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Alena Arzamasskaia, sometimes called the Russian Joan of Arc, was a famed female rebel fighter in 17th-century Russia, posing as a man and fighting in Cossack Stepan Razin's revolt of 1670 in southern Russia.
The daughter of a peasant from the Volga region, Alena was married while still a young girl to a local man who soon died. Essentially a child widow, she then became a nun at Nikolaevskii Monastery. However, she found life in the convent to be as unjust there as it was in the secular world and left in 1669.
Upon leaving the convent, she cut her hair and dressed as a man. Pretending to be a Cossack rebel leader, she gathered together a regiment of men from the areas around her hometown. Soon she was leading six thousand fighters, unaware that their leader was a woman. Her company eventually captured the city of Temnikov and the local Cossacks selected her to be the leader. Her skill as an archer and in medicine (learned at the convent) made her popular and respected among the men.
In 1670, the Russian Tsar launched a campaign to suppress the rebels and captured Arzamasskaia. She was tortured in an effort to get the identities of other rebels, however she resisted and did not divulge any information. Later, she was convicted of brigandage for her role in taking over Temnikov, but her crime of dressing as a man carried a worse penalty. She was burned at the stake that same year, and witnesses reported that she did not make a single sound as she burned to death.
- Natalʹi︠a︡ Lʹvovna Pushkareva, Eve Levin, "Women in Russian history: from the tenth to the twentieth century", M.E. Sharpe, 1997
- Adrienne Marie Harris "THE MYTH OF THE WOMAN WARRIOR AND WORLD WAR II IN SOVIET CULTURE", University of Kansas, 2001