Earliest Memories

  • Sofya Kovalevskaya


I would like to know whether there is anyone who can pinpoint that precise instant of existence when a clear awareness of his or her own “I” emerged for the first time: the earliest glimmer of conscious life. I cannot do it at all. When I start sorting through my first memories and classifying them, the same thing happens to me every time: these memories always seem to slide apart before my eyes. Here it is, it seems—I’ve found it, the first impression that left a distinct memory trace. But no sooner do I focus my thoughts on it for a while than other impressions from an even earlier time immediately appear and take form.


Fairy Tale Clear Awareness Conscious Life RUSSIAN Childhood Precise Instant 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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  1. 1.
    The family name of Sofya’s father is encountered in three variant forms: Kryukovskóy (with the accent on the final syllable), Krukóvsky (accented on the middle syllable), and Korvin-Krukovsky. The first form was the one used by the inhabitants of the region where the family estate, Palibino, was located, near the Lithuanian border in the then province of Vitebsk. It is still in use today, although the name Palibino is now known as Polibino. The second form, Krukovsky, was the one in general use by the family up to the year 185 8; this is the name used in recording Sofya’s birth and baptism at the Znamenskaya Church in Moscow on January 15, 1850.Google Scholar
  2. The Krukovsky family made repeated applications to the Department of Heraldry for confirmation of the family’s right to be considered as belonging to the ancient nobility. These petitions were refused until after General V. V. Krukovsky’s retirement from the Army in 1858 with the rank of Lieutenant-General of Artillery, at which time the petition was finally granted. The decree granting the petition uses the name Korvin-Krukovsky. The name of Korvin is associated with Matthias Corvinus, King of Hungary. It appears on the genealogical tree which adorned the family library at Palibino, according to which a daughter of Matthias Corvinus was married to a certain Polish hero, Krukovsky. But no actual evidence authenticating this version of the family’s lineage has been found in official archival records.Google Scholar
  3. 2.
    General Krukovsky served in Kaluga from 1855 to 1858.Google Scholar
  4. 3.
    Anyuta (Anna Vasilievna Korvin-Krukovskaya) was born in 1843 and died in 1887.Google Scholar
  5. 4.
    Fedya (Fyodor Vasilievich Korvin-Krukovsky), five years younger than Sofya, was botn in 1855 and died in 1919. After completing his studies at the Physics-Mathematics Faculty of the University of Petersburg in 1878, he served in one of the government ministries. He married late in life and had one child, a daughter. He never evidenced any of the creative vitality of his two sisters. The family tutor Malevich has some interesting things to say about Fedya’s upbringing as it influenced his character development (see note 5 to Kovalevskaya’s An Autobiographical Sketch, 229).Google Scholar

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© Beatrice Stillman 1978

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  • Sofya Kovalevskaya

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