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The Cavalry Maiden: Journals of a Russian Officer in the Napoleonic Wars (Indiana-Michigan Series in Russian and East European Studies) Paperback – August 22, 1989

ISBN-13: 978-0253205490 ISBN-10: 0253205492 Edition: Reprint

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Product Details

  • Series: Indiana-Michigan Series in Russian and East European Studies
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Indiana University Press; Reprint edition (August 22, 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0253205492
  • ISBN-13: 978-0253205490
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.7 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #60,149 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

This fascinating memoir of a Russian woman soldier of the 19th century is presented for the first time in two independent English translations, each a graceful rendering of the original Russian. Nadezhda Durova (1783-1866), a young woman of the gentry, spurned her family, disguised herself as a man, and joined the Russian cavalry. She fought with distinction in the Napoleonic Wars and served from 1807 until her retirement as captain in 1816. The details of a soldier's life and attitudes during this era are uniquely revealed through the eyes of this very special womana woman whose commitment to the military officer's conduct and spirit is a singular statement for her time. While there are minor differences between the translations, Zirin's extensive introductory essay and notes illuminate Durova's life and place it in its proper historical and literary context; this translation is further enhanced by a bibliography and index. Mersereau and Lapeza offer a brief introduction outlining Durova's life, but nothing more. Enhancements to any study of feminist literature or Russian history, both translations can be read with pleasure; at least one belongs in medium to large collections. Rena Fowler, Northern Michigan Univ., Marquette
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


In the early nineteenth century, Nadezhda Durova ran away from home dressed as a man and joined the Russian calvary, where she maintained the secret of her gender and served with distinction as an officer for more than nine years. Her diary, published as The Cavalry Maiden, was one of Russia's first autobiographical works, making this book noteworthy both for its content and its place in literary history. Not every reader will enjoy the disjointed and occasionally impersonal style; nor will everyone be interested in Nadezhda Durova's recounting of Russian geography and military history that comprises much of the middle portion of the book. Yet you don't have to be from the nineteenth century to sympathize when she writes: "I jump for joy as I realize that I will never again in my entire life hear the words: You, girl, sit still! It's not proper for you to go wandering out alone." Nor need you be a Russian scholar to appreciate her descriptions of officers, horses, local citizens, and dress balls. Mary Fleming Zirin's introduction illuminates those areas where Nadezhda Durova was not exactly truthful (she was not sixteen and single when she ran away, but twenty-three, married and a mother), and brings further understanding to this headstrong woman who, as a child, refused to knit shoelaces but "ran and galloped around the room in all directions, shouting at the top of my voice: 'Squadron! To the Right, face! From your places, charge - CHARGE!'" -- For great reviews of books for girls, check out Let's Hear It for the Girls: 375 Great Books for Readers 2-14. -- From 500 Great Books by Women; review by Erica Bauermeister

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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 29, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Very few of the historical women who disguised themselves as men to become soldiers have told their adventures in their own words. Nadezhda Durova was a minor noblewoman who spent seven years in the Russian cavalry during the Napoleonic wars and earned the distinguished cross of St. George. Years later a chance meeting introduced her to Pushkin, who read her service journals and encouraged her to publish with the praise, "Charming! Vivid, original, beautiful style."
A key moment in Durova's life happens during infancy. Her father, an army officer, brings his family to camp. Shocked to see his wife abusing the baby girl, he keeps Nadezhda with the regiment and orders his soldiers to raise her. Soon her favorite toy is an unloaded gun.
After her father's retirement, when Napoleon's ambitions turn to Eastern Europe, Durova needs little excuse to run away on her horse and join the army. She reaches the front just in time for the disastrous Prussian campaign. Her worried family asks friends to seek her whereabouts. Soon rumors of an amazon reach the tsar.
Durova has little praise for her own performance at the front. In a fit of exhaustion she even sleeps through a town's evacuation. Her superiors give better reports that result in a decoration from the tsar for saving the life of an officer during battle. During a direct interview Alexander I allows her to remain in the army using his name as a pseudonym. He then places her in an elite unit.
Life in the hussars is less than ideal. Unable to grow the Russian officer's expected mustache, Durova gets passed over for promotion by superiors who think she is a boy. Not everyone considers this a disadvantage-particularly the colonel's infatuated daughter.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By ceskepivo on April 7, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a little known story out of nineteenth century Russia. Remarkable example of memoir writing. It's a great value to have this in translation.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I read this book as part of an overall study of the Napoleonic Wars. (For a different perspective, see Diary of a Napoleonic Foot Soldier by Jakob Walter.) The book itself (ie. Nadezhda Durova) is exceptionally well-written. It provides readers with a fairly in-depth view of cavalry life in the Russian Army, and from a unique woman's view. Mary Fleming Zirin, the translator, did a superb job with this book. Her research is outstanding, and she is able to translate certain words, and explain different Russian, Ukrainian, and Polish idioms in a way that readers can thoroughly understand.

I would personally recommend this particular version of the book for any student of history interested in the following topics:
1. The Napoleonic War
2. Military history, in general
3. Women in military service
4. Feminist topics, specifically women serving in men's roles.
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