Олена Ган ( Helena von Hahn)

Elena Gan

Elena Gan

  • Year of birth: 1814
  • Age: 28 years old
  • Date of death: 06.07.1842
  • Year of death: 1842
  • Citizenship: Russia


Gan, Elena Andreevna – a talented writer (1814 – 1842). She was born into an educated noble family of Fadeevs..

Her mother spoke five languages, painted beautifully, studied natural sciences, archeology, and numismatics. She raised her children herself, who turned out to be extraordinary people (besides Olena Hahn, the writer V. P. Zhelikhovska). At the age of 13, Hahn began to write for the first time, “almost unknown to herself, without any participation of her will,” realizing the weakness of her first experiments in imitating the “strange sounds” of her favorite writers. At the age of 16, she married Captain P. A. Gan, a man almost twice her age, and the ordinary life of an army lady began for her, in an unintelligent society, with eternal nomads in South Russian towns and cities. Anna did not find happiness in marriage; and she escaped from the surrounding vulgarity by working with children, reading, learning languages and visiting her parents. In 1836, Hahn visited St. Petersburg, met Senkovsky, and published a compilation of Bulwer’s novel The Gondolphin in his Library for Reading, and attracted the editor’s interest. The following year, her first story, “The Ideal,” appeared in the Library for Reading, signed with the pseudonym Zenaida R. She spent the summer of 1837 in the Caucasus, where she met some of the exiled Decembrists. The Caucasus inspired her “Memoirs of Zaliznovodsk” and two novels: “Utballa” and “Jellaleddin” (Library for Reading, 1838). Hahn’s health had long been undermined, and now, as if anticipating her imminent death and needing money for treatment and the upbringing of her children, she began to work hard. Her novels quickly followed: “The Medallion” (1839), “The Judgment of Light” (1840), “Theophania Abbiaggio” (1841), “The Gift of Marne” (the first part appeared in 1842 in “Vestniks”, the second – in the posthumous collection of works), “Lyubonka” (“Vestniks”, 1842), “A Box in the Odesa Opera” (almanac “Daguerreotype”, 1842). For the first time in Russian literature, Hahn’s works vividly and fully expressed her protest against the humiliated position of women in the family and society. She did not dream of a woman leaving the family circle and entering the same sphere of public life as a man, did not try to destroy and rebuild social barriers, and only demanded more respect and compassion for women as wives and mothers. Belinsky wrote of her that she “belongs to the outstanding talents of modern literature… Among Russian women writers, there is none who has reached such a height of creativity and idea and who at the same time reflects in her works to such an extent all the shortcomings inherent in Russian women writers as Xenaid R. V. The main idea, the source of inspiration, and the cherished word of Zenaida R.’s poetry is the apology of woman and the protest against man… She deeply understood the humiliated position of women in society and was deeply saddened by it.” In Hahn’s stories, which are of great autobiographical importance, one can clearly see the generalization of her personal drama, which was cut short by her premature death. “This woman,” recalled I.S. Turgenev, “had a truly hot Russian heart, and the experience of a woman’s life, and the passion of convictions, and nature did not deny her those ‘simple and sweet’ sounds in which the inner life is happily expressed.”