Zhukova, Maria (1804–1855)

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Zhukova, Maria (1804–1855)

Russian prose writer. Name variations: Márya Semyónovna Zhúkova; Mariia Semenovna Zhúkova. Born in 1804 in Nizhegorod, Russia; died on April 13, 1855 (one source cites 1851), in Saratov, Russia.

Selected works:

Evenings on the Karpovka (1837–38); Sketches of Southern France and Nice (1844); A Summer Place on the Peterhof Road (1845).

Maria Zhukova was born in 1804 in the Nizhegorod province of Russia, the daughter of a government clerk, and was raised in Arzamas. More than likely, a local noble family provided her with an education. Given her artistic talents, which included both watercolor painting and writing, she may also have studied with teachers from the local Academy of Art in Arzamas. She married a local landowner but left her husband sometime after 1830, and moved to St. Petersburg, where she began to write in the latter part of that decade.

Together with Elena Gan and Nadezhda Durova , Zhukova was among the first Russian women to publish a significant amount of fiction. She wrote several books and short stories, which reflect the Russian transition from romanticism to realism. Her earliest stories, compiled in Evenings on the Karpovka, humorously provide details of Russian noble life and refreshingly atypical heroines. Some stories concern poor girls who grow up in wealthy households and, unlike the characters created by her contemporaries, accept their financial limitations and work to establish independent lives. Other stories reveal more conventional romantic traditions. "Falling Star," for instance, details a man's quest for his roots and ultimate destruction when he learns about an almost incestuous experience. And in "The Mistake," a man weighs his sense of familial pride against his love for a disgraced woman. In "Self-Sacrifice," Zhukova depicts the independent young ward of a powerful countess who rises above her misery to return home and establish a boarding school.

While some critics consider Zhukova's heroines overly sentimental, her work enjoyed immense success with the public, albeit briefly. Some of her most popular work appeared in Sketches of Southern France and Nice (1844), conversational travel notes about her lengthy trips abroad due to ill health from 1838 to 1842. Zhukova died in Saratov in 1855.


Buck, Claire, ed. The Bloomsbury Guide to Women's Literature. NY: Prentice Hall, 1992.

Terras, Victor, ed. Handbook of Russian Literature. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1985

Wilson, Katharina, ed. An Encyclopedia of Continental Women Writers. NY: Garland, 1991.

Philip Yacuboski , freelance writer, Mocanaqua, Pennsylvania