10 women who glorified Russia

Kira Lisitskaya (Photo: John Phillips, Mike Hewitt/Getty Images; В. Блиох/Sputnik)
One can make a list of hundreds of men who have made history, while women have remained in their shadows for centuries. However, these ladies managed to become a true national heroes.

1/ Princess Olga

St. Olga of Russia

Olga was the wife of Prince Igor, who ruled in the late 9th and early 10th centuries. After her husband's death, she became regent for her infant son and was, in fact, the first female ruler. Olga is best known for her brutal reprisals against the Drevlians tribe in response to her husband's murder. At the same time, she was the first Russian ruler to embrace Christianity and became one of the first saints honored in Russia on par with the apostles.

Read more about Olga here.

2/ Catherine the Great

Portrait of Catherine the Great

The Great Empress ruled Russia for more than 30 years. Despite being of German descent, she adopted Orthodox Christianity and considered herself a Russian patriot. Under Catherine II, the territory of Russia increased significantly and Crimea, as well as other southern lands, joined the empire. She founded many cities throughout the country, was considered a supporter of enlightened absolutism, corresponded with European philosophers and carried out many reforms. However, there were controversial pages in her reign, from favoritism to the oppression of peasants.

What was so ‘Great’ about Catherine? Read more here.

3/ Anna Pavlova

Ballerina Anna Pavlova in 1912

The Russian ballerina became world famous in the early 20th century. Poems and sculptures were dedicated to her. Even a dessert was named in her honor! She toured almost the entire planet. It seemed that she could defy gravity, so light were her movements, so airy was her jump. Pavlova was the star of Diaghilev's famous ‘Ballet Russes’ troupe and was also the first in the world to perform the now famous dance of the dying swan.

Read more about Anna Pavlova here.

4/ Anna Akhmatova

Poet Anna Akhmatova

She didn't like the word ‘poetess’; she called herself a ‘poet’. Akhmatova is one of the brightest literary figures of the 20th century. Her poems about love and grief, the fate of Russia and the problems of the universe are striking in their depth. Thanks to her talent, she was one of the first female writers to make her way to the literary Olympus, previously occupied only by men. And an incredibly strong character helped her to survive the terrible years of purge, when her husband was executed, her son was arrested and her poems were not published. Yet, she remained an enigmatic woman and was a muse for many artists of the era, including Amedeo Modigliani.

Read more about Anna Akhmatova here.

5/ Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya

Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya

In World War II, Soviet women fought on the battlefield on an equal footing with men. There are many stories about the heroism of snipers, pilots, nurses and other 'sisters in arms' (or 'battle girlfriends', as they were called in Russia). But, this 18-year-old girl became a true legend. During the war, she went to the front as a volunteer and, together with partisans, conducted reconnaissance and diversions in the enemy's lair. During one of the operations, Kosmodemyanskaya was betrayed to the enemy by the inhabitants of the occupied village, who were cooperating with the Nazis. Despite the cruel torture, Zoya did not give away a single secret: neither her real name nor information about other diversionists. In the end, the Nazis hanged the girl and her body was only removed from the gallows by Soviet soldiers a month later.

Read more about Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya here.

6/ Valentina Tereshkova

Valentina Tereshkova

The first woman to travel into space was 25-year-old Valentina Tereshkova. In 1963, she made a solo flight and circled the Earth 48 times. Her record has never been broken by another woman. The daughter of a tractor driver and a textile factory worker, she was chosen out of 8,000 other Soviet women who wanted to fly into space. Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev emphasized that, under socialism, women had equal opportunities and they could even fly into space.

Read more about Valentina Tereshkova here.

7/ Maya Plisetskaya

Maya Plisetskaya at the Bolshoi Theater stage

"In the field of ballet, we are ahead of the planet," the song by Soviet bard Yuri Vizbor sings. Not surprisingly, that ballerinas glorified Russia like no other. One of the greatest, truly brilliant dancers of the Soviet era was Maya Plisetskaya. She danced in the ‘Swan Lake’ ballet on the stage of the Bolshoi Theater for 30 years in row! The legendary ballerina performed the role of the main swan from 1947 to 1977, having danced in at least 800 performances. Joseph Stalin, Nikita Khrushchev and many foreign guests saw her dance. She is still considered the best performer of ‘Odette & Odile’, while the movement of her long arms reminded contemporaries of the flapping of swan wings.

Read more about Maya Plisetskaya here.

8/ Anna Netrebko

Opera singer Anna Netrebko on stage at the State Kremlin Palace

The powerful voice and incredible charisma of this opera singer has conquered the whole world. Netrebko's name has appeared on posters in most of the world's opera capitals, from New York and London to Vienna and Munich. She has shone in leading female roles in such famous operas as Giuseppe Verdi's ‘La Traviata’, Mozart's ‘The Magic Flute’, Mikhail Glinka's ‘Ruslan and Lyudmila’ and many others.

Read more: 7 amazing modern opera singers from Russia

9/ Maria Sharapova

 Maria Sharapova

It is hard to name a more world-famous Russian athlete than tennis player Maria Sharapova. Winner of Wimbledon and dozens of other world tournament titles, the main rival of the legendary Serena Williams, Sharapova is remembered for her striking looks, talented play, perseverance and, of course, her trademark serve and shouts that have become her calling card.

Read more: 5 RICHEST & most FAMOUS athletes from Russia

10/ Natalia Vodianova

Natalia Vodianova at the Runway at Fashion for Relief Cannes 2018 during the 71st annual Cannes Film Festival

Her fate is reminiscent of the story of Cinderella. A girl from a poor provincial family conquered fashionable Paris, married an English aristocrat and then one of the richest men in France. Vodianova's angelic appearance made her literally a beacon of beauty. She has worked with the world's most famous brands, from Chanel to Yves Saint Laurent to Gucci. In addition to a successful career, the model is a mother of five (!) children and is an active philanthropist - her ‘Naked Heart Foundation’ is known around the world.

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