|Princess Maria Volkonsky after decades of exile|
|A painting above the staircase of the Volkonsky Manor-house |
depicting a winter sleigh traveling through the Siberian Steppe
|Prince Serge Volkonsky|
A number of the Decembrists had wives and children. As long as the wives stayed behind, they were allowed to keep their titles and money, and could “honorably” divorce and remarry. The children were also allowed to keep their titles and property. Nicholas I wanted the matter to be closed and for people to forget the Decembrists and their families.
|The Volkonsky Manor-house in Irkutsk|
|A conservatory on the upper level|
of the Manor-house
Over time, conditions improved for the prisoners and their families due to petitions by the wives and family members in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Their families in western Russia sent books, clothes, seeds for planting, and other items. The exiles lived in expectation that they would be allowed to return after five years or ten. Slowly, they reconciled to the idea that they were in Siberia forever.
|A salon on the second level with the first piano in Siberia|
|The first piano in Siberia|
|A room on the ground level|
|Mr. Wonderful "horsing" around|
P.S. Our guide recommended the book Princess of Siberia by Christine Cunningham. I found it on Amazon and read it in a few sittings once it arrived. Well written and thoroughly researched, this book echoed the stories of our local guide. The film, The Captivating Star of Happiness, is a beautiful production depicting the romance of the Decembrist wives. While the film is in Russian and has subtitles, it is a bit choppy since it cuts to and from different wives and their separate experiences that ultimately merge in Irkutsk. After reading the Cunningham book and reviewing the notes of my trip, the film was easier to follow.