Natalia Nikolayevna Pushkina-Lanskaya (Russian: Наталья Николаевна Пушкина-Ланская, 8 September 1812 – 26 November 1863) (née Natalia Nikolayevna 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. Natalia was married to Major-General Petr Petrovich Lanskoy from 1844 until her death in 1863.
Prior to marriage
Natalia (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. Her ancestors included Petro Doroshenko, Hetman of Ukrainian Cossacks.
Marriage to Pushkin
After many hesitations, Natalia 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.
During the six years of their marriage, Natalia Pushkina gave birth to four children: Maria (b. 1832, suggested as a prototype of Anna Karenina), Alexander (b. 1833), Grigory (b. 1835), and Natalia (b. 1836) (who married into the royal House of Nassau-Weilburg to Nikolaus Wilhelm of Nassau and became 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 Natalia and Pushkin. Seventy-eight letters from Pushkin to Natalia 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 Natalia Ivanovna.
Reputed affair with D'Anthès
In 1835 Natalia 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 a duel between Pushkin and D'Anthès on January 27, 1837, in which Pushkin was mortally wounded. Commentators disagree about the propriety of Natalia's behaviour in this situation. Some, including Anna Akhmatova and Marina Tsvetaeva, 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 Natalia Nikolayevna 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
Much was made of Natalia'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, Natalia gave birth to three daughters: Alexandra (b. 1845), Elizaveta (b. 1846) and Sophia (b. 1848). Natalia died on 26 November 1863 and her ashes were laid in the cemetery of the Alexander Nevsky Lavra.
- 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.