What hasn't been said about this extraordinary and eccentric woman who was called “Amur tigress” – she was known as a heroine of Blagoveshchensk defense and a courageous citizen soldier, as a brave wrestler and a reckless duelist, as a beautiful adventurer and even as a ruthless brigand…
Anastasia Yudina (nee Delyarova) was born in 1871 near Tomsk in Siberia; her father was a soldier named Isaak (Isay). From childhood, Anastasia was accustomed to working hard and she developed firm independent character, as many Siberians did. Being young, she got married a peasant Konstantin Yudin who became a successful gold digger in the Amur area. Her husband belonged to a Christian sect of Sabbatarians which were oppressed by Tsarist government and exiled to Siberia and to Far East. Judging by her father’s Jewish name, he also belonged to this sect. Later, her husband became a prominent owner of goldmines since there were a lot of gold in the mountains in the Amur valley.
Gold digging was a hard job: days-long hikes, sleeping in tents or shelters of branches, possibility of running into footpads or wild animals. In the beginning, Anastasia, fairly often accompanied her husband and hardened will and body. She was a brave, resolute and beautiful woman. Men liked her while women were jealous. Once being young, Anastasia became famous through the neighborhood by her duel with a robust Cossack woman who was jealous of her husband’s interest in Anastasia. The women moved away from the camp of gold diggers and agreed to fight until submission. Men watched this colorful scene against the background of hills and Zeya River from a distance. They recounted that it was a stubborn and equal fight, the duelists punched and kicked each other and returned to the camp battered but proud. After than the women not just reconciled but became friends.
But Anastasia won a real fame by her feats during the heroic defense of Blagoveshchensk from Manchurian siege in 1900.
In July 1900, rebels from China shelled the Russian border city of Blagoveshchensk (the far east of Russia) from the right bank of the Amur River. It happened during the Yihetuan Movement, anti-foreign and anti-Christian rebellion in China which later was called “Boxer Uprising”. The hostilities reached the city of Blagoveshchensk, which was undergone by a bombardment. The city dwellers became panic-stricken; disturbances and pillages began in the city. However, not everyone succumbed to panic, including Anastasia Yudina who joined volunteers defending the city. The defense was organized along the riverside. For a week, the volunteers held the line. Courageous women led by Anastasia Yudina along with men participated in the defensive actions.
Due to a possible landing of Manchurian troops, it was ordered to move all available boats in a position below the city dock. Nobody volunteered because the left bank of Amur was undergone with permanent arms fire. Eventually, two female city residents, Anastasia Yudina and Evgenia Katysheva volunteered to accomplish a feat which men didn’t venture. After that, a few men followed the women. In fact, each man floated just one boat while the two women floated together three ones. When they moved the third boat, they had to jump into the water because they were unable to control the boat. All these effort were applied under arms fire. Then Anastasia and Evgenia moved close to the right river bank under the arms in order to reconnoiter the enemy positions. Both heroines were written up for an award.
This is what the local newspaper wrote about Yudina feat: “One of the women, eccentric beauty, Anastasia Yudina, especially distinguished herself in action. In order to overcome despair of the city defenders, she started rowing and along with her female friend crossed Amur River in a boat in order to reconnoiter the enemy positions…
After three-hour superhuman efforts to control the heavy boat under enemy fire, her dress was riddled with bullets; her arms bled the distribution of the enemy troops. When Yudina came out at the river bank, Cossacks and volunteers met her with loud ‘Hooray!’ An officer exclaimed: ‘Long live our Siberian strong women!’ No doubt, Joan of Arc's feat pales into insignificance of the selflessness of Anastasia Yudina!”
Japanese writer Futabatei Shimei (Hasegawa Tatsunosuke) who loved beautiful selflessness Turgenev women, admired strong character of the “Russian Joan of Arc”. He translated and published the essay by Y. Elets “Amur Heroine” narration about the feat of A. Yudina during the city defense and place the article in a women’s magazine - for his female compatriot’s edification.
There are different (sometimes contradictory) versions about the subsequent life of the heroic city defender. A year or two later, eccentric Madame Yudina started surprising people by challenging for a "duel" a female power circus performer Gren who was touring over Russia. The circus owner was happy that people overcrowded the circus. The match was arranged as a real duel of real ladies. At the order of a “second”, the two well dressed “duelists” with hats on had to run toward each other from the starting positions at the opposite sides of the circus ring. The ladies of different bodily constitution who had little wrestling skills fiercely pounced on each other, tightly embraced and started shoving all over the circus ring shifting from foot to foot. Gren obviously excelled Yudina in strength but Yudina demonstrated violent efforts, energy and flew into a rage. They didn’t guess to move down to par terre and just wasted their energy for straight onslaught. After all, the women fell down and got rolled over the circus ring until Yudina managed to climb on top of her opponent and stay there for a while. She was announced a winner to the audience’s joy which got literally got crazy. Inspired by the victory Yudina started participating in wrestling matches on the arena of the local circus. Being not at all needy, Yudina wrestled just out of a sporting interest letting off steam. She displayed sporting ardor. She was trained by her second husband. An artillery officer proficient in French wrestling - he taught her some wrestling techniques and skills.
On the wrestling arena, Yudina looked bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, like a Virago with explosive temper. The circus manager expected to find worthy opponents for her (not without reason, because the Far East was rich in strong daring women). But no strength was able to stop heated ardor of Anastasia Yudina. Even when she lost a match her opponent invariably left the arena severely battered with bruises and injuries. No wonder, the number of women willing to wrestle her became less and less and eventually she started wrestling against men, which right hands were bound to their backs in order to equalize their chances. Surprisingly, in a while, she managed to over wrestle almost all her male opponents (who still gave her the hand start). Once Yudina decided to shock public by offering her next “one-armed” male opponent fist fighting in boxing gloves. At the beginning, he refused but she insisted and for a while the men was defending by one hand from the woman who got all worked up until he was tired of that and delivered a slight body shot. Female psycho is not always predictable. The woman wasn’t afraid to stand against bullet and bayonets; she wrestled many times. But after getting a minor punch to her back she just got hysterical and left the circus ring in tears. The outraged audience was ready to torment the participant who was embarrassed and didn’t have too many choices – either to be beaten by a lady or got beaten by the audience having beaten her.
After that incident, Yudina stopped participating in combative sports. What happened with Yudina later is a real mystery; it was rumored that she chose another evil "combative activity". Who knows, probably intrepidity not necessarily implies virtue…
The following destiny of Anastasia Yudina is an obscure place. The Yudins lived in style. In 1900s, they had three luxury homes in Blagoveshchensk with expensive trotters in their stables. However, the marriage came apart. They didn’t have children; besides, she had a whimsical character and adventurism. Another possible reason for divorce was that her husband was away for a long time in his goldfields. Оne way or another, Konstantin Yudin successfully remarried, he got kids and the new family moved to the town of Zeya. All the sudden, Anastasia who had been in easy circumstances before, found herself in need. After that, according to unverified rumors, she knocked together a band of men and women which robbed gold diggers and owner of goldmines for a few years. At that, the ringleader distinguished herself by exceptional cruelty; very few escaped from the gang alive. Now, the former “Joan of Arc” became the “Lady Macbeth of Zeya district”. Yudina was even attributed to the terrible mass murder of members of Konstantin Yudin’s family. They said Anastasia inspired her henchman to do that. Eight people were killed including children. Just one person, a workman survived; he became the only witness of that terrible crime. After that, Anastasia disappeared without leaving a trace. They said she moved to China with plundered valuables – from the terrible rumors or from the punishment – nobody knows for sure. Other sources say that she was returned back to Russia and appeared in court. It is unknown if the trial took place and what was its decision.
It is not ruled out that it was not Anastasia Yudina at the head of the band and the rumors were disseminated by envious persons of this extraordinary woman.
In 1990s, a small item of news was published in a local newspaper in Zeya. “The hoard of the famous “Lady Macbeth of Zeya district” is found… After the brutal murder, Yudina rushed out to China with plundered treasuries. A part of them she allegedly hid in one of remote gold mines of her former husband; another part was buried in a hiding place at the Mukhin street. The hiding place was discovered by a worker who repaired a telephone cable. An encoded plan of the third hiding place in our town was also found.
It remains a puzzle if those hiding places have anything to do with Anastasia Yudina; even they do, was she a real brigand of these are just rumors…
Reprinting is welcomed only with a proper attribution to the Female Single Combat Club
From the book "Amur Heroine"
Photos from the resource AmurInfo
Anastasiya Yudina - heroine of Blagoveshchensk defence
Anastasiya Yudina in a trench among city defenders
Duel between Anastasia Yudina and an Amur Cossack away from the camp of gold diggers
Composition by Lillie Lefort
Ladies wrestling. Old postcard