Children of Decembrists
176 years ago their fathers decided to resist the authorities. With the nobiliary title and father’s love the children inherited the ideals and delusions of the Decembrists.
It was about 2 p.m.… the priest came to everyone with the cross… they said good-buy to each other for the last time and shook hands. They were dressed in white shirts, <their heads were covered> and the hands were bound. At last they were led to the dais and the loops were thrown on their necks. When the priest came down the dais and turned round, he saw Bestuzhev and Pestel’ hanging and the others were lying on the dais: their ties had been torn and they had fallen. Sergey Murav’ov, whose leg was broken, could only enounce: “Poor Russia! They can’t even gibbet well!” Kahovsky blackguarded Russian. Ryleev said nothing. The ax fell through because it had been raining half an hour earlier and the ties were sodden… When hangman let the bred down, where the condemned Decembrists stood, the ties slipped off… General ordered immediately to take <them> up and hang again… (from the notes of I. D. Yakushkin).
121 Decembrists were relegated to hard labour.
The wives and brides followed their beloved men to Siberia: M. N. Volkonskaya, E. I. Trubetskaya, A. G. Murav’ova, E. P. Naryshkina, N. D. Fonvizina, A. I. Davydova, A. V. Yental’tseva, A.V. Rosen, M. K. Yushnevskaya, Polina Gebl’ (Annenkov’s bride), Kamila Le Dantu (Ivashev’s bride). They were forbidden to take their children and couldn’t even hope to see their relatives and friends again.
The first man, who took the new-born children after their birth, was Ferdinand Vol’f. Only 14 children survived (from 18) and grew up. Misha Volkonsky, Sasha Trubetskaya, Olga Annenkova, Nona Murav’ova are among them. All children were nursed and educated by the whole commune. Ivan Yakushkin wrote: “Nowhere children could be surrounded with such constant care as in Chita and Petrovsk; parents didn’t disturb them with different respectabilities and without any entertainments of high-society paid much attention to their children.” All of them studied foreign languages, music, painting, history, literature, mathematics and geography.
Of course, children ached very often. Bestuzhev wrote: “In autumn all children fell ill with cough, 2 daughters <recovered>. My dear son Kolya became its victim. He died.”
After 16 years of exile children, who were born in Siberia and whose parents were noblemen and had married before the condemnation, could get education on the state account if they changed their surname. Only V. L. Davydov agreed with such condition. He had 3 sons in Krasnoyarsk - Vasily, Ivan, Lev and 2 daughters - Alexandra and Sophia. V. L. Davydov was the only Decembrist, who allowed his children to study on the state account by the name of the Vasil’evs (it happened in 1842).
Ivashev’s children lost their parents very early. They were sent to Simbirsk Province to their aunts and entered the merchant estate. The eldest daughter Masha got married at the age of 19, but her marriage was unhappy and soon divorced. She educated 4 children and was interested in feminism.
V. K. Kuhelbeker got married to the postman’s daughter D. I. Artyonova in Siberia. After his death she had to be under the police control, living on 114 ruble’s pension. Their daughter U. K. Glinka was educated by Kuhelbeker’s sister, their son Mihail got education on the state account.
M. Kuhelbeker got married to Tokareva. When they both died their relatives took care of their daughters.
The Volkonskys spent 10 years on the Petrovsk Factory. They had 2 children: Mihail and Elena. Then they were directed to Urik (near Irkutsk) and afterwards - to Irkutsk. With the help of their relative A. F. Orlov, who was the chief of gendarmes, Misha got an opportunity to study in Irkutsk Gumnasium. Some years later he published the notes of his parents. When Decembrists’ children got an amnesty, which returned them the nobility and their fathers’ names, Mihail Volkonsky had already become an officer of special commission under the general-governor of Siberia. His sister Elena got married 3 times. After the death of her 2 husbands she found happiness in the third marriage.
The Decembrist N. O. Mozgalevsky got married to E. L. Ageeva, but some years later he died and she educated 8 children herself. She wasn’t alone: all Decembrists helped her and the youngest son got an opportunity to study on the state account.
The daughter of Nikita Murav’ov Sophia lost her parents at the age of 14. She was sent to her grandmother and studied in Ekaterina’s Institute by the name Nikitina. But she didn’t respond to the new name, that’s why everybody called her Sophia. She got married to M. I. Bibikov, the nephew of M. Murav’ov-Apostol. Her sister Ekaterina maddened.
The son of the Decembrist I. D. Yakushkin Yevgeny graduated from the juridical department of Moscow University. Only at the age of 27 he saw his father for the first time. Evgeny Yakushkin created a crew, which united the Decembrists, due to his efforts their notes and memories were published.
I. A. Annenkov “was happy in his marriage with Praskovia Yegorovna, he loved his sons and daughters and took much time to their education. Annenkov used to smoke out a cigar after dinner and… invite all children to fence.” (“Decembrists. 86 portraits”, Moscow, 1906) His daughter Olga wrote in her memorials that she was brought up and educated by Decembrists. They taught their children to love people, to believe in kindness and all disappointments they met later couldn’t destroy those ideals, which had been received in their childhood.
Most of Decembrists could sign the poetic words of V. Rayevsky, devoted to his daughter Alexandra. He wrote: “Love people, help them… feel for them… it is not their fault that they are pressed by slavery and shame.”
Picture "Childhood under Angel's care"/ "Русский паломник". 1894. № 3