Karolina Pavlova

Karolina Pavlova (Karolina Karlovna Pavlova – Кароли́на Ка́рловна Па́влова; born Karolina Karlovna Jaenisch, 22 July 1807 – 14 December 1893) was a Russian author.

Born to a German professor, Pavlova was educated at home by tutors. She was fluent in German, Russian, and French, and also spoke Spanish, Italian, Dutch, and Swedish.  At 19, in 1826, she met and was tutored in Polish by the poet Adam Mickiewicz, with whom she fell in love. Her family opposed the relationship, the couple exchanged letters, and, upon leaving Russia, Mickiewicz wrote her a farewell poem, in 1829.

Pavlova’s first publication, Nordlicht, a collection of Russian poets translated to German, appeared in 1833. In 1836, she married the writer Nikolai Filippovich Pavlov (who is said to have married her for money, after she inherited a large fortune). The couple had a son and, from 1839 to 1844, hosted a famous literary salon in Moscow. During this time, Pavlova wrote poetry in Russian, French, and German, and translated freely between these languages.

Her marriage, however, was unhappy. Pavlova’s husband was jealous of her talent, gambled her money away, then abandoned her, and started to live with her cousin. Pavlova divorced him in 1853.

Ostracized by Russian society, she lived in Estonia and in Russia, before settling in Dresden, in 1858, where she would live until her death. Pavlova supported herself by working as a translator, but lived in poverty. In a letter to Olga Kireeva, from July 22nd, 1860, she wrote: “I am occupied with the contemplation of an interesting experiment; I wish to see whether everything that befalls me will strengthen me; whether I will withstand it or not.”

Pavlova continued to write, but slowly faded into obscurity, and died in 1893. She is now mostly remembered for her poetry, and her work is said to have influenced, among others, Marina Tsvetaeva and Anna Akhmatova.



  • A Double Life (1978, tr. Barbara Heldt. Original: Двойная жизнь, 1848)
    • The same translation was reissued in 2019


  • An Anthology of Russian Women’s Writing – 1777-1992, ed. Catriona Kelly (1994)

About her

  • The Cambridge History of Russian Literature, ed. Charles A. Moser (1992)
  • An Encyclopedia of Continental Women Writers, ed. Katharina M. Wilson (1991)
  • Reinventing romantic poetry: Russian women poets of the mid-nineteenth century, by Diana Greene (2004)
  • Essays on Karolina Pavlova, ed. Susanne Fusso; Alexander Lehrman (2001)
  • The Burden of Sufferance: Women Poets of Russia, ed. Pamela Perkins; Albert Cook (1993)
  • Karolina Karlovna Pavlova. Eine Dichterin russisch-deutscher Wechselseitigkeit, by Barbara Lettmann-Sadony (1971)
  • Terrible Perfection: Women and Russian Literature, by Barbara Heldt (1987)
  • A History of Women’s Writing in Russia, ed. Adele Marie Barker; Jehanne M. Gheith (1998)
  • A History of Russian Women’s Writing 1820–1992, ed. Catriona Kelly (1994)
  • Women Writers in Russian Literature, ed. Toby W. Clyman; Diana Greene (1994)

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