• Sofya Kovalevskaya


In mid-July of the year 1868 Vladimir Kovalevsky, a highminded young Petersburg publisher of Darwin, Huxley and other European scientists, sent a rather peculiar letter to his fiancé, Sofya Korvin-Krukovskaya, at her family’s landed estate in the province of Vitebsk.


National Guard Enormous Success RUSSIAN Childhood Mathematical Gift Personal Reminiscence 
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  1. 1.
    S. V. Kovalevskaya, Vospominaniya i pis’ma, ed. S. Ya. Shtraikh (M, 1951), p. 485. Hereafter referred to as VIP, followed by page numbers in the text.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Since Russian law made it almost impossible to obtain a divorceGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    His later work laid the foundation for the study of evolutionary paleontology in Russia. His brother, Alexander Onufrievich Kovalevsky (1840–1901) was a distinguished biologist and a pioneer in the study of comparative embryology.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Ivan Mikhailovich Sechenov, 1829–1905. Eminent physiologist, professor at the University of Petersburg.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    N. G. Chernyshevsky, Chto delat’? (1864). Maria Bokova-Sechenova is generally regarded as the model for the character Vera Pavlovna, Bokov for Lopukhov, Sechenov for Sasha Kirsanov. The assumption is now disputed by some Soviet scholars.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Anna Mikhailovna Evreinova, 1844–1919. Wrote and lectured on women’s rights and later edited Severny vestnik (The Northern Messenger).Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    I. S. Knizhnik-Vetrov, Russkiye deyatel’nitsy pervogo internatsionala i parizhskoy kommuny (M, 1964), 179.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Ibid., 192–193.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    The rest of their life together was a tragic history of poverty, illness, rootlessness, exile. Anyuta later published two novellas but never fulfilled the promise of her youth.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    770 people were arrested, of whom 258 were kept in prison for years before trial. For excellent description of the movement see F. Venturi, Roots of Revolution (New York, 1966), Chapter 18.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    L. A. Vorontsova, Sofya Kovalevskaya (M, 1957), 147.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    1876 and 1877. ,Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Vorontsova, 156.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    See her poem, “Zhaloba muzha,” (A Husband’s Complaint) in S. V. Kovalevskaya, Vospominaniya i povesti (M, 1974), 319.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Litvinova, 5 8. Litvinova adds a perceptive comment: “Such an attitude toward herself explains a great deal about her career. . . . Like all the pre j udices we must struggle against, the pre j udice against the ability of women to do intellectual work exists not only in those around us, but also in ourselves. . . . It would never occur to the most mediocre man that he was not suffficiently prepared to carry out the duties of a lecturer.”Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    “Vospominaniya o Dzhorzhe Elliot,” Russkaya mysl’, No. 6 (1886).Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    In Swedish, Kampen for lyckan. Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    It was staged several times in Moscow, apparently with much success.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    M. M. Kovalevsky, 1851–1916. He was a distant relative of Sofya’s husband. After his dismissal from Moscow he lectured at Oxford, Paris and Chicago. Wrote prolifically, including a memoir of Marx. After 1905 returned to Russia, resumed teaching and served in the State Duma.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Vorontsova, 267.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Kovalevskaya’s own account of the event in An Autobiographical Sketch, 225–227.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Although there is evidence that they were planning to be married in the summer of 1891.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    It appeared in Swedish, French, German, Polish, Czech and English, but was repeatedly prohibited by the Russian censor up to 1906, when an edition appeared together with a note by Kovalevskaya’s daughter that the honorarium had been contributed by the author’s estate to a fund in aid of political prisoners. The next Russian edition was published in 1922.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    “Tri dnya v krest’yanskom universitete v Shvetsii,” Severny vestnik, No. 11 (1890).Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    “V bol’nitse La Charité” and “V vol’nitse La Salpêtrière,” Russkiye vedomosti, Oct. 28, No. 1, 1888, under the pseudonym of Sophie Niron.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    The chief authority for this is Ellen Key, with whom Kovalevskaya discussed her literary plans during the last days of her illness.Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Pyotr Lavrov, Russkaya razvitaya zhenshchina (Geneva, 1891).Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Vorontsova, 333.Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Reprinted in Novoye vremya, February 13, 1891.Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Just as it has been pointed out that Anyuta herself was the prototype for Aglaya Epanchina (for example by E. H. Carr, Dostoevsky (London, 1962), 101, 167.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Beatrice Stillman 1978

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  • Sofya Kovalevskaya

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