I’m sure you’ve seen this meme in lots of fairy tales. A dream of so many Cinderellas. Is life with princes really so sweet and happy? With some princes it might be, but with others… let’s have a look at a few real life stories.
Praskovya (1767 – 1803)
( Photo from www.russia.rin.ru )
“I felt the most tender and passionate feelings for her” – Sheremetev wrote about Praskovya in 1809. … Not that it started out that way.
The young count was fond of hunting and of chasing girls: and until his father died in 1788, when he took up the running of the family estates, Nikolai Petrovich spent most of his time in these sensual pursuits. The young squire often claimed his “rights” over the serf girls. During the day, while they were at work, he would go around the rooms of the girls on the estate and drop a handkerchief through the window of his chosen one. That night he would visit her and, before he left, would ask her to return his handkerchief. …
It is not exactly clear when the count and Praskovya became de facto “man and wife”. To begin with, she was only one of several serf “divas” given special treatment by her master. He named his favourite singers and dancers after jewels – “the Emerald” (Kovaleva), “The Garnet” (Shlykova) and “The Pearl” (Praskovya)… Everything suggests that they were the count’s harem – not least the fact that just before his marriage to Praskovya he had the rest of them married off and gave them all dowries. …
By the beginning of the 1790s Praskovya had become Sheremetev’s unofficial wife. It was no longer just the pleasures of the flesh that attracted him to her but, as he said, the beauty of her mind and soul as well. For the next ten years the count would remain torn between his love for her and his own high position in society. He felt that it was morally wrong not to marry Praskovya but his aristocratic pride would not allow him to do so. Marriages to serfs were extremely rare in the status-obsessed culture of the eighteenth-century Russian aristocracy … and unthinkable for a nobleman as rich and grand as him…
In the theatre the public sympathized with the unequal lovers and applauded the basic Enlightment ideal that informed such works: that all people are equal. But it did not take the same view in real life… Praskovyas situation was extremely difficult. Resented by the serfs, she was also shunned by society. It was only through her strength of character that she managed to retain her dignity.”
( from Natasha’s Dance: A Cultural History of Russia by Orlando Figes )
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Jan van Leyden (1509-1536)
The Dutch Anabaptist Jan Van Leyden (John of Leiden 1509-1536) led the Anabaptist attempt to establish by force a “kingdom of God” in Münster, Germany. They terrorized the rest of the citizens, also in the name of equality but equal under John the despot, who kept a harem. The kingdom satisfied one of the recurrent dreams of the occidental mind: community of goods and of women.
The traditional story of the introduction of polygamy in Münster is that van Leyden introduced polygamy to satisfy his lust for Jan Matthijas’ wife Divara. There are also stories that tell of van Leyden being seen sneaking into the rooms of a woman other than his wife and introducing polygamy to legitimate his actions. Adding to the evidence suggesting that van Leyden’s personal desires were at play is the fact that he took more wives than any other citizen in Münster, eighteen.
One of the most important social factors leading to the introduction of polygamy was the imbalance between numbers of men and women in the city of Münster after the ejection of those who refused baptism. Estimates are that in 1534, almost three-quarters of the adult population of Münster was female. Many women who had lived in Münster prior to the expulsion of those who refused to submit to adult baptism were left when their husbands were expelled from the city. It appears that the women were not forcibly expelled with the men. Their husbands often left them in Münster with their children to maintain the household and businesses until the men were able to return. Although some of these women may have had sympathies with the Anabaptists, many of them are likely to have desired the return of exiled men. These women will have been seen as threats to the stability of the Anabaptist control of Münster.
Something was going to shift in the role women played in society. The situation could, for instance, have turned into a moment in history when women were granted additional rights and responsibilities in society. But with Jan van Leyden’s theology greater freedom for women was not in the cards.
On July 23, 1534, Jan van Leyden announced the institution of polygamy. He ordered that all marriages contracted under the previous system were no longer valid. All single women were to be married, including those whose husbands were no longer around. A man who impregnated his wife was required to take another, and a third if he impregnated the second.
John’s name still lives on in the Netherlands in the saying ‘zich met een Jan(tje) van Leiden van iets afmaken’, which means ‘getting something done with pretty but empty words’.
(from www.answers.com )
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Lev Tolstoy 1828 – 1910
“Tolstoy’s diaries are filled with details of his conquests of the female serfs on his estate – a diary he presented, according to the custom, to his bride Sonya on the eve of their wedding… In addition to the thirteen children Sonya bore, there were at least a dozen other children fathered by him in the villages of his estate.
Sonya was eighteen when she married Tolstoy – rather young by European standards but not by Russian ones. Eighteen was in fact the average age of marriage for women in nineteenth-century Russia – far younger than even in those pre-industrial parts of western Europe.
Later Tolstoy would confess that he had ‘acted badly and cruelly – as every husband acts towards his wife. I gave her all the hard work, the so-called “women’s work”, and went hunting or enjoyed myself.”
( from Natasha’s Dance: A Cultural History of Russia by Orlando Figes )
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Lavrentiy Pavlovich Beria
1899 – 1953
Lavrentiy Pavlovich Beria was a Soviet politician and chief of the Soviet security and police apparatus. Beria is now remembered chiefly as the executor of Joseph Stalin’s Great Purge of the 1930s, even though he actually presided only over the closing stages of the purge. He was in charge of the Katyn executions, where over 22,000 Polish officers and intelligentsia were murdered.
Charges of sexual assault and sexual sadism against Beria were first made in the speech by a Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, Nikolay Shatalin, at the Plenary Meeting of the committee on July 10, 1953, two weeks after Beria’s arrest. Shatalin said that Beria had had sexual relations with numerous women and that he had contracted syphilis as a result of his sex with prostitutes. Shatalin referred to a list (supposedly kept by Beria’s bodyguard) of over 25 women with whom Beria had sex. Over time, however, the charges became more dramatic. Khrushchev in his posthumously published memoirs wrote: “We were given a list of more than 100 names of women. They were dragged to Beria by his people. And he had the same trick for them all: all who got to his house for the first time, Beria would invite for a dinner and would propose to drink for the health of Stalin. And in wine, he would mix in some sleeping pills…” Afterwards he would drop off his charge and the chaffuer would give them a boquet of flowers. One pregnant victim, having refused his advances, was accidentally given the flowers. On noticing Beria shouted “it’s not a boquet, it’s a wreath. May they rot on your grave”. She was later arrested.
By the 1980s, the sexual assault stories about Beria included the rape of teenage girls. The author Anton Antonov-Ovseenko, who wrote a biography of Beria, mentions in an interview a specific sexual game Beria is said to have forced upon young girls before picking one of them to be raped. This alleged practice got the name “Beria’s Flower Game”.
Numerous stories have circulated over the years involving Beria personally beating, torturing and killing his victims.
( from Wikipedia )
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Uday Saddam Hussein al-Tikriti
18 June 1964 – 22 July 2003
Uday Saddam Hussein al-Tikriti (Arabic: عُدي صدّام حُسين) was the eldest son of Saddam Hussein from his first wife, Sajida Talfah, and the brother of Qusay Hussein.
He was a monster even by the standards of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, a sadist with a taste for cruelty so extreme that even his father was forced to acknowledge that his first-born son would not be a worthy heir.
Uday’s excesses carried over in his private life where he had a reputation for ordering any girl or woman who caught his eye to be brought to his private pleasure dome.
A report released on 20 March 2003, one day after the American led invasion of Iraq, by ABC news detailed several allegations against Uday, including:
- Kidnapping young Iraqi women from the streets in order to rape them. Uday was known to intrude on parties and otherwise “discover” women whom he would later rape. Time published an article in 2003 detailing his sexual brutality.
- Beating an army officer unconscious when the man refused to allow Uday to dance with his wife; the man later died of his injuries. Uday also shot and killed an army officer who did not salute him.
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Russian proverb from the “good old days”: “Do not promote me to Corporal, but do not touch my wife”
( Photo by blast99 )