Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Saltykov's widow: the mother of all sadistic bosses

Salutations, commies!

Raise your hands if you have a horror story about a tyrannical female boss. Don't be shy. This commie won't tell on you, as she has horror stories of her own. You know what I'm talking about. That ice-and-estrogen queen whose glance makes your stomach ulcer bleed. The stuff of Nanny Diaries and The Devil Wears Prada. Sure, Hollywood can turn those stories into dark comedies. It's entertaining to watch them on screen. However, standing in front of a boss like that is not so funny. Here is a piece of history to make you feel better and hopefully give you some perspective. We Russians have a special title for such bosses "Saltychiha", translated as Saltykov's widow. 

Darya Saltykov (1730-1801), née Ivanova, was a Russian aristocrat, a notorious sadist and serial killer who had tortured and killed over a hundred of her serfs, mostly young woman. Historians compare her to the earlier Hungarian "Blood Countess" Elizabeth Bathory. 

Strangely enough, her early years did not foreshadow any travesties. Before marriage she was a reclusive, deeply religious girl who had toyed with the idea of entering a convent. Her father, however, had different plans for her. He married her off to Gleb Saltykov, a prominent aristocrat. On the surface, the marriage was stable and functional. Darya Saltykova was perceived as the embodiment of social propriety and moral virtue. The golden couple had two sons, Theodore and Nicholas. 

However, after her husband's death, the 26 year old widow started showing sadistic inclinations. Nobody really knows what triggered the switch in her psyche, pushing her to acts of unspeakable cruelty. Her rural estate became a torture camp. Darya inflicted the cruelest of punishments for the slightest of transgressions. Endowed with impressive physical strength, she would beat her servants until death, using her favorite tool: a block of firewood. When exhausted, she would delegate the job to one of her house guards. Several of her servants had been flogged to the point of exsanguination. Other, more elaborate methods, included pouring boiling water over her victims or tying them up naked to a tree in the middle of winter. 

Many complaints about the atrocities on her estate were ignored. The petitioners were punished for snitching. Darya Saltykova was chummy with the authorities, who looked the other way. Eventually, a few relatives of the murdered serfs went straight to Empress Catherine II. As reluctant as Catherine was to quarrel with a prominent noblewoman, she felt like she had to take action. After a long and tedious investigation, Darya Saltykova was found guilty of 38 murders (the real number exceeds 100).

Since death sentence was abolished in Russia, Madame Saltykova was sentences to life in prison in the cellar of the Ivanovsky Convent in Moscow, "without daylight or human contact". Being incredibly healthy, the murderous noblewoman had lasted 30 years, having outlived the Empress. 

There is an impressive Russian series called "The Bloody Mistress". Unfortunately, it not available with English subtitles yet. But do not despair. One day the series will be available to the English speaking audiences. 

Next time you feel like complaining about your boss, think of the 100+ serfs tortured to death by Saltykov's widow. 

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