Skip to main content
COLLECTION Identifier: DCMC-2009-002

Obolensky/Bakéeff/Petersen Family Letters


Personal correspondence, photographs and papers, including manuscripts, genealogical research materials, newspaper clippings, and printed materials, of Princess Zoia Sergeevna Obolensky (1828-1897), her granddaughter, Zoia Alekseevna Bakéeff (1895-1956), and her great-granddaughter, Zoé André Bakéeff Petersen (1922-2015).


  • 1869-2003 (inclusive)
  • Majority of material found within 1870-1956


Language of Materials

Collection materials in Russian, English, and French.

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Prior appointment required.

Conditions Governing Use

For restrictions on use, please consult the Librarian for the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies Collection.


3.13 linear feet (8 boxes)
The collection consists of the personal correspondence, photographs and papers, including manuscripts, genealogical research materials, newspaper clippings, and printed materials, of Princess Zoia Sergeevna Obolensky (1828-1897), her granddaughter, Zoia Alekseevna Bakéeff (1895-1956), and her great-granddaughter, Zoé André Bakéeff Petersen (1922-2015). It documents the history of a prominent family of the Russian imperial aristocracy over a period of approximately 150 years and six generations. The collection offers particular insight into the lives of women in the Russian imperial elite, and the global dispersal of this elite in the decades following the collapse of the Russian Empire in 1917.

The bulk of the material is handwritten in Russian using pre-revolutionary orthography; it displays a wide variety of individual hands.

Russian names have been represented in the first instance using the Library of Congress transliteration standard, with alternate transliterations or adaptations indicated as used. In folder titles, alternate transliterations appear in square brackets. Exceptions to the LC standard have been made where alternate English-language spellings are dominant, such as “Tolstoy” and “Obolensky,” or where the donors have established an alternate spelling, “Bakéeff.”

Biographical / Historical

Princess Zoia Sergeevna Obolensky was born Zoia Sergeevna Sumarokov in 1828, the eldest child of Sergei Pavlovich Sumarokov (1791-1875) and Aleksandra Pavlovna Maruzzi (1790-1857). In 1847 she married Aleksei Vasil’evich Obolensky (1819-1884), an artillery officer and member of the Imperial Guard, later appointed Governor General of Moscow, 1861-66. The couple had six children: Aleksandra (1848-1851), Ekaterina (1850-1929), Sergei (1851-1878), Maria (1854-1872), Aleksei (1856-1910) and Zoia (1858-1920). In 1869 Zoia Sergeevna became the object of an international scandal when her husband organized the kidnapping of their children, who had been living abroad with her since 1863, first in Naples, then in Switzerland. The children were forcibly abducted and returned to Russia, despite protests in the international press, and petitions to the Swiss authorities written by the Princess herself, and exiled Russian revolutionary Mikhail Bakunin, whom the Princess had met and befriended in Naples. Following the kidnapping of her children, Zoia Sergeevna settled on the French Riviera in Menton with Valerian Mroczkowski, with whom she had begun a relationship in Naples. She and Mroczkowski had two children of their own, a son, Felix, (?1866-1937), and a daughter, Missia (?1868-1945). After the death of Aleksei Vasil’evich Obolensky in 1884, they were formally married. Zoia Sergeevna died in Menton in 1897.

Zoia Alekseevna Bakéeff was born Princess Zoia Alekseevna Obolensky in 1895, daughter of Aleksei Alekseevich Obolensky, fifth child of Zoia Sergeevna Obolensky, and Elena Konstantinova Dieterichs (1862-1918). Zoia Alekseevna grew up on the family estate at Gorky, near Mogilev, with her younger sister, Marina Alekseevna (1897-1947), and brother, Mikhail Alekseevich (1901-1960). During World War I, she trained as a nurse and served on the front lines from 1914 to 1917. In 1917 she joined the Women’s Battalion of Death attached to the Russian Tenth Army. Following the October Revolution she returned briefly to Gorky before moving to Kiev, where she remained until the spring of 1918, when she volunteered as a nurse with the White Army under General Wrangel. In November, 1920, she was evacuated with Wrangel and his troops to Istanbul. From there she made her way in 1921 to Rome, where she married Andrei Alekseevich Bakéeff (1885-1960) in August. In 1922 she and her husband moved to Baden-bei-Wien in Austria, before emigrating to the United States in 1923 and settling in Weston, MA. Zoia Alekseevna and Andrei Alekseevich had three children: Zoé (1923-2015), Alexis (1928-) and Dmitry (1930-1981). Zoia Alekseevna helped to support her family in the United States by teaching French, including at the Belmont Hill School in Belmont, MA. She and her husband were active in the Boston-area Russian émigré community, and supported a variety of charities helping refugees and displaced persons. After World War II she was involved in gathering material for a history of the extended Obolensky family. Zoia Alekseevna died at her home in Weston, MA, in March, 1956.

Zoé André Bakéeff Petersen was born Zoia Andreevna Bakéeff in Baden-bei-Wien in 1922, the eldest child of Andrei Alekseevich Bakéeff and Zoia Alekseevna Obolensky. She arrived in the United States with her mother in September, 1923, and settled with her parents in Weston, MA. She graduated from Radcliffe College in 1944 with a degree in Fine Arts. In June of that year she married Edward Schmidt Petersen of Chicago (Harvard College, Class of 1944). In 1945 her husband finished his medical training, and she moved with him to Newport, RI, where he served two years in the US Army Medical Corps. In 1947 they settled in Chicago. The Petersens had two children, Catherine (b. 1946) and Edward (b. 1949). Zoé Petersen was active as a volunteer with a wide variety of organizations throughout her life, including the Chicago Art Institute. Devoted, like her mother, to the preservation of family history, she conducted research about her great-grandmother, Zoia Sergeevna Obolensky, and published a monograph about her family, From Zoé to Zika, A Russian Family Saga, in 2014. She died in Middleburg, VA, in November, 2015.


The material is arranged in four series:
  1. Series I. Letters of Zoia Sergeevna Obolensky, 1865-1889.
  2. Series II. Letters of Zoia Alekseevna Bakéeff and Zoé André Bakéeff Petersen, 1920-2003.
  3. Series III. Family History Materials.
  4. Series IV. Photographs.

Custodial History

Gift of Zoé Bakéeff Petersen, 2009. Additional materials donated by Zoé Bakéeff Petersen, 2013-15.

  • Bakunin, Mikhail Aleksandrovich. Les ours de Berne et l’ours de St.-Pétersbourg: complainte patriotique d’un suisse humilié et déspèré. Neuchatel: Imprimerie G. Guillaume Fils, 1870
  • Obolenskaia, Zoia Sergeevna. Protest protiv russkogo pravitel'stva kniagini Zoi Sergeevny Obolenskoi, urozhdennoi Sumarokovoi . Zheneva: Imprimérie Czerniecki, 1870
  • Carr, Edward Hallett. “The Affaire Postnikov; or the Eternal Spy,” Chapter XV of The Romantic Exiles: A Nineteenth-Century Portrait Gallery. London: V. Gollancz, 1933, pp. 311-329
  • Zoé André Bakéeff Petersen. From Zoé to Zika: A Russian Family Saga. Art Bookbindery, 2014

General note

  1. Aristocracy (Social class)--Russia--History--20th century.
  2. Aristocracy (Social class)--Soviet Union.
  3. Nobility--Russia--History--19th century.
  4. Nobility--Russia--History--20th century.
  5. Obolensky family--History--20th century.
  6. Russia--Genealogy--Sources.
  7. Russians--Foreign countries.
  8. Soviet Union--History--Revolution, 1917-1921--Personal narratives.
  9. Soviet Union--History--Revolution, 1917-1921--Refugees.
General note
  1. Diterikhs, M. K. (Mikhail Konstantinovich).
  2. Obolenskaia, Zoia Sergeevna, kniаginia.
  3. Obolenskii, Nikolai, kniaz’, 1905-1993.
  4. Obolenskii, S. S. (Sergei Sergeevich), 1908-1980.
  5. Obolensky, Zoé Alexeevna.
  6. Petersen, Zoé André Bakéeff.
  7. Savelov, L. M. (Leonid Mikhailovich), 1868-1947.
  8. Tolstoy, Ilia A., 1903-1970.
  9. IAshvil’, Nataliia Grigor’evna, 1861-1939.

Processing Information

Initial processing by Hugh K. Truslow and Kate Peisker, Spring 2009 and Jan. 2010; updated October 2013.

Full processing by Elizabeth Ransome, 2015-16.
Link to catalog
Obolensky/Bakéeff/Petersen Family Letters, 1869-2003 (inclusive), 1870-1956 (bulk) : Guide
Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies Collection, H.C. Fung Library

Repository Details

Part of the H.C. Fung Library, Harvard Library, Harvard University Repository

CGIS Knafel Building, 1737 Cambridge St
Harvard University
Cambridge MA 02138 USA
(617) 496-0485