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The Roles of Russian Women Throughout History

Woman in a forest.
A Russian woman can be so many things. | Photo by Victoria_Borodinova on Pixabay

The perception of Russian women by males who aren’t from Russia can sometimes be less than realistic. The Cold War may have made many men who seek Russian women for marriage see them as gorgeous supermodels who are also highly skillful spies.

It is true that there have been beautiful women who have been spies throughout Russia’s history. But throughout history, they have played many roles that go beyond being just that.

It’s common for people to view history in simplistic terms, focused on big events and great men. That’s fine, big events attract attention, and these men are often in positions of power, positions that can affect the kind of reform needed to become memorialized, like when Winston Churchill was born to an aristocrat or Alexander the Great, whose father was king of Macedonia.

But history goes beyond great men and major events. The history of the world was also shaped by more feminine hands. In Russian history, for example, women have played an important role in leading the country or capturing the public imagination. Women who have, for whatever reason, risen above the expectations set for them.

The roles of Russian women in their society throughout the country’s history; they’ve been everything from lowly, nameless peasants to holding the highest of titles. These women have been empresses, grand duchesses, revolutionaries, and war heroes.

Women in Russian society are assigned roles. History has shown, however, that women do not always fulfill these roles. Women who subverted their assigned roles were frequently scorned, ridiculed, and subjected to salacious gossip.

But some famous Russian women broke the mold made for them and went on to become legends.

Empress Catherine the Great

There’s a great Russian woman who wasn’t even Russian by blood, and one who maybe is the greatest. Among the longest reigning monarchs in Russian history, Catherine the Great was actually born in what is now Poland. By marriage, she was Russian, as she was wedded to her second cousin Peter III.

Woman wearing a dress for dancing
Never forget that Russian women can be whatever they want. | Photo by GORBACHEVSERGEYFOTO on Pixabay

When she arrived in Russia, she found a man more interested in wearing Prussian uniforms and throwing parades than actually ruling the country, so she overthrew him in a coup in 1762, seizing control of the Russian Empire and becoming one of the world’s most well-known monarchs.

An urban legend says that she died as a result of being crushed by a horse as a result of attempting to have relations with it. In reality, she died from a stroke at the age of 67, a fairly mundane and normal cause of death.

Grand Duchess Anastasia

It’s hard to imagine a Russian woman who has captured the public imagination more than Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna. Anastasia and her family were imprisoned in Yekaterinburg after the Bolsheviks deposed the Romanov dynasty.

They were executed.

In spite of this, the rumor that she survived persisted , since her body was not among her family’s remains, with some even pointing out that it was in her name, which means she will rise again. The rumors became so strong that several women came forward and pretended to be her, trying to get their hands on whatever remained of her family’s fortune.

There were so many rumors about her survival and what happened after her family was killed that a number of films and plays depicting the events have been made. Many of these films and plays have been met with great critical and financial success.

There were two skeletons discovered in Yekaterinburg in 2007. Based on DNA tests, it was determined that the bodies belonged to Alexei Nikolaevich and his sister. With that, the remains of all members of the Romanov family have been accounted for, and Anastasia’s survival has been disproven.

Inessa Armand

Inessa Armand was not born in Russia and did not have Russian blood. Originally from Paris, she was three-quarters French, one-quarter English. When she was a child, her father died so she stayed with her aunt and grandmother in Moscow.

As a communist and feminist, Inessa Armand became an active member of the Bolshevik Party and became Vladimir Lenin’s partner. Some called her their right hand because of her importance to the party. Whatever her relationship with Lenin, the fact is that she was one of the strongest voices for early feminism in Russia.

While Armand was a passionate activist, she was known to become inactive from time to time for her children’s sake.

Armand died of cholera at the age of 46.

Woman in a forest.
Expect multitudes when dating a Russian woman. | Photo by Greenstock on Pixabay

World War II

The Second World War put a tremendous strain on Russia. Germany’s war machine caused quite a bit of suffering to the country. The eastern front of the war was, in fact, where two-thirds of Germany’s military power was stationed during the war.

It would be an understatement to say that Russia was in a bad situation during World War II. In spite of the destruction of whole cities, the battle-ravaged countryside, and Russian women’s resilience, Russia endured partly because its women endured.

With manpower at an all-time low and decreasing every day, women were forced to serve in almost all roles on the frontlines of the war. Women served in every aspect of the war, as machine gunners, crew members, tank drivers, snipers, and more.

Lydumila Pavlichenko and Roza Shanina were two such women. Both snipers have an impressive body count: Shanina was confirmed to have killed 59 people, including 12 during one battle, while Pavlichenko killed 309 people, making her one of the most lethal female snipers in history and one of the most lethal snipers regardless of gender.

Shanina was killed by German fire in East Prussia during the war. Pavellichenko survived the war, but her injuries were so severe that she was evacuated to Moscow where she worked for the Soviet Navy as a researcher.

It was the wartime work of women like these, as well as countless others whose names are less familiar, which turned the tide. High military honors were bestowed on both women. Pavchenko was named Hero of the Soviet Union, while Shanina received the Order of Glory.

Pavellichenko died of a stroke at the age of 58.

There is no truth in the statement that Russian women are easily categorized. They have demonstrated that they can be anything and everything. In other words, a guy who wants to be with one needs to be ready for someone with multitudes of characteristics, someone who can play the role society sets for her as well as break away from it. If a guy wants to know how to please a Russian woman, then he needs to be ready to be with someone who can be as complicated as anyone can be.


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