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DARYA SALTYKOVA – THE SHE-MONSTER OF RUSSIA

Posted on: January 14, 2013

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The unsavoury life of Darya Nikolayevna Saltykova (nee Ivanova) bears similarities to that of the equally bizarre and sadistic Countess Elizabeth Bathory, the woman who has arguably gone down as the most prolific female serial-killer in history. Darya is lesser known, (largely I suspect because of the absence of any vampiric links) but her crimes were no less detestable, and she shared a similar fate to her Hungarian counterpart.

Darya was born on 3 November 1730, and was married off young into the rich and powerful Saltykova family. She was widowed by the age of 26, and inherited a great estate, where she lived with her three sons, and over 600 serfs. Little seems to have been known about Darya’s earlier life, other than that she got a reputation for piety during her short marriage, and was known to have made many donations to churches and monasteries. She was said to have been a “gloomy” woman, and after her widowhood her miserable attitude manifested itself in acts of untold sadism against the women of her household.

It is fair to say that Darya hated women, and if they were younger than her, even more so. Her mindless acts of savagery were particularly escalated towards pregnant women. She was reputed to have submitted them to such beatings that all their bones were broken, turned them out into the bitterly cold Russian winters with no clothes on, gouged out eyes, and even – rumour has it – to have resorted to cannibalism.

Her acts of sadism were largely against women, but if any man crossed her her wrath could be equally terrifying. During her widowhood she was said to have had an affair with a much-younger man, Nickolay Tyvtchev. When Darya heard that he had secretly married a girl of his own age, her rage was so frightening that the young couple fled to his father’s house in Moscow for safety.

For a long time Darya eluded justice, simply because of her powerful connections. Eventually though her terrible deeds were brought to the attention of the Empress Catherine II. After a six-year investigation, Darya was found guilty of killing 38 women by beating and torturing them to death. The Empress had abolished the death penalty a few years before, but she came up with an ingenious punishment for this proud and sadistic woman. She publicly humiliated her by making her sit, chained to a chair, on a public platform, with a sign round her neck saying “THIS WOMAN HAS TORTURED AND MURDERED”. People filed past during the hour of Darya’s public humiliation to get a look at this appalling woman. One onlooker described Darya’s eyes as “looking not of this world”.

Once the public spectacle was over, Darya was incarcerated in a cell beneath the Ivanovsky Convent in Moscow. Like her Hungarian counterpart, she was to live out her days in a dark, windowless room, only allowed a candle at mealtimes. After 11 years of this living death, she was transferred to a room with a window, from which it was said she would hurl insults at passers-by and attempt to poke them with a stick. After over 30 years of imprisonment, she died in November 1801.

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