6 March 2016

Darya Nikolaevna Saltykova (1730-1801), the Russian Elisabeth Báthory

In the late 1750s ominous rumours began to spread in Moscow about terrible things taking place in the home of the young widow Darya Nikolayevna Saltykova. Born in 1730 as daughter of Nikolai Avtonomovich Ivanov and Anna Ivanovna Davydova, she was married at a young age to the noble Gleb Alexeyevich Saltykov, an uncle of Nikolai Saltykov (1736-1810), a tutor of the future Emperor Paul I of Russia and his 2 sons. Darya gave birth to 2 sons: Theodore (1750-1801) and Nicholas († 1775). She was widowed by 1755 at the age of 26.

Darya Nikolayevna Saltykova
People spoke of 100s of house-serfs tormented brutally by the lady landowner, about cruel torture and murder. At first, complaints to authorities about the deaths at the Saltykova estate were ignored, because Saltykova was well-connected with powerful people at the royal court. Eventually, however, relatives of murdered women were able to bring a petition before Empress Catherine II 'The Great'. She decided to form a commission to investigate and try Saltykova publicly.

Saltykova was arrested in 1762 and held for 6 years, while the commission conducted a painstaking investigation. Many witnesses were questioned and records of the Saltykova estate were examined. Finally, the commission was compelled to admit that Saltykova’s brutality had caused the death “if not of a hundred people, as had been reported by informers, then of at least fifty people for certain”.

It had been established that the sadistic lady beat her house-serfs (mostly maids), using different objects and implements; she poured boiling water over them, and froze them in the snow. Following her orders, the stablemen would whip disobedient house-serfs to death. In its report, the commission attributed the enormities to the mistress’s anger aroused at the sight of “carelessly washed floors and clothes”.

Saltykova had murdered her servants in a house standing in the center of Moscow, under the jurisdiction of Moscow police, who - it turned out - were bribed from top to bottom by Saltykova. The police readily drew up documents certifying yet another 'accidental death' of one of Saltikova's house-serfs. Even the leaders of the Chief Criminal Investigation Department took bribes, resulting in long delays during the investigation.

In 1768 Saltykova was chained on a platform in Moscow for one hour with a sign around her neck with the text: “This woman has tortured and murdered”. Many people came to look at her during the one hour she was displayed. Afterward, she was imprisoned for life in the basement of the Ivanovsky Convent in Moscow. Saltykova showed no repentance for what she had done and used to curse nearly everyone she saw. She remained locked-up for 33 years, dying on 27-12-1801 and was buried next to her relatives in the Donsky Monastery necropolis.

Bronnen: Evgenii V. Anismov: Five Empresses (Court Life in Eighteenth-Century Russia), 2004; Wikipedia. For further reading see:  Russia Pedia.