Natalia Pushkina

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Natalia Pushkina, portrait by Alexander Brullov, 1831.

Nataliya Nikolaevna Pushkina-Lanskaya (Russian: Наталья Николаевна Пушкина-Ланская, 8 September 1812 - 26 November 1863), (née Nataliya Nikolaevna Goncharova) (Гончарова), was the wife of the Russian poet Alexander Pushkin from 1831 until his death in 1837 in a duel with Georges d'Anthès. Natalya was married to Major-General Petr Petrovich Lanskoy from 1844 until her death in 1863.

Biography[edit]

Prior to marriage[edit]

Natalya Goncharova was born on 8 September 1812 (27 August 1812 Old Style) in Karian village in Tambov Governorate (in present-day Znamensky District, Tambov Oblast), where her family lived during the occupation of Moscow by the forces of Napoleon. Her father, Nikolay Afanasievich Goncharov, a scion of the family of paper manufacturers from Kaluga, was pronounced demented in 1815; the household was managed by his wife, Natalia Ivanovna Zagriajskaya, an imperious lady with connections within Muscovite nobility.[1] Her ancestors included Petro Doroshenko, Hetman of Ukrainian Cossacks.

Natalie (as she was familiarly known) met Alexander Pushkin at the age of 16, when she was one of the most talked-about beauties of Moscow.

Marriage to Pushkin[edit]

Natalia Nikolaevna Goncharova, 1849. Portrait by Ivan Makarov

After many hesitations, Natalya eventually accepted a proposal of marriage from Pushkin in April 1830, but not until she had received assurances that the tsarist government did not intend to persecute the libertarian poet. They were officially engaged on 6 May 1830, and sent out wedding invitations. Because of the outbreak of cholera and other circumstances, the wedding was delayed for a year. The ceremony took place on 18 February 1831 (Old Style) in the Great Ascension Church on Bolshaya Nikitskaya Street in Moscow.

Natalia Alexandrovna Pushkina, Pushkin's daughter, 1849. Portrait by Ivan Makarov

During the six years of their marriage, Natalya Pushkina gave birth to four children: Maria (b. 1832, suggested as a prototype of Anna Karenina), Alexander (b. 1833), Grigory (b. 1835), and Natalya (b. 1836) (who married into the royal House of Nassau-Weilburg to Nikolaus Wilhelm of Nassau and become Countess of Merenberg). As the family lived in the country for prolonged periods, while Pushkin spent most of his time in the capitals, there was a sizeable correspondence between Natalya and Pushkin. Seventy-eight letters from Pushkin to Natalya remain; they are frequently written in a light-hearted tone with touches of ribaldry, but none of them could be called love letters. It is believed that the poet dedicated several poems to her, including "Madonna" (1830). Natalya's correspondence with Pushkin was lost except for one letter, written together with her mother Natalya Ivanovna.

Reputed affair with d'Anthès[edit]

In 1835 Natalya met a French immigrant Georges-Charles de Heeckeren d'Anthès and was involved in a society intrigue, which provoked rumours of an affair with d'Anthès. These resulted in in a duel between Pushkin and d'Anthès on January 27, 1837, in which Pushkin was mortally wounded. Commentators disagree about the propriety of Natalya's behaviour in this situation. Some, including Anna Akhmatova and Marina Tsvetayeva, covertly or overtly blamed Pushkin's death on her, feeling that she did not understand his greatness and failed to take an appropriate interest in his art. It does seem that she preferred worldly pleasures to his company, though to some extent she was obliged to socialise separately from him; for example, even during her pregnancies, she often had to chaperone her sisters in the court, since there was no-one else to do so, and only by going into society could they find husbands. Her constant demands for money for costly dresses and jewellery forced the poet to write increasingly for money rather than for pleasure. However, modern research into archival materials and contemporary memoirs, including those of family members (who always mentioned Natalya Nikolaevna with great warmth and respect), leads to a more sympathetic view. It stands to her credit that she preserved Pushkin's letters to her (which suggests that she had some idea of the significance of his written heritage), and subsequently she allowed them to be published.

Second marriage and death[edit]

Much was made of Natalya's relationship with Nicholas I after Pushkin's death; it was even rumoured that she became his mistress. In 1843, she met Petr Petrovich Lanskoy (1799-1877), who served at the same regiment as her brother. After having been blessed by the tsar, their wedding was held in Strelna on 16 July 1844. Lanskoy was in favour with the tsar, and he had had a remarkable career before his marriage. Following the marriage, Natalya gave birth to three daughters: Alexandra (b. 1845), Elizaveta (b. 1846) and Sophia (b. 1848). Natalya died on 26 November 1863 and her ashes were laid in the cemetery of the Alexander Nevsky Lavra.

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Vadim Stark. Zhizn s poetom. Natalia Nikolayevna Pushkina, in two volumes. Moscow: Vita Nova, 2006. ISBN 5-93898-087-9, 5-93898-099-2, 5-93898-100-X.