firstborn, and Hope, apparently, did not particularly love her child. In any case, the marriage did not work out and soon she Nadezhda Durova returned to the parental house, leaving the child with her husband. For three years she was torn between an unloved husband and son and her stepfather's house, where the mother was not happy with her return.

Such a life soon became simply unbearable for her, and on her birthday 17 in September 1806, disguised as a man’s dress, Nadezhda joined the Cossack regiment who had left Sarapul the day before. According to one version, she fell in love with the Cossack captain and left the city with him on her favorite horse, Alcides. For some time she lived with the captain under the guise of a batman, but after a while the love went out, but the army life, which was familiar to her from the cradle, fell to Nadezhda to her liking. Since the Cossacks were obliged to wear beards, sooner or later she would have been exposed, so she decided to change part, reaching the cavalry Konnopolsky Uhlan regiment, where she asked for service, calling herself Alexander Vasilyevich Sokolov, posing as the son of a landowner. At the same time, she lowered her age by 6 years, as there was not even a hint of stubble on her face. They believed her in the regiment and accepted her comrade - the rank of ordinary noblemen. This happened 9 March 1807 year in Grodno.

It is worth noting that in the 1806-1807, Russia conducted military operations against Napoleon in the territory of East Prussia and Poland. Once in the war, the newly formed lancer was simply lost among the many young daredevils who were always in abundance in cavalry. At the same time, the commanders did not get tired of scolding Ulan Sokolov for reckless bravery in battle, but later, before the higher authorities, spoke of him in a most flattering way. The reputation of a quick hand and a brave man was the best shield against all suspicions. Alexander Sokolov, although he was young and bezus, was respected by his comrades. Nadezhda Durova took part in the battles of Gutstadt, Heilsberg, Friedland, where she showed courage, and for rescue from the death of an officer in battle, she was even presented to the St. George's Cross. Her military career was quite successful; she was promoted to cornets (the first officer's rank in cavalry).

The military idyll was violated by her parents, who nevertheless managed to find a daughter. Asking to return her to her father’s house, they personally wrote to the Russian Emperor Alexander I. After that, she was deprived of her freedom of movement and weapons, accompanied then to Petersburg for a personal audience with the emperor, who became interested in this unusual story. After a rather long conversation, Alexander I, who was struck by the selfless desire of a woman to serve her country in the military arena, allowed her to remain in the army. And in order not to reveal her secrets and hide her from relatives, he transferred her to the Mariupol hussar regiment with the rank of second lieutenant, while she translated under the name of Alexandrov Alexander Andreyevich, which was derived from the emperor’s own name, moreover, the autocrat even allowed her request him. At the same time, the emperor asked the cavalry girl to bring the secret of her name with her to the grave.

To top it off, the generous Russian monarch granted the cornet two thousand silver rubles for sewing a hussar uniform, which Durov could not independently pay for. A set of hussar clothes in those years really cost a lot, since it was supposed to decorate it with gold fittings, at least silver, but the amount issued by the emperor was fair. Most likely, a rather tangible part of it went to pay for the silence of tailors, who perfectly understood from whom they were taking measurements for sewing a hussar uniform.

N.A. Durova, 1837. Figure V. I. Hau

Three years later, she transferred from there to the Lithuanian Ulan regiment - whether because of a romantic story with the daughter of the regiment commander's daughter who fell in love with her (they never found out in the regiment that she was a woman), the colonel was very unhappy that Alexander Andreyevich was not making his offer daughter in love with him, according to another version, the reason was more prosaic - the high cost of life hussar officers. One way or another, she returned to Sarapul for two years, but her relationship with her husband and son did not go well. Apparently, from birth she was assigned to serve the sovereign and fatherland, but the simple joys of family life were alien to her. In 1811, the cavalry maid left Sarapul again and went into service, only now she transferred to the Lithuanian Ulan regiment, with which she ended up as a participant in the Patriotic War with Napoleon.

With the Lithuanian Ulan regiment, where she commanded a half-squadron, Durova participated in the battles of Smolensk, the Kolotsky monastery, and in the battle of Borodino, the cavalry girl defended the Semenov flushes, where she was wounded by the core in the leg, remaining in the line. Durova herself explained her act by saying that she did not see blood, which means, as she believed, there was no danger to her health either. In fact, she was simply afraid to turn to doctors, as she was afraid of exposure. Many years later, in the last years of her life, this trauma received during the war will make itself felt, because of her sore foot, she will not only be able to ride a horse, but will even walk with difficulty.

After leaving Moscow in the rank of lieutenant, she was appointed adjutant to Kutuzov, who knew who she really was. Soon the consequences of the contusion made themselves known and she was sent on leave home, where she stayed until May 1813. Most likely, the field marshal himself sent her on vacation, having convinced that the concussion should be treated. She returned to the army already during her foreign campaign. She took part in the battles for the liberation of Germany, distinguished herself during the capture of Hamburg and the Modlin fortress.

Photo N.A. Durova (about 1860 — 1865's)

The cavalry service continued until the 1816 year. In the rank of staff captain (the next rank for the lieutenant), yielding to the persuasion of her father, she retired with a lifetime pension. After that she lived in Sarapul and Elabuga. Here she begins to write "Notes" about her unusual life. So she would have lived in Elabuga, having only local fame, if not the great Russian poet Alexander Sergeevich Pushkin.

Nadezhda Durova really wanted to keep her word, which the emperor had once given, until the end of her days remaining a retired staff captain Alexandrov, if not Pushkin, who met the cavalry girl brother in the Caucasus in 1835. At that time, Durova, having left the service, for almost 10 years lived in Elabuga for the imperial retirement. It was then that Vasily told about the unusual life story of his sister and suggested that Pushkin publish his memoirs, which she wrote, telling about the affairs of bygone days. Durova agreed to send fragments of her future "Notes" to the famous poet. When Pushkin read this manuscript, he saw that it was written in an excellent literary language and did not even need to be edited by the editor. Therefore, he decided to publish them in the second issue of his journal Sovremennik, in which he informed the public of the author’s real name, indicating in the preface to the memoirs that they belong to the cavalry girl Durova. Initially, Nadezhda Andreevna became very angry with the famous poet for revealing her secret and genuine name, forcing her to involuntarily break the oath to the emperor, but soon the woman forgave him and even moved to St. Petersburg in 1836.

At that time, the life of a retired staff captain developed very successfully, she even became a writer. She was eagerly received in the capital light, she visited the Winter Palace. Emperor Nicholas I and Grand Duke Mikhail Pavlovich greeted the cavalry girl by the hand, which not all Russian generals were honored with at the time. The Empress drove Nadezhda Durova through the numerous halls of the palace, showing rare things and wondering about her opinion on the battle canvases. However, for some strange reason, it all suddenly ended. Having lived in St. Petersburg 5 for years, Nadezhda Durova managed to publish 12 novels, but soon left everything and returned to her native and so beloved Elabuga. Despite the fact that her writers' work was highly appreciated by such leading figures of Russian literature as Belinsky, Zhukovsky, Pushkin and Gogol, she never again returned to literary activity.

Monument to N. A. Durova in Yelabuga

In Elabuga, Durova lived quite alone, being satisfied with the society only of her servant Stepan. She lived in the house of her younger brother, differing in love for animals, picking up dogs and cats from the street. Despite her solitude, she also visited the local community, appeared on city streets, but without fail in men’s clothing, be it a civilian suit or uniform without an epaulette. From the people around her, the retired cavalry-girl demanded treatment exclusively in the masculine gender, and she spoke only on behalf of Alexander Alexandrov. The townspeople knew perfectly well who was hiding under this name and the corresponding men's clothing, but, respecting and accepting her habits, did not express any surprise or displeasure on this matter.

Despite their isolation, Nadezhda Durova and her friends were there. They say that she was especially friendly with the city head Ivan Vasilyevich, who was the father of the famous Russian artist Ivan Ivanovich Shishkin. This family very often called Nadezhda Durova to the balls, where she danced only with the ladies, as befits a real officer. In Elabuga, she lived a long life. Nadezhda Durova died at the old age of March 21 (April 2 in a new style) 1866 of the year when she was 82 of the year. She bequeathed her to bury herself as Alexander's servant of God, but the priest was afraid to break the church rules and otpeled her as Durov. At the same time, she was honored as a military officer, giving a triple weapon salvo above the grave at the Trinity cemetery in Yelabuga. Today it is in Yelabuga that the only manor museum in Russia is located: the cavalry-maid Nadezhda Durova.

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  1. cergey51046
    cergey51046 April 2 2016 06: 25
    You have to marry Russians, not Khokhlushkas.
    1. svp67
      svp67 April 2 2016 07: 57
      Quote: cergey51046
      You have to marry Russians, not Khokhlushkas.

      Well, you and cards in hand ... separate the Russian and Ukrainian blood.
  2. cergey51046
    cergey51046 April 2 2016 06: 48
    I enjoyed reading it. Thanks to the author.
  3. Volga Cossack
    Volga Cossack April 2 2016 07: 04
    The article is good !!!!! Thank you - I read it with pleasure!
  4. parusnik
    parusnik April 2 2016 07: 24
    Entries in the registers of the Ascension Cathedral in the city of Sarapul have preserved evidence of her wedding and the baptism of her son. Durova's son, Ivan Vasilyevich Chernov, was assigned to study at the Imperial Military Orphanage, from where he was released in the rank of the 14th grade at the age of 16 for health reasons. One day he sent his mother a letter asking her blessing on marriage. Seeing the address "mamma", she threw the letter into the fire without reading it. And only after her son sent a letter with a request to Alexander Andreevich, she wrote “I bless.” Collegiate counselor Ivan Vasilyevich Chernov was buried in the Mitrofanievskoye cemetery in 1856 - he died 10 years earlier than his mother at the 53rd year of life. His wife was probably Anna Mikhailovna, nee Belskaya, who died in 1848 at the age of 37
  5. svp67
    svp67 April 2 2016 07: 59
    Interestingly, Durova accomplished all of her main exploits as ULANAN,

    but for all, she remained a HUSAR, and even a monument to her was erected in the form of a Russian hussar, although the shape of the lancer is no less beautiful and peculiar.
    Here is the uniform of the Polish Lancer Regiment

    And this is Lithuanian
    1. igordok
      igordok April 2 2016 10: 47
      Quote: svp67
      Interestingly, Durova accomplished all of her main exploits as ULANAN,
      but for all, she remained a HUSAR, and even a monument to her was erected in the form of a Russian hussar, although the shape of the lancer is no less beautiful and peculiar.

      One film "The Hussar Ballad" which seems to be based on the plot about Nadezhda Durova is worth something.
      It is believed that the prototype of Shurochka Azarova is the cavalry girl of the Patriotic War of the 1812 of the year Nadezhda Durova. However, the creator of the character, Alexander Gladkov, refutes this, although the film has very recognizable coincidences with Notes of the Cavalry Maiden.

      1. Cap.Morgan
        Cap.Morgan April 2 2016 15: 58

        Gladkov wrote his work in prison.
        Rather, this work appeared at his exit from the prison.
        G. is not a monster out of himself worthy of anything more.
        When the film was shot, Ryazanov asked G. to complete several scenes. G. refused. Ryazanov finished the scenes himself.
  6. Korsar4
    Korsar4 April 2 2016 08: 10
    Life is awry. But at the right time, in the right place. I realized my inclinations. And now - our story.
  7. Riv
    Riv April 2 2016 08: 24
    In general, Durova's example is not so unique. In the Russian navy, it was not uncommon for women to be crewed by sailors. Spiridov, setting off with a squadron to the Mediterranean, made a special inspection among the crews and found several women among the sailors. However, I did not find all of them. After the Chesme battle, women were again caught among the wounded. The world's only female admiral received her title in Russia. In the English fleet the same trouble was - women were constantly in the crews. Stevenson, when "Treasure Island" wrote, was even going to make Silver's wife the second person among the pirates, but he regretted it and left it on the shore.

    And women were always present in the Cossack units. Cooks, first of all, travel agents, served in hospitals. And the Cossack-travel agent is the same fighter, only usually disabled, or young ("comrade" - yes, that's what it was called). Young Cossacks, in peacetime, began their service as trainers, or horse breeders. So a woman in the regiment is a common thing. And if she is also on horseback with a saber, and not in a wagon train, then she is a noblewoman, maybe she should.

    Actually, and according to Durova's memoirs, we can conclude that she was not particularly hiding. What for? The statutes did not explicitly forbid a woman to serve in the army. Her parents "figured out" not by chance, but because rumors spread. Alexander would be glad to forbid her to serve, but ... he did not find a reason. There was nothing to expel.
    1. Pereira
      Pereira April 2 2016 11: 00
      They write that after the battle near Dorostol, between the troops of Prince Svyatoslav and John Tzimiskes, among the bodies of the dead Rus, the Greeks found a number of women who surprised them.
    2. voyaka uh
      voyaka uh April 4 2016 16: 18
      "Actually, and according to Durova's memoirs, one can conclude" ///

      The memoirs are outstanding, as I once thought.
      In general, the status of a woman was then incredibly low, dependent and each
      such a case is a feat.
  8. Aleksander
    Aleksander April 2 2016 09: 35
    The example of Durova is far from being unique.
    The heroine of the Russian Empire during the Great War became RIMMA IVANOVA, a zemstvo teacher from Stavropol, was enrolled in the 83-th Samur regiment under a masculine name, and when everything was revealed, she began to serve under her real. For courage in saving the wounded, she was awarded the St. George Cross of the 4 degree and two St. George medals.
    9 September 1915 year near the village of Wet Dubrova (now Pinsk district of the Brest region of the Republic of Belarus) during the battle of Rimm Ivanov under fire, helped the wounded. When both company officers died during the battle, she raised the company to attack and rushed to the enemy trenches. The position was taken, but the heroine herself was mortally wounded by an explosive bullet in the thigh.

    By decree of Nicholas II, as an exception, the heroine was posthumously awarded Officer Order of St. George IV Degree. She became the third woman (after the Queen of the Two Sicilies Maria-Sofia-Amalia) and the second (after the founder) citizen of Russia, but really the first one - according to the true meaning of the statute of the military order, awarded for 150 years of its existence, and the only female cavalier of the order, honored him posthumously
  9. Ramzes33
    Ramzes33 April 2 2016 09: 52
    Beautiful and informative story. Article plus.
  10. kvs207
    kvs207 April 2 2016 09: 54
    Quote: Riv
    The only female admiral in the world received her title in Russia

    Please, proof, please.
    Of the women in the military, I only read about Durova. I think one of the reasons for transferring it to Lancers, except for the high cost, etc., was precisely the mustache that the hussar officers were obliged to wear, while the axial army (officers) shaved them. And yes, the metal parts of the uniforms were not made of gold or silver, only upon the arrival of the owner.
    1. The comment was deleted.
    2. creak
      creak April 2 2016 11: 21
      Quote: kvs207
      there were just a mustache that the hussar officers were obliged to wear, while the axial army (officers) shaved them. And yes, the metal parts of the uniforms were not made of gold or silver, only upon the arrival of the owner.

      Not all officers and generals of other military branches shaved their mustaches - just look at the paintings and portraits of the military of that era ...
      Shaving mustache was the exception rather than the rule ....
    3. Riv
      Riv April 2 2016 12: 15

      The title of admiral of the Russian fleet was awarded to her by Alexander the First. However, the decree itself was not preserved and it is disputed, but ... only not in Greece!
  11. xan
    xan April 2 2016 10: 15
    Her memoirs are very interesting in terms of describing the life of the military and their relations during the war. It turns out psychologically that person was then practically no different from our time. It is only a pity that the author or censorship explicitly edited the memoirs, they are not consistent and do not create a complete picture, which is very, very sorry.
  12. Kenneth
    Kenneth April 2 2016 12: 19
    Interestingly, many men she killed.
  13. Tambov Wolf
    Tambov Wolf April 2 2016 14: 36
    As long as we have women who are fighting and raising children and dragging the country, Russia will always be. God bless our women with health and patience.
  14. Vadim42
    Vadim42 April 2 2016 15: 36
    Although a woman and a fool, fate is interesting and colorful.
  15. kvs207
    kvs207 April 2 2016 18: 57
    Quote: ranger
    Not all officers and generals of other military branches shaved their mustaches - just look at the paintings and portraits of the military of that era ...
    Shaving mustache was the exception rather than the rule ....

    You're wrong. I’ll clarify what I’m talking about the time of Alexander the 1st. At that time, the appearance of the serviceman was strictly regulated. In 1832, by decree of Nicholas 1, the ban on wearing a mustache to generals, staff and chief officers was lifted. Prior to this, mustaches were worn by hussars, ulans and Cossacks (officers). The lower ranks, wearing a mustache, was mandatory.
  16. Warrior2015
    Warrior2015 April 3 2016 13: 09
    Good article. I saw the portraits, but did not know that even a photograph of the "cavalry girl" was preserved.

    However, strangely enough it will sound to us, but it was the Western European armies that became the first in the 17-19 centuries, where women distinguished themselves in the military field. Especially many such examples were given by the Great Northern War and the French Revolutionary Wars with a continuation in the era of Napoleon.

    Well, of course, how not to remember Jeanne d'Arc.

    For Russia 16-19 centuries. Durova’s example is rather unique (up to the First World War), for France, England and Sweden with Norway it’s rather unusual, but quite common. Although, at critical moments, women, along with men, actively fought, especially when defending cities.

    In Sweden, women served both in the ground forces and in the navy.

    You can also remember the Japanese professional female warriors - "onna-bugeisha" (who owned the art of naginatajutsu) and female spies, incl. who owned the art of ninjutsu. There are even celebrations in Japan in honor of some of them.


    In general, such a phenomenon as a female warrior has been known since antiquity. Found many ancient burials of women with many weapons, including traces of wounds received in battles.

    In the ancient Slavic-Russian epic, such warrior maidens are known as Marya Morevna, the steppe warrior queen, Nastasya Mikulishna - the wife of the hero Dobryni Nikitich, and Vasilisa - the wife of the hero Danube Ivanovich.