Author Topic: 1913 Diary of Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaievna, transl. by Marina Petrov  (Read 128803 times)

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Offline Sarushka

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Re: 1913 Diary of Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaievna, transl. by Marina Petrov
« Reply #75 on: October 29, 2008, 01:25:10 PM »
After all, by the standards of her day, the Grand Duchess Olga of the early 1910s had plenty of company, and an infinitely happier and more active social life than the overwhelming majority of her contemporaries. Let us recall that the idea of the "teenager" only really emerged in American culture of the 1950s. Prior to this, once you passed the age of fifteen or sixteen (depending on your social status, it was often quite younger), whether male or female, you were an adult for all intents and purposes, and expected to make your own way, or at the very least contribute to your family's economic welfare, either by work or by marriage or both. Most Russian and for that matter European "teenagers" of Olga's time did not lead such carefree lives as she did. And this general rule, that one owed to family and society what family and society dictated, was not only applied to the common masses, it affected the nobility as well.

Point well taken. Similarly, I'd like to know how the GDss social lives compared with other royal and noble young women of their era.
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Offline Sarushka

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Re: 1913 Diary of Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaievna, transl. by Marina Petrov
« Reply #76 on: October 29, 2008, 04:38:09 PM »
So let's face it, Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna led an extremely pampered, sheltered, and yes, carefree life, up until the outbreak of the first world war. She was not under pressure to make an advantageous marriage. She had polite, non-threatening partners galore for her dances and silly card games (whether these men were thirty years old or her own age scarcely matters in terms of the fun quotient, in fact it seems to me the older the wiser and more gentlemanly), she went to the theater, opera, and ballet on a regular basis, she went on a special tour of much of the Russian empire during the tercentary of the Romanov dynasty, she attended endless balls, parties, teas, etc., etc., etc. She was hardly deprived! The whole notion that the daughters of Nicholas II and Alexandra were "isolated" and cut off from an "active social life" should be thoroughly discredited by the publication of this diary by Raegan Baker.

I agree to a certain degree -- the GDss were certainly not isolated, and there was plenty of social activity in their daily schedules. However, IMO sharing a meal or playing a game of cards with someone outside your own generation (be they older or younger) IS a significantly different experience from doing those same things with someone your own age.

I speak from some experience: I'm an only child. I grew up accustomed to and very comfortable with the company of adults. My family attended plays and movies, visited museums, and traveled out of state regularly. I enjoyed and participated in visits with my parents' friends. I had cousins my own age that I loved to play with every few weeks or months. Granted, I was shy, but you couldn't call me isolated. I also had a number friends of my own age outside of my family, and I can tell you that there is a different dynamic at work when you interact with peers. I can further tell you that when I was with my friends I sometimes felt a slight awareness of social inexperience that I didn't get among my cousins -- perhaps the shared culture of a family obliterates that among relatives. At any rate, outside of my family I had a sense that hanging out so much with grownups made me somewhat different -- mature in some ways yet immature in others -- and I suspect OTMA's upbringing had a similar effect.

Further, even as an adult most of my daily social interaction tends to be with people 10+ years older than I: parents, grandparents, neighbors, co-workers, customers, and so forth. I've continued to attend a regular number of cultural events. But of my three closest friends, two live out of state and the other is a 30-minute drive away. My point is that I am far from socially isolated or deprived and I still enjoy the company of my elders, yet I do feel the absence of my friends. Using my own circumstances as a springboard once again I would contend that Olga and her sisters likely felt that lack on some level as well. Even OTMA's contemporaries noticed; although Vyrubova acknowledges "I would not give the impression that these young daughters of the Emperor and Empress were forced to lead dull and uneventful lives" she also said of Tatiana, "[ s]he liked society and she longed pathetically for friends." I recall another courtier's memoir mentioning one of the Big Pair making fledgling attempts to cultivate friendships, but so far I can't remember the wording precisely enough to track it down.

In light of those small clues, I maintain that this lack of peers probably kept a facet of of social development from fully maturing in N&A's children. Again, I understand this type of social life may well have been the standard for young people of their rank, but usual or not, it was still not a fully rounded experience. In all honesty I doubt whether it troubled them deeply -- on the contrary I believe OTMA were generally quite happy, as Olga's 1913 diary plainly shows. Nevertheless I have a difficult time believing the children themselves were entirely oblivious to what they were missing.

In short, while I can certainly believe their social lives were contextually appropriate, it seems to me that OTMA's social *development* was perhaps incomplete in some ways.
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Offline Elisabeth

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Re: 1913 Diary of Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaievna, transl. by Marina Petrov
« Reply #77 on: October 30, 2008, 07:09:58 AM »
In short, while I can certainly believe their social lives were contextually appropriate, it seems to me that OTMA's social *development* was perhaps incomplete in some ways.

I don't entirely disagree with you, Sarushka; I think you're absolutely right that OTMA's "social *development* was perhaps incomplete." After all, we have an account from one courtier saying that even the eldest girls still talked like little children well into their teens. (But how exactly does such childishness fit in with their daily social interactions with much older adult courtiers and officers? Granted, maybe some of these adults had also led such sheltered and pampered lives that they acted and talked like children themselves - in my opinion, that's a definite possibility. When I think of the stupid practical jokes that Edward VII and Nicholas II and indeed their entire family were so fond of - it makes me cringe, it truly does, because it's all evidence of very juvenile tastes and behavior.)

And then there's Gilliard's statement that Olga was very intelligent but because of her social milieu, she never fulfilled her potential... I have to say that it has always seemed to me that if Olga had in fact been intellectual and studious by nature, her frivolous milieu would have exerted very little influence on her life, indeed, it would not have interfered significantly with her intellectual pursuits. Look at K.R., he grew up in the same milieu, when all's said and done! Yet he managed to read great literature and even attempt to write it himself... Or think of Grand Duke Nikolai Mikhailovich, a quite accomplished historian, and yet another living testament to the fact that imperial offspring were not sentenced to a life of frivolity in perpetuity but could actually make something of themselves if they were willing to do so. More names are occurring to me even as I write this - for example, Prince Vladimir Paley, Grand Duke Paul Aleksandrovich's son, who became a not inconsequential poet while still in the first flush of youth... there's actually rather a long list of Romanov intellectual over-achievers, even in the reign of Nicholas II alone (when supposedly the entire imperial family got a lot stupider by previous standards). But apparently even in their last halcyon days of power, the Romanovs were still a family that managed to embrace every degree of intelligence, from the highest to the lowest!

Granted, in this historical period there were much lower expectations for females, but it still seems to me that Olga, if she'd been so inclined, could have found time to read more serious, intellectually challenging books, and to comment on them in her diary or at the very least to her tutor, Pierre Gilliard.
« Last Edit: October 30, 2008, 07:13:22 AM by Elisabeth »
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Offline Sarushka

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Re: 1913 Diary of Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaievna, transl. by Marina Petrov
« Reply #78 on: October 30, 2008, 08:50:32 AM »
But how exactly does such childishness fit in with their daily social interactions with much older adult courtiers and officers?

That's a good question. From what I've seen and experienced, kids who spend a lot of time with adults (homeschooled children, only children, etc.) are simultaneously mature and immature. With adults they can be completely decorus and carry on thoughtful conversations, yet at the same time they're equally capable of romping like youngsters among people they're comfortable with -- regardless of their companions' age. It's the middle ground that's so noticeably lacking.

What I've read of the imperial children seems to fit this pattern. They were charming and adept in formal situations, but oddly childish amongst themselves or their familiar retinue.

Incidentally, I can't help wondering if Aleksei's regular exposure to young cadets and the Derevenko and Sednev boys made him any more "normal" than his sisters?

Quote
Granted, maybe some of these adults had also led such sheltered and pampered lives that they acted and talked like children themselves - in my opinion, that's a definite possibility. When I think of the stupid practical jokes that Edward VII and Nicholas II and indeed their entire family were so fond of - it makes me cringe, it truly does, because it's all evidence of very juvenile tastes and behavior.

I agree. Or perhaps being invited by the tsar's sister to amuse the tsar's daughters means you don't question the infantile nature of the afternoon's diversions -- you just play along. Perhaps a combination of both is at play.
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Offline Sarai

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Re: 1913 Diary of Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaievna, transl. by Marina Petrov
« Reply #79 on: October 30, 2008, 12:57:01 PM »
Sarah, I totally get where you're coming from as an only child. I am an only child myself and so is my mother. I was also shy as a child and didn't have many friends, just a few at a time. I did spend most of my time around adults and always felt more comfortable around older people than around my own peers, and I still feel this way. I always felt more serious, mature, and older than my peers. But yes we can also be immature in our social development and interaction with other young people. My mother was even more sheltered and over-protected as a child than I was and even at the age of 61 still has some immature tendencies.

As a side note, I rather like reading about the family's practical jokes and jovial nature. Yet another thing that makes them seem more "real" and down-to-earth, not some stuffy pompous figures who are above having innocent fun. Maybe because I am the same way, I enjoy juvenile humor and I fully admit it :D

Offline Rodney_G.

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Re: 1913 Diary of Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaievna, transl. by Marina Petrov
« Reply #80 on: October 30, 2008, 06:47:51 PM »
As we can read from Olga's diary, she had a very active social life, visits from family, playing games with cousins, attending society events, etc. She was either out or had visitors every day.

That's true, but I'd love to know even more about these visitors and acquaintances. How many of them were Olga's age? Sablin, for example, was 33. I believe Voronov was at least 10 years older than Olga. There are very few young women mentioned at all outside of her own cousins. Many of the people she lists as visitors to the palace and guests at meals were her father's aides-de-camp. Did she form any real relationships with the people she had tea and played games with at Olga Alexandrovna's, or were they basically occasional playmates?

So yes, Olga definitely had a lot more social activity than we're used to believing, but I'm still cautious about saying she had a well-rounded social life. The apparent lack of friendships with people her own age is still bothersome to me.

I have to admit that for me, when I was reading Olga's 1913 diary, the whole issue of her and her sisters' so-called social isolation, which has been such a ubiquitous theme in recent historical works about the imperial family, seemed like a complete mischaracterization of their lives, in no small part because modern commentators read early 20th-century lives as if they should be late-20th century, early 21st-century lives. After all, by the standards of her day, the Grand Duchess Olga of the early 1910s had plenty of company, and an infinitely happier and more active social life than the overwhelming majority of her contemporaries. Let us recall that the idea of the "teenager" only really emerged in American culture of the 1950s. Prior to this, once you passed the age of fifteen or sixteen (depending on your social status, it was often quite younger), whether male or female, you were an adult for all intents and purposes, and expected to make your own way, or at the very least contribute to your family's economic welfare, either by work or by marriage or both. Most Russian and for that matter European "teenagers" of Olga's time did not lead such carefree lives as she did. And this general rule, that one owed to family and society what family and society dictated, was not only applied to the common masses, it affected the nobility as well.

So let's face it, Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna led an extremely pampered, sheltered, and yes, carefree life, up until the outbreak of the first world war. She was not under pressure to make an advantageous marriage. She had polite, non-threatening partners galore for her dances and silly card games (whether these men were thirty years old or her own age scarcely matters in terms of the fun quotient, in fact it seems to me the older the wiser and more gentlemanly), she went to the theater, opera, and ballet on a regular basis, she went on a special tour of much of the Russian empire during the tercentary of the Romanov dynasty, she attended endless balls, parties, teas, etc., etc., etc. She was hardly deprived! The whole notion that the daughters of Nicholas II and Alexandra were "isolated" and cut off from an "active social life" should be thoroughly discredited by the publication of this diary by Raegan Baker.

You might well ask, what struck me most about Olga's diary for 1913? Her exclamation, very early on, "I'm so happy!" That summed up the entire diary for me. Furthermore, this expression of happiness should, I think, be a great comfort to those of us who still retain fond feelings for Olga as an individual eventually caught up in and destroyed by historical events beyond her control. At least we can take consolation in the fact that prior to World War I, Olga Nikolaevna was a very happy and seemingly well-adjusted young woman, someone who took great pleasure in her life and in the ordinary pleasures of those around her.

This is a reply to Elisabeth's last paragraph("You might well..).I am indeed one of those who take great com fort from the diary and from Elisabeth's observation about Olga's happiness. It is because of my fond feelings for Olga even now that it is heartening to be reminded that Olga wasn't always
the demoralised young woman she appears to have become in her last years.That latter impression has tended to overly color my image of her though I know the joyful spirited younger Olga from so many acounts of her, especially Margaret Eagar's recollections.
So it's a pleasure to see that photo of a smiling Olga with her friend Rita Khitrovo on a beach somewhere in her later years.
Rodney G.

Offline carkuczyn

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Re: 1913 Diary of Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaievna, transl. by Marina Petrov
« Reply #81 on: October 30, 2008, 09:04:36 PM »
It is fair to say that, had not the war and revolution happened, Olga would have had a very pleasing and fulfilling life in spite of any social isolation that did or did not happen.  None of us know what life has in store for us and the fact that she thoroughly enjoyed the "good years" is gratifying to all of us.  BUT.....the fact that she and all of her sisters and brother handled themselves admirably through all of the hardships of the years 1914-18 speaks far more volumes.  The war years and their exile would have destroyed most "immature" people.......but they all measured up and met their fates with acceptance, faith, and a collective strength that I am sure we all wish we had.

Offline koloagirl

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Re: 1913 Diary of Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaievna, transl. by Marina Petrov
« Reply #82 on: October 31, 2008, 01:15:22 AM »

Aloha all!

I just received my copy in the mail today and am already halfway thru it!  And I have been surprised by the same things that Sarushka and others already brought up about some of the diary entries. 

SPOILERS AHEAD!!!!!

I cannot believe how often "Mama" was ill with headache, tired, #1, #1 1/2 or #2 heart (whatever that is it sounds horrid) - I think I have read where she was up and about twice - only to take to her bed the following day
from the exertion!   It is truly every single entry so far that I have read.

One entry mentions "Mama" visiting Alexei's room and noting what a very long time it had been since she had been there!  That is definitely a surprise for me - I thought that Alexandra spent a good deal of time with Alexei!

The boundless patience and love that Olga exhibits for her "Angel Mama" and thanks God when she has had a good day.  I always read where Olga was a little tempermental when it came to Alex, but it doesn't appear so far!

The amount of time Olga spends with "Papa" - mostly outside in some form of exercise - those girls were certainly in good shape physically! 

I also love her references to "Sweetheart Aunt Olga" - so wonderful to know that she had such a loving relative closeby that would set up these little parties for her - and wonderful to know that Olga N. had such a wonderful time!

Maybe foolish question - who is "Aunt Minnie?"  And "Trina" I'm assuming is a governess or lady-in-waiting of some sort.

The amount of time Anya V. spends with the family - not only Alix, but all of them.

Okay - all for now - back to finishing it up!  I'll be sorry to get through it I know!

Malama Pono,
Janet R.



Janet R.

Offline carkuczyn

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Re: 1913 Diary of Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaievna, transl. by Marina Petrov
« Reply #83 on: October 31, 2008, 02:26:12 AM »
May I ask how long it took for you to get your copy?  I am still waiting on mine.......and so impatiently!!!! 

Offline tian79

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Re: 1913 Diary of Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaievna, transl. by Marina Petrov
« Reply #84 on: October 31, 2008, 05:16:16 AM »
Maybe foolish question - who is "Aunt Minnie?"  And "Trina" I'm assuming is a governess or lady-in-waiting of some sort.
Aunt Minnie is Grand Duchess Maria Georgievna (married to Grand Duke Georgi Mihailovits) and Trina is Yekaterina Schneider, lectrice to the Empress.
« Last Edit: October 31, 2008, 05:26:27 AM by tian79 »

Offline Sarushka

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Re: 1913 Diary of Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaievna, transl. by Marina Petrov
« Reply #85 on: October 31, 2008, 08:07:47 AM »
And "Aunt Mops"?
THE LOST CROWN: A Novel of Romanov Russia -- now in paperback!
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Offline tian79

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Re: 1913 Diary of Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaievna, transl. by Marina Petrov
« Reply #86 on: October 31, 2008, 08:17:24 AM »
And "Aunt Mops"?
Nicholas mentions her in his diary as aunt Yevgenia, but I don’t know who she is.

Offline koloagirl

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Re: 1913 Diary of Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaievna, transl. by Marina Petrov
« Reply #87 on: November 01, 2008, 01:34:13 AM »

Aloha all!

Thank you for the identifications!  I too would like to know who "Aunt Mops" is though!  Such great nicknames they had!

It took about 1 week for me to get my copy from the time I ordered it online - very, very quick for shipping to Hawai'i!

Malama Pono,
Janet R.
Janet R.

Offline rgt9w

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Re: 1913 Diary of Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaievna, transl. by Marina Petrov
« Reply #88 on: November 01, 2008, 10:07:39 AM »
Some of the  observations I came away with after reading the diary:

Olga actually saw her grandmother, the Dowager Empress, more frequently than I thought she would have. I always had the impression the girls were mostly at Tsarskoye Selo. I was surprised how often they traveled into St. Petersburg and how ofen Olga saw her aunts as well. I always thought the other members of Imperial Family stayed away and rarely saw the girls.

I found the notations of N. Kulikovsy being present at Aunt Olga's of interest. I wonder if Olga N. knew her aunt was having a discreet affair him. Olga A. married him during the tumult of WWI.

I too was astounded at how "sick" Alexandra was. It must have been very trying and dismal to be around her when she is ill virtually every day. It makes me wonder how much was physical versus psychological. I've also often wondered if Alexandra had some sort of heart arrhythmia that caused her to have frequent palpitations or runs of tachycardia where her heart races at times or whether she had panic attacks that caused her to have these physical symptoms. Perhaps the numbering system is related to how frequently she was having episodes of chest discomfort. Just a thought.

I used the list of names in "The Complete Wartime Correspondence of Nicholas and Alexandra" by Fuhrmann to help identify some of the people in the diary such as Sablin, M. Schneider, etc..

Offline Joanna

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Re: 1913 Diary of Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaievna, transl. by Marina Petrov
« Reply #89 on: November 01, 2008, 08:14:25 PM »
And "Aunt Mops"?
Nicholas mentions her in his diary as aunt Yevgenia, but I don’t know who she is.

Aunt Mops is as tian quotes Aunt Eugenia who was Eugenia Maximilianovna, Duchess of Leuchtenberg. She was the wife of Prince Alexander Oldenburg and the mother of Prince Peter, husband of GD Olga Alexandrovna.

On page 3 January 2 diary entry there is the reference "...We walked around the garden and then in Tablov..." Tablov is replicated in later entries and should be Babolov. Babolovsky Park is located on the western edge of Tsarskoe Selo north of the Sofia area and Nicholas II often took solitary walks there as the long distance paths satisfied his craving for exercise.

Joanna