Maria Nikolaevna Wolkonskaja (or Volkonskaya), née Rajewskaja, was the daughter of a Russian general who had fought against Napoleon, and a great-granddaughter of the scholar Mikhail Lomonosov. She was raised in luxury and given a good education. At age 18, she was married to Prince Sergei Wolkonski, a military commander about 20 years her senior. Unbeknown to her, he was a leader of a secret political society later known as the Decembrists for their attempted revolt against tsarist autocracy in December 1825. The coup was quickly put down. Some of the Decembrists were executed, and others, including Princess Maria's husband, were sent into internal exile and forced labor in Siberia. Maria chose to accompany him, leaving her young son behind with her sister-in-law. She had four more children and helped to found schools for Siberian peasant children, care for orphans, and even construct a theater in Irkutsk. She was nicknamed the "Princess of Siberia" for her charitable work. The family was allowed to return to St. Petersburg after 30 years under an amnesty from Tsar Alexander II. Alexander Pushkin dedicated his novel Eugene Onegin (1825-33) and several poems to her.