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Nadezhda Plevitskaya, "Kursk nightingale" of the White emigration

Great Russian women - Nadezhda Plevitskaya - most popular Russian singer of the White Emigre era

Nadezhda Plevitskaya

Nadezhda Vasilevna Plevitskaya, born Vinnikova, (January 17, 1884 - October 1, 1940), the most popular Russian female singer of the White Emigre era.

Plevitskaya was born Nadezhda Vasilievna Vinnikova to a peasant family in the village of Vinnikovo near Kursk. She loved to sing, and after two years in a religious chorus she became a professional singer in Kiev, where she married Edmund Plewicki, a Polish dancer. Under the surname of Plevitskaya she performed in the chorus of Minkevich, and then at the well-known Moscow restaurant "Yar", where she gained fame and glory as an impressive performer of Russian folk songs. In 1909 she sang with enormous success at the Nizhniy Novgorod fair. This is where she was heard by a famous Russian singer Leonid Sobinov, who was then touring Nizhni Novgorod. He invited Plevitskaya to perform with him and N.N.Figner at a charity concert in the city's theatre. It was Plevitskaya's debut on a big concert stage. In a year already she gave successful concerts in Petersburg and Moscow. Her triumphal tours around cities of Russia started. Her performing talent was highly appreciated by Feodor Chaliapin, Constantine Stanislavski and other outstanding figures of art.

Plevitskaya repertory included excellent samples of Russian peasant folklore of the Kursk Province, and also some songs of the city life. Her beautiful mezzo-soprano and sincere and expressive manner of performance won the audience and brought her fame and success. She was welcome at the court and often performed for the Emperor Nikolas II and his family.

During First World War Plevitskaya gave concerts for Russian soldiers, and during the civil war - for the Red Army soldiers. Staying with Red Army near Kursk she was captured by a unit of the White Army commanded by General Nikolai Skoblin, who married her in exile in Turkey after the defeat of the White military forces.

When in emigration the singer toured a lot in cities of the Western Europe and America. In 1926 she performed together with Sergei Rachmaninoff. Her husband, General Skoblin, took a leading role in a White émigré organization, the ROVS (White counterrevolutionary organization dedicated to overthrowing the Soviet government) In 1926 during her American tour Plevitskaya gave several concerts in New York where she had invited some Soviet officials. This act caused confusion among the White Émigré and as a result her husband General Skoblin was released from his position.

His disgrace however did not last long and Skoblin soon took on the command of Kornilovsky regiment of the White army, whose offices resided in France.

Plevistkaya and Skoblin lived in Paris and them moved to the suburbs in the house they had to pay mortgage for the next 10 years. This made Nadezhda Plevitskaya work a lot and tour Europe. The White émigré so fond of her songs did not however accept her personally, considering Skoblin's marriage to her a mesalliance.

In 1930 both Skoblin and Plevitskaya were recruited by the GPU, later, the NKVD), the Soviet secret police. Plevitskaya and her husband served as accomplished and highly successful agents of Soviet intelligence for 7 years. Plevitskaya and Skoblin were also involved in the infamous 1937 abduction of General Evgenii Miller, who was kidnapped in Paris, drugged, and taken back to Moscow, where he was executed after being tortured for nineteen months in May 1938. After the kidnapping, Skoblin escaped to Barcelona, where the Spanish Republican government, kept alive by Soviet aid, refused to extradite him back to France.

Plevitskaya was arrested by the French police, convicted of espoinage and in 1938 sentenced to an unusually harsh term of 20 years to a French prison. She died in Rennes prison of a heart ailment in the autumn of 1940. Her story is told (under a different name) in Vladimir Nabokov's short story "The Assistant Producer" and the French film Triple Agent (2004)


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