restricted access TYRKOVA-WILLIAMS, Ariadna (1869–1962)
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588 TYRKOVA-WILLIAMS, Ariadna (1869–1962) Prominent Russian journalist, writer, public activist, member of the Central Committee of the Kadet (ConstitutionalDemocratic ) Party and the Liga Ravnopraviia Zhenshchin (League for Women’s Equal Rights). Pen-name: Vergezhsky. Ariadna Tyrkova was born on 26 November 1869 into a noble Russian gentry family of simple means. Her mother, Sophia Karlovna Tyrkova (born Gaily, 1837), came from a modest Protestant family of Baltic Germans. Her father, the lawyer Vladimir Aleksandrovich Tyrkov (born 1835), was from a noble Russian Orthodox family of rich landowners in the province of Novgorod. The social differences between the two families seemed at first to pose an obstacle to their marriage, but, as Ariadna later wrote, her father “could not have given up such a beauty” (Tyrkova 1998, 18) and insisted on marrying Ariadna’s mother. Their marriage, which lasted more than fifty years, was very happy and Ariadna always described her parents’ home as warm. They had four sons and three daughters: Victor, Maria, Arkadii (1860–1924), Ariadna, Sergei, Alexei and Sophia. Ariadna was the fourth child. Together with her sisters and brothers, she spent a happy childhood at their beautiful family estate: Vergezha, in northern Russia (near the river Volkhov), which Vladimir Tyrkov had inherited from his father. It was difficult to find the money to pay for the education of so many children, but Sophia Tyrkova did her best and did not differentiate between the education of her sons and daughters . Ariadna Tyrkova was sent to the prestigious girls’ high school run by Princess Obolenskaia in St Petersburg. When Ariadna was still young, anti-tsarist ideas had begun to spread through all classes of society and the Tyrkov family was no exception. Ariadna’s cousin, Sophia Leshern von Gertsfeld, took part in the narodnik (populist) movement and her eldest brother Arkady was a member of the Narodnaia Volia (People’s Will). In 1883, he was exiled to Siberia for his participation in the terrorist organization responsible for the assassination of Tsar Alexander II. At the age of fifteen, Ariadna Tyrkova was expelled from high school for her radical opinions, although she was allowed to take the final examinations. She had dreamed of being a doctor, but Russian universities did not 589 admit women and the government, in the period of political reaction, closed women’s higher education establishments, including medical courses. So Tyrkova chose the department of mathematics at the re-opened Vysshie Zhenskie Kursy (Higher Women’s Courses). Not taking to mathematics, she studied there for only a year and in 1890, married the engineer Alfred Nikolaevitch Borman (data unknown). The marriage was unhappy and despite the birth of two children—a son Arkadii (b. 1891) and a daughter Sophia (b. 1895)—the spouses soon parted. In her memoirs she neglects to mention her first marriage, after which she reverted to using her maiden name. After the divorce, Tyrkova had custody of the children and had to support her family . She began to earn money as a journalist (taking the pen-name Vergezhsky) and soon became a popular author. Her personal collection in the Russian State Historical Archive contains a lot of drafts and press-cuttings of her sketches, stories and reports devoted to different social problems. Through her writing, she became acquainted with many prominent Russian radicals and in 1903, began working as a courier for the illegal Souiz Osvobozhdeniia (Union for Freedom). Nevertheless, in spite of her revolutionary relatives and her anti-government activities, she adopted liberal, not Marxist, ideas. But since neither were tolerated by the tsarist government, Tyrkova, after several arrests, had to emigrate from Russia, spending eighteen months in France, Switzerland and Germany—together with her children. In 1904 in Stuttgart (Germany), she made the acquaintance of Harold Williams (1876–1928), a special correspondent for The Times, who later became Tyrkova’s second husband (they probably married early in 1906). He was seven years her junior but their marriage was happy and lasted until Williams’ death in 1928. As a widow, Tyrkova wrote a book about Williams in English entitled The Cheerful Giver (1935). The Russian revolution of 1905 gave Tyrkova the opportunity to return home. The first meeting she attended in St Petersburg was, by chance, a meeting of the Soiuz Ravnopraviia Zhenshchin (Women’s Equal Rights Union). Tyrkova did not join the Union: partly because she was regarded as too moderate by its leftist leaders; partly because she did not think that there was a real problem regarding women...


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