Hélène Kuragin

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Anita Ekberg as Hélène Kuragin in the 1956 film

Princess Elena "Hélène" Vasilyevna Kuragina is a fictional character in Leo Tolstoy's novel War and Peace and its various cinematic adaptations. The surname is modelled on the Kurakin princely family; "kuraga" is the Russian word for dried apricots.


Hélène is Pierre Bezukhov's socially ambitious and sexually alluring wife,[1] who uses her sexual attractions to earn social power in high-society circles but eventually defeats herself and dies (it is implied in the book that she dies from drug overdose in an attempted abortion). Before her marriage to Pierre, which she undertakes purely for social and financial advantage, it is rumoured that Hélène has had an incestuous affair with her profligate brother, Anatole. After her marriage, Hélène has an affair with Dolokhov, whom Pierre fights in a duel. In a feat of luck, Pierre wounds Dolokhov but sinks into a depression, further abandoning his wife. Hélène quickly becomes a prominent and respected member of Petersburg's society. Despite her stupidity, Hélène is considered very cultured and intelligent. She frequently hosts dinner parties for high society friends and her salon becomes extremely popular. Towards the end of the novel, Hélène forsakes her former religion and adopts Catholicism. She makes a large donation to the church hoping for the Pope to annul her marriage to Pierre so she can marry a young foreign prince. Soon after, Hélène falls ill due to a pregnancy and dies.


  1. ^ Friends of the Soviet Union, New World Review (N.W.R. Publications, 1968), 120.

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