Top 5: influential women in Russian history

Russia has a rich and complex history in which women have always played a significant role. Numerous Russian personalities (and sometimes foreigner ones) left a permanent mark on Russia. You may know some of them (or may not, I’m not here to judge), but just in case here are some of the most influential women of Russian history, let’s go!

  • Olga

Also known as Olga of Kiev, she was the regent of the Kiev principality. She started her reign by avenging the death of her husband Igor who was killed by the Drevlian tribe while collecting taxes ( Sweet vengeance). Baptised in Constantinople, she became a Christian in a kingdom that was mainly pagan at the time and tried to convert her son but without success. She is also the first woman saint of her country and is celebrated on the 11th of July (24th of July in Gregorian calendar).

Helga_Olgacredit: Wikimedia Commons
  • Sophia Alexeïevna

Sophia was a very intelligent and cultivated woman, she was probably as ambitious as she was smart (which is a good combo). When her brother Fedor died without an heir, a new Tsar had to be chosen, her brother Ivan was the rightful heir, but he was weak, many nobles preferred his (and her too) stepbrother Peter. Sophia disagreed, she used the streltsy (A Russian military corps) to impose her point of view and … two co-Tsars !!! Ivan and Peter. And of course, she was named regent for her brothers. She pursued in her brother’s politics of opening to the west and fought two wars against the Ottoman Empire (With not much success). Unfortunately for her, her step-brother Peter was no one else than Peter the Great. After a little less than ten years, Peter put an end to his sister’s carrier and made her retire in the Novodevichy Convent where she lived the rest of her life.

Sophia_Alekseyevna_by_anonim_(19_c.,_Hermitage)credit: Wikimedia Commons
  • Catherine II

This is certainly the best part, Catherine is by far my favorite Russian ruler of all time. Not only did she managed to get to the top power position as a woman in a world mainly dominated by men, but she was not even Russian, nor born in Russia.

Catherine was born of the minor nobility in Prussia, nowadays Germany. She got married to Peter (not the great unfortunately), heir of the Russian Empire, and quickly learned Russian and the Russian way of life, she also converted to Orthodoxy. When the tsarina Elisabeth I (You should also check her out) died, her son, Peter III (Catherine’s husband) took the throne. To be polite, he was not a well-appreciated ruler and Catherine, helped by officers of the guard, organized a coup ( and possibly had her husband killed). She then became Empress of all Russias until her death.

Her reign is full of military victories and art creation. She had a lot of talented counselors and was open to new ideas such as the enlightenment ( she used to converse with Voltaire).

Katharina-II-von-Russlandcredit: Wikimedia Commons
  • Anna Pavlova

Anna Pavlova was a Russian Prima Ballerina in the late 19th and early 20th century. Those who like ballet probably already know her and won’t learn much more than they already know here (really sorry guys). But for every body else, Anna Pavlova was one of, if not the, best ballet dancer. She learned from the best in St Petersburg where she danced in the famous Mariinsky theater. She then started an international career, leading her own dance company and she became the first ballerina to make a world tour with the choreography The dying swan. She inspired many other young artists with her performances.

Anna_Pavlova_as_the_Dying_Swancredit: Wikimedia Commons
  • Valentina Tereshkova

Valentina Tereshkova is the first woman in space. For those who will say that it was just propaganda… well, you are right, Soviet Union saw women in cosmos mainly as propaganda. But this shouldn’t cloud your judgment, she was chosen for a reason. During her training, she flew many times on Mig 15 fight aircraft and had courses on spacecraft engineering. She flew the 16th of June 1963, two years after the first human inhabited flight, she was 26 at the time. She is still the youngest female cosmonaut and the only female cosmonaut to fly alone. After her flight, she achieved a degree in engineering and she started a political career.

RIAN_archive_612748_Valentina_Tereshkovacredit: Wikimedia Commons

Let’s also remember that the Russian revolution was initiated the 8 of March 1917 (23 February in the Julian calendar) by a demonstration of women workers asking for bread. Women can change the course of history.

Want to discover more about these women? Book a guided tour on Tsar Visit!