7 SEDUCTIVE scenes in Russia’s greatest works of literature

 Hans Matheson and Keira Knightley in 'Doctor Zhivago'.

Hans Matheson and Keira Knightley in 'Doctor Zhivago'.

Giacomo Campiotti/Public Broadcasting Service, 2002
There was once a time when even such a little thing like the decision to kiss for the first time was akin to an agreement to enter war, let alone such moral taboos as sex and lovemaking. Just read the selection of seduction scenes from classic Russian novels and get the feel of it.

1. ‘Anna Karenina’ by Leo Tolstoi

Karenina and Alexei Vronsky met at a train station in Moscow. She was married, he was single, an inevitable physical drama was waiting to happen.

Elizaveta Boyarskaya and Maksim Matveev in 'Anna Karenina'.

And it did, about a year later. Tolstoy didn’t describe their actual first love scene itself, for he didn’t intend to write a trashy romance novel. But we do find out how exactly Anna Karenina and her lover spent the night together from a conversation after lovemaking, filled with tons of shame. Their first sex scene signals the beginning of the end to a fatal relationship.

Anna “felt so criminally guilty and remorseful that she could only humiliate herself and ask for forgiveness”. 

Alexei “felt what a murderer should feel when he sees a body that he has deprived of life”. 

“…And with bitterness, as if with passion, the murderer rushes at this body and drags and cuts it; and that is how he covered her face and shoulders with kisses. She held his hand and didn’t move. Yes, these kisses are what this shame has acquired…”

READ MORE: 10 ICONIC female characters in Russian literature you need to know

2. ‘Poor Liza’ by Nikolai Karamzin 

Karamzin wrote ‘Poor Liza’ in 1792, shortly after returning from a long trip abroad. He appeared to be far ahead of his time on matters of human dramas and emotions, spicing dead serious Russian literature with a dash of sentimentalism.

Erast and Liza in an animated Soviet cartoon.

In this short story, a wealthy aristocrat seduces a beautiful 17-year-old peasant girl named Liza. The two of them are from totally different class backgrounds, but love is blind and they go for it without hesitation. The young man, Erast, is consumed by the excitement of their doomed secret love affair. His kiss ruins Liza’s life like a lethal tornado.

“Erast felt extraordinary excitement in his blood - never before had Liza seemed so charming to him - never before her fondlings stirred him so much - never her kisses been so fiery - she knew nothing, suspected nothing, was not afraid of anything - the darkness of the evening fed desires - not a single star shone in the sky - no ray could illuminate delusion.”

3. ‘Doctor Zhivago’ by Boris Pasternak

Lara Antipova, from Boris Pasternak’s ‘Doctor Zhivago’, is bursting with sex appeal. 

“…This frail, thin girl is charged, like electricity, to the limit, with all conceivable femininity in the world. If you come close to her or touch her with one finger, a spark will illuminate the room and will either kill you on the spot, or electrify you for life with her magnetically inductive, whining proclivity and sadness.”

Hans Matheson as Yuri Zhivago and Keira Knightley as Lara.

As is often the case, the protagonist, Yuri Zhivago, is torn between two completely different women: the tender and all-forgiving Tonya, who becomes his wife, and the daring and “effortlessly beautiful” Lara, who fascinates Zhivago by her “regal, breathtaking appeal”. Naturally, Lara becomes his larger-than-life lover. 

“She could never have imagined that he danced so well. What clever hands he has, how confidently he held her by the waist! But she won’t let anyone else kiss her like that. She could have never imagined that so much shamelessness could be concentrated in other people’s lips when they were pressed against your own for so long.”

4. ‘Dark Avenues’ by Ivan Bunin

Ivan Bunin appeared to be the most daring of all Russian novelists in his descriptions of sex. The Nobel Prize-winning writer took lust and love to the next level in his famous collection of stories entitled ‘Dark Avenues’. 

A still from 'Sunstroke' movie.

Passions run high, kisses get stolen and doors bang shut in Bunin’s signature story ‘Galya Ganskaya’. 

The main character, who is an artist, runs into his friend’s young daughter on the street. They visit his workroom, eat chocolate and share passionate kisses. The artist kisses Galya in “the warm pink body of the beginning of the thigh, then again in the half-open mouth”. 

Things get steamy shortly after.

“In one minute, I threw off her silk white blouse and, you know, my eyes just darkened at the sight of her pinkish body with a tan on her shiny shoulders and the milkiness of her corset-lifted breasts with scarlet protruding nipples. <...> When I brutally threw her on the cushions of the sofa, her eyes turned black and widened even more, her lips parted feverishly - as I see all this now, she was unusually passionate…”  

5. ‘And Quiet Flows the Don’ by Mikhail Sholokhov

The historical drama about the lives of Don Cossacks during World War I is filled with the anguish of love, betrayal and heartbreak. Aksinya and Grigory live nearby and look at each other with a lustful eye. Aksinya is married, but is very unhappy. At 17, her father raped her. Shortly after, she was married off to Stepan. The husband beat her after their first wedding night having found that his wife was not a virgin. Things get worse and worse, Stepan cheats on her and even the birth of a child can’t mend their broken relationship. 

Pyotr Glebov as Grigory and Elina Bystritskaya in 'And Quiet Flows the Don'.

Aksinya and Grigory feel the spark of impatient passion stirring within them.

“Grigory’s heart pounded frantically; stepping forward, throwing back half of his coat, he hugged the obedient one, blazing with heat. Her legs faltered, she was trembling, shaking, with teeth clattering. Grigory threw her in his arms – that’s how a wolf throws a slaughtered sheep on its back – tangled in the floors of his wide open coat, he moved forward, short of breath.

   - Oh, Grigooory... 

   - Shut up!”

READ MORE: How erotic scenes broke taboos in Soviet cinema

6. ‘Spring Torrents’ by Ivan Turgenev

An aging aristocrat recalls how, in his youth traveling around Europe, he fell in love with a beautiful Italian woman, wanted to marry her, but was brazenly seduced by a rich married lady.

A still from 'Spring Torrents'

In Turgenev’s story, hot to trot Mariya Polozova seduces Dmitry Sanin just like that, with the snap of a finger. She actually makes a bet with her husband that Sanin would be literally at her feet. 

Mariya was not an “outright beauty”, but when she smiled “as many as three dimples appeared on each cheek and her eyes grinned more than her lips, than her red, long delicious lips.”

One day, they go out riding together. There, in a small hut in the forest, Mariya comfortably wins her sex bet without further ado.

“She imperiously moved forward - and he obediently followed her, without a spark of will in his fading heart. <…>”

READ MORE: 10 BEST screen adaptations of Russian classics

7. ‘The River Potudan’ by Andrei Platonov

Platonov’s short story, written in 1937, is a tribute to the postwar generation. Red Army soldier Nikita Firsov returns to his native village after the Russian Civil War. He meets his childhood friend, Lyuba, who once studied to be a doctor. The young man timidly takes care of the girl, who is exhausted by hunger and fatigue. Despite the hardships, they develop relationships based on feelings and mutual love.

Actors Maria Shashalova and Andrei Shibarshin in a performance, based on Andrei Platonov's 'The River Potudan' story.

“Nikita hugged Lyuba with that strength that tries to accommodate another, beloved person inside your needy soul; but he soon came to his senses and felt ashamed.

- Does it hurt? - Nikita asked.

- No! I don’t feel, - Lyuba answered.”

He desired her entirely, to comfort her, and a cruel, pitiful force came to him. However, Nikita didn’t come to know from his close love with Lyuba any higher joy than he had usually known - he only felt that his heart “now dominates his whole body and shares its blood with some poor but necessary pleasure…”

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