Russian Language Blog

Russian Literature On Stage: «Поэма «Русские женщины» Н. А. Некрасова» [The Long Poem “Russian Women” by N. A. Nekrasov] Posted by on May 29, 2009 in Culture, History, language

Though there are still some problems with posting pictures here on the blog we can always use videos instead! This is just the beginning – I intend on posting the whole 10 minute version of this tiny play in a couple of days – of how we staged «поэма «Русские женщины» Н. А. Некрасова» [the long poem «Russian Women” by N. A. Nekrasov] today at Ural State University. (And please be patient with me – I’m just starting to understand how to make movies out of videos!)

In the early 1870’s Nikolay Nekrasov wrote a long poem – known in Russian as «поэма» – called «Русские женщины» [“Russian Women”]. It is made up out of two parts; part I is called «Княгиня Трубецкая» [Princess Trubetskaya] and part II «Княгиня М. Н. Волконская» [Princess M. N. Volkonskaya]. It was the first part that we played today at Ural State University here in Yekaterinburg. Being as it is a ‘poem’ it is all in verse with rhyme, and even though that might sound like impossible material to use on stage, one might be surprised to find out how well it actually both works and sounds. The basic story of the first part is that princess Trubetskaya decides to follow her husband who’s a «декабрист» [Decembrist] and has been sentenced to exile in Siberia in the small town «Нерчинск» [Nerchinsk] north-east of Irkutsk. But because she’s a woman traveling alone – her chaperon got sick on the road but she continued ahead – and because she’s a princess, a general receives firm orders from Saint Petersburg to detain her in Irkutsk and send her back home. He tries to convince her in any way he can that it is impossible for her to join her husband in Siberian exile. First he says she’s just a child with impossible, romantic ideals, then he threatens her that she must give up her nobility. None of this works, since Trubetskaya is determined to help her husband. The general says: «Бежите вы за ним как жалкая раба [‘And you’re running after him like a pitiful slave!’] to which she answers with the famous phrase: «Я не жалкая раба, я женщина – жена[‘I’m not a pitiful slave; I’m a woman – a wife!]. Since nothing else seems to work he tells her that she’ll have to go «по этапу» [under guard; under escort] and «под конвоем» [which also means under guard; under escort] by foot. He explains that she’ll walk there together with thieves, guarded by Cossacks with guns, thinking this will scare her off. But no, Trubetskaya says: «Иду! Мне всё равно» [I’ll walk! I don’t care], and then the old general caves and promises to take her to her husband on his on wagon within three days.

This poem is a truly well-written piece of historical literature for all of us who still can’t seem to get over what happened in December 1825, or just for those of us who are in awe of how their wives left everything behind in the Russian capital to join them in their Siberian exile. Russian women are truly exceptional!

Every year in late May or early June our «Международный театральный коллектив» [International Theatrical Collective] of foreign students puts up small plays like this one here at Ural State. Learning a role in a Russian play is very useful for learning first and foremost phonetics, especially if the play is in rhyme. In 2007 we played «Беда от нежного сердца» [“Sorrow because of a Tender Heart”] by «В. А. Соллогуб» [V. A. Sollogub] and «Медведь» [“The Bear”] by «А. П. Чехов» [A. P. Chekhov]. In 2008 we staged the comedy «Горе от ума» [“Woe from Wit”] by «А. С. Грибоедов» [A. S. Gribojedov] (but not all of it of course! Only the most important – and hilarious – parts). This year, in addition to Caleb and me in “Russian Women”, four Chinese students staged a scene from «Ревизор» [“The Inspector General”] by «Н. В. Гоголь» [N. V. Gogol’]. If you’re a student of Russian language at a university you should try to make also your faculty put up a play each year! It is not only fun but also educational. When I think back on how my phonetics skills in Russian used to sound like before I started acting in 2007 I feel very grateful to my amazing university and the initiative taken by our lovely teacher Tatiana Smirnova, who helps us with practicing every year. Do try this at home!

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
Keep learning Russian with us!

Build vocabulary, practice pronunciation, and more with Transparent Language Online. Available anytime, anywhere, on any device.

Try it Free Find it at your Library
Share this:
Pin it


  1. Alan:

    I really love to hear spoken Russian, especially poetry because it is such a big help in learning the language so I am dismayed that the echo in the sound track of the video makes it unintelligible. Josefina, it’s not just you movie making skills, it happens with a lot of amateur movies. Concentrating on the picture, the sound is neglected and with language …. sound is everything.