Famous Women of Russian History

A Class Handout for Collegium Caidis

by Liudmila Vladimirova doch'

Olga (or Helga), the Grand Duchess of Rus’

c. 890 - 969

·         the wife of Prince Igor of Russia

·         after his death in 945 became regent for their son Sviatoslav

·         exacted a cruel and unusual revenge upon Derevlians for her husband’s killing

·         in 957 visited Constantinople and, either then or earlier, became a Christian

·         did not succeed in converting her son, or a significant number of their countrymen

·         grandmother of Grand Duke Vladimir the Bright Sun, who converted Rus’ to Christianity

·         canonized as St. Olga, patroness of widows and converts


Anna (Agnesa) Iaroslavna, Queen of France

Born in either 1025 or 1032, died after 1075

·         Granddaughter of Vladimir I, daughter of Iaroslav the Wise

·         Like her sisters, literate and educated

·         Married Henry I, King of France, in May of 1049 or May of 1051

·         Brought to France an old Rus' Gospel which later became known as the Gospel of Reims

·         Widowed, ruled for her underage son King Philip I

·         Abducted (perhaps willingly) by Count Raoul de Crepy de Valois

·         Married the count in 1063 (not recognized by the church because the count already had an estranged wife)

·         After her husbands death, returned to Philip’s court

·         Possibly returned to Kiev to die


Anna (Ianka) Vsevolodovna, Princess of Kiev

Died in 1112

·         Engaged to Byzantine prince Constantine, who was forced to enter a monastery

·         In 1089 went to Byzantium to bring a new mitropolit  Ioann II

·         Became a nun and founded a nunnery (Andreyevsky monastery) in Kiev

·         Founded a first in Rus’ school for girls

·         Beautified by the church

 Fevronia, Duchess of Murom

Died in 1228

·         Petr and Fevronia became heroes of a love story

·         Fevronia was said to have magical powers with which she healed Duke Petr, requiring that he marry her in return

·         As a peasant, rejected by the noblewomen of Murom

·         Petr and Fevronia let Murom together, but were asked to return

·         In old age, the spouses retired from ruling and entered monasteries

·         The story goes that they died in one day, and ended up in one grave

·         Canonized with Petr in 1547 (year of Ivan IV the Terrible’s wedding to Anastasia, below)


Marfa Boretskaia, “Posadnitsa” of Novgorod

Second half of 15th century

·         Boyaryna, widow of Posadnik (mayor) Isak Boretskii

·         The wealthiest woman of her times

·         Known for being ruthless to her enemies

·         Actively involved in secular and church politics

·         Led the Novgorodian opposition to Grand Prince Ivan III of Muscovy during the 1470s

·         Defeated, sent to exile, and executed on the way.


Solomonia Saburova, The Grand Duchess of Moscow

Died in 1542

·         Winner of the first Russian royal beauty pageant (smotriny)

·         Chosen by Ivan III and his son Vasilii to be Vasillii’s wife

·         Daughter of a common courtier, descendant of a tatar Chet-Murza

·         Did not have children, though tried numerous remedies

·         Forced to become a nun in 1525


Elena Glinskaia, The Grand Duchess of Moscow

Died in 1538

·         Succeeded Solomonia Saburova as Grand Duke Vasilii’s wife

·         Chronicles offer great detail on their January 1526 wedding, which was not fully sanctioned by church

·         After 4 years, gave birth to a son, future Ivan the Terrible

·         In 1533, after Vasillii’s death, became a regent for her young son

·         Openly lived with the master of the horse, Telepnev

·         Ruled for 8 years, with great skill and courage

·         Achieved numerous military and diplomatic goals, as well as internal developments

·         Ruthlessly fought for the future safety of her sons

·         After her sudden death (possibly poisoned), Telepnev was brutally murdered


Anastasia Romanovna Zakhar’ina, first Tsaritsa of Russia

Died in

·         Much loved wife of Ivan IV (Ivan the Terrible), first Tsar of Russia

·         Her family, though not very noble, was at the source of future Romanov dinasty

·         Said to be the only calming influence on her husband

·         Birthed 6 children, though only 2 sons survived childhood



Irina Godunova, Tsaritsa of Russia

c. 1557-1603

·         Reared at the palace from age 7

·         Married son of Ivan the Terrible Fedor in 1580

·         After Ivan’s death, Fedor became tsar

·         After 6 years without children, had a daughter, who soon died

·         When Fedor died, he left Irina as Tsaritsa in full power

·         Irina enterd a monastery and her brother Boris Godunov became the Tsar


Evdokia Lu’ianovna Streshneva, Tsaritsa

c. 1608 - 1645

·         “Russian Cinderella” – came to Moscow to serve her distant relative, a rich boyar’s daughter, for bride-choosing of Tsar Mikhail Romanov…and became his wife

·         beautiful daughter of a low-level lord from Mozhaisk

·         refused to be re-named Anastasia

·         deftly took charge of the Tsar’s household, kept careful records

·         supervised sewing and embroidery workshop, and was known for her skill at these arts

·         in 1629, had a swing set up within her terem, and usually participated in other amusements

·         had a huge wardrobe, most of which was left to tsaritsas and tsarevnas after her

·         gave girth to 10 children, with 4 surviving (1 boy, future Tsar Aleksei)

·         survived numerous real and imaginary attempts at her life and health

·         died only a month after her husband


Natalia Naryshkina, Tsaritsa


·         second wife of Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich

·         a Tasritsa who refused to remain locked up in her terem

·         got rid of inherited dresses

·         soon after the birth of her son Peter, her husband had a foreign theater company present a play, in a specially built structure

·         changed the way her household was run


Sofia Alexeevna, Tsarevna, Ruler of Russia


·         shut in the terem without marital prospects almost until the death of Tsar Fedor, her brother

·         moved with her sisters to a new, specially built home

·         wrote and produced plays, with women acting

·         had an affair with the married Duke Vasilii Golitsyn

·         not pretty, but with a certain charm

·         after strelets rebelion, achieved regent’s status next to two young Tsars, Ivan and Petr

·         ruled with a strong hand, instituted many reforms

·         removed from Kremiln her stepmother, Natalia, and brother Petr

·         in 1689 Petr got married, took over, and removed Sofia to a nunnery

·         After another strelets rebelion in which Sofia was implicated, she is forced to become a nun.