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Nadezhda Durova was the child of Andrei Durov, a hussar officer, and Aleksandra Aleksandrova, the beautiful daughter of a Ukrainian landowner, who had eloped together. She grew up in the care of soldiers after an incident in which her mother nearly killed her. In 1801, she left home to marry a clerk named V. Chernov, with whom she had a son. Nadezhda returned to her father's house shortly afterwards. Around 1806, she began to disguise herself as a man, taking the name "Alexander Sokolov." She enlisted in a light cavalry regiment and first saw action at the battle of Guttstadt on May 22, 1807. Nadezhda participated in the Russian campaign against the invasion of the Emperor Napoleon and was awarded the St. George Cross for heroism. By 1816, she had reached the rank of captain. That year, she acceded to her father's request to retire from the military and return to help him run the family estate. In the following years, Nadezhda continued to refer to herself as a man, even among people who knew her from childhood, and began to write. Besides her memoirs, which were immensely popular and significant for their documentation of the Napoleonic wars (and as one of the earliest autobiographies in the Russian language) Nadezhda wrote four novels and numerous short stories. The poet and writer Aleksandr Pushkin became a great admirer and published her work in his literary magazine, Contemporary. It was Pushkin who gave her the nickname "Cavalry Maiden." She was buried in men's clothing with full military honors. A Russian opera, operetta, and film have been based on her life.
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