It’s a Woman Crush Wednesday! Maria Bochkareva’s life reflects almost all of the tumultuous period of the Russian Revolution (1917-1922). During World War I, she fought, and eventually led, the “1st Russian Women’s Battalion of Death.” She then connected with the White forces in the Russian Civil War, did diplomatic work for them in the US and Britain, and returned to Russia to fight in 1918. Professor Nash joins us to discuss her fascinating career!
Maria Botchkareva, Yashka: My Life as a Peasant, Exile and Soldier; A Biography and History of Russia in WW1, and the Bolshevik Revolution (2018)
Yashka is the autobiography of Maria Botchkareva, a young Russian woman who bravely took up arms first against the Germans in World War One, and then opposed the Bolsheviks in the Russian Revolution of 1917. Maria describes a hard upbringing as a member of the Russian peasantry. Married at sixteen to her first husband Afanasy, it wasn’t long before his charms were replaced by physical abuse; Maria soon fled. She applied for work as a servant girl, only to discover that the man advertising actually owned a string of brothels; she was promptly sent to the town of Sretensk to work in one. Such harsh experiences in youth nevertheless built a certain determination and toughness in the young Maria. When war broke out in 1914, she applied to join as a soldier – facing verbal abuse and sexual harassment from the outset, she nevertheless took to military life with eagerness and courage. The soldiers nicknamed her ‘Yashka’, and a measure of respect was slowly gained as she demonstrated great bravery.