Video: Red Mata Hari, or "iron woman": Maria Budberg - a double intelligence agent and the last love of Maxim Gorky
2023 Author: Richard Flannagan | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-07-29 10:45
Fate Maria Budberg (nee Zakrevskaya) is one of the mysteries of the rebellious twentieth century. Historians are still trying to establish reliably whether she was a scout, and if so, what country she worked for. She is credited with having connections with the intelligence services of Germany, England and the Soviet Union. Her love stories with prominent figures of the era only exacerbate the situation: among her fans is a British secret agent Robert Bruce Lockhart, security officer Jacob Peters, Estonian baron Nikolay Budberg, science fiction writer H. G. Wells and the petrel of the revolution Maksim Gorky …
Maria Ignatievna Zakrevskaya was born in Poltava in 1892. The girl received a good education in a boarding house for noble maidens, and, being 18 years old, charmed the diplomat Ivan Benkendorf and soon married him, gave birth to two children - daughter Tanya and son Pavel. When the February Revolution broke out, Benckendorf decided to leave with the children to his estate in Estonia, but Maria remained in Moscow.
Soon Maria Benckendorf learned about the tragic death of her legal husband - he was shot. However, her thoughts were already occupied by the British ambassador Robert Lockhart, with him Maria lived together, and when the Chekists rushed into Lockhart's apartment on September 1, 1918 with a search, they found her there. Both Maria and Robert ended up in the Lubyanka on charges of espionage for Great Britain. Under the leadership of the Chekist Yakov Peters, an investigation was carried out, and the so-called "conspiracy of ambassadors" was exposed, an operation that was allegedly prepared by the ambassadors of France, Great Britain and America with the aim of overthrowing the Bolsheviks in Russia.
Despite the seriousness of the accusations and the fact that after the exposure of the conspiracy, the Red Terror unfolded throughout the country, Robert Lockhart was soon released from prison, he was sent to London, exchanged for a Soviet diplomat arrested in Great Britain. Maria not only arranged her own release, but also secured Lockhart's freedom … at the cost of an affair with the Chekist Jacob Peters. They released Maria, apparently on the condition that she would cooperate with the NKVD.
Once at liberty, she moved to Petrograd, began to seek help from acquaintances of writers. It was necessary to earn money in order to live on something, in addition, Maria dreamed of taking the children to her in Russia. Korney Chukovsky promised to help her, he remembered that Maxim Gorky was in search of an assistant secretary. Gorky was amazed at Maria's business qualities and her education: she was not only ready to keep all of his documentation and help compose letters in Russian, English and German, but also willingly took over the management of the costs of maintaining the entire house.
Over time, Maxim Gorky realized that he not only appreciated Mura (as she was then called) as an exemplary employee, but also had the brightest feelings for her. This was noticed by the legal wife of Gorky, Ekaterina Peshkova, and the actual wife, Maria Andreeva. Despite the fact that Gorky was almost twice as old as Maria, he completely surrendered to this feeling, he understood that this love would be the last in his life. And he really foresaw his tragic ending …
Maria changed many surnames during her life. Another one was Budberg. She took her when she married an Estonian baron. The marriage was fictitious, it was the only way for Mura to see the children. She went to Estonia in 1920, tried to illegally cross the border in winter along the Gulf of Finland, but was captured by the police. Gorky, learning about what had happened, tried to get Mura released. True, she was immediately arrested again on suspicion of espionage (in Tallinn, she remembered her love affairs with both Gorky and Peters). She was freed by her lawyer, whom Maxim Gorky, who had good connections in the West, turned to for help.
For several years Mura lived in Europe, here she waited for Gorky to move, and with him settled in Sorrento, forgetting about her fictitious husband. Despite the warmest feelings that Mura had for the Soviet writer, she visited her former lover, Robert Lockar, several times a year. In London, she stopped when she went to visit children in Estonia. In 1925, Mura decided to transport the children to Sorrento, Gorky fell in love with them with all his heart.
Another great love of Mura was connected with London. After Gorky returned to the USSR, she moved to live in London. It was 1933. Here she lived with H. G. Wells. Their love story broke out back in 1920, when they met in Gorky's house. Wells, like other men, was jealous of his beloved, painfully worried about her betrayal (now she visited Maxim Gorky from time to time) and desperately offered her to become his wife. However, all of Mura's men did this.
Interestingly, Mura did not betray any of her beloved men. She looked after Wells until his death, and Maxim Gorky died in her arms. Who knows, maybe it was not without special services. Historians still have not established exactly who is responsible for the Petrel poisoning.
Maria Budberg died in November 1974. In the last years of her life, she suffered from diseases, could hardly walk, and many years of alcohol abuse affected. In history, she remained an “iron woman,” as Gorky called her, or “red Mata Hari, as she was dubbed in the West. Shortly before her death, she destroyed all her epistolary heritage, leaving her descendants without answers to numerous questions.
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