My dearest husband,
A half of a year has transpired since I received your rushed letter informing me of your secret society, and your plan to change our lives. When I read it, I fainted straight away, and I feared that such a spell would hurt the child in my womb. As I told you in my brief visit to your cell the labor proved difficult, and I lay in bed for months not knowing if I would survive. Luckily your son is strong and healthy. While you have wasted away in prison, awaiting your sentence, I have spoken with my family about my next steps.
My poor father! After arranging our marriage my family were convinced they had assured me the most brilliant future, but I felt strangely uneasy as if through my wedding veil I had been able to discern the dark fate that awaited us.* I felt that warning, yet I continued with our marriage, Sergei, knowing that it might mean disaster. Now my family, so anxious to have us wed, are just as eager to see me annul our marriage. A possibility sanctioned by the Czar. They claim that my youth will make it easy for me to start anew, that I should forget you and let you live out your days in banishment.
However, there is another option. I can join you in Siberia. But oh, what choice is this? Growing up I enjoyed the Crimean sun; I lavished in the warmth and the ocean; to spend the rest of my existence in the frigid Siberian wasteland because of a husband that tried to challenge the natural order of society? Unthinkable. But think I must for I married you, I gave my soul on my wedding day for your safe keeping We swore to God the allegiance between man and wife.
At the hanging three of the ropes snapped. As I am sure you know, when hanging is unsuccessful it means the will of man is against God; those three men should have gone free. However, the executioners rushed to finish the deed, having to search the city for more rope, for none lay nearby. This incident came into my heart and flooded my brain. If God did all he could to stop the deaths of your fellow conspirators could it be that he supported your mission? I pondered the will of God for many restless nights and then headed to my Father’s study.
When I told my family that I desired to follow you into exile, they were most unpleased. The Czar has made a list of consequences should I follow through with that desire. I will have to leave our son behind and accept that I can never return to Russia even if you should die. I can not even have servants to help me in this new life, and any further children I bear will be declared serfs! In short, I must give up everything because of your hasty letter, because of your speedy plot, because of your idealism. And it is that very idealism that encourages my hand, that and a push from the divine.
I shall join you, my dear husband. I will uphold my duties as your wife. Our son will grow without a mother but receive the rights of a noble. He will fair better here than with us. And so, wait for me, prepare for me, and plot with me. We shall live.
Your loving wife,
Princess no more,
Maria Volkonskaya became known as the ‘Princess of Siberia’ for her charitable work during the Volkonsky’s banishment. The Decemberists started schools to teach western thought and took care of the I’ll. While the Decembrist movement is perhaps the shortest lived in history, it left an impression on many Russians. A century later they would turn the norms of society on their head, and the Czars would rule (let alone live) no more.
- This is a direct quote from Maria Volkonskaya