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Duke Peter and Fevronia: The Russian Valentine Story

12. February 2010 by Gregg 0 Comments

Valentine’s Day is relatively new to Russia, having only been introduced in the late ‘90s, but Russia has a long tradition of Romantic stories and legends which have lent themselves well to this romantic holiday.

The legend of Duke Peter and Fevronia takes place around the 16th Century. Duke Peter was the brother of Paul, the Prince of Murom and was the owner of a magic sword. Prince Paul discovered that a monstrous shape-shifting snake was disguising itself as him and that only Duke Peter’s magic sword could slay it. Duke Peter went into battle with the snake, narrowly defeating the monster, but was infected with the snake’s venom.

In the days after the battle, the Duke became sick and his body is covered with sores. None of the city’s doctors could cure him. One day, the Duke hears of a peasant maiden by the name of Fevronia who can cure sicknesses that doctors cannot and sends for her. Fevronia agrees to heal the ailing Duke, but names her price – The Duke must marry her. Peter agrees to the terms and Fevronia cures him.

After the Duke is healed, he reneges on the agreement. Instead of marrying the young girl, he sends her money and valuable gifts. Fevronia is not swayed by this, though, and soon the Duke’s sickness returns. The Duke finally relents and after Fevronia heals him again they marry. Prince Paul dies soon after this and Peter and Fevronia become the rulers of Murom.

The Aristocrats of Murom are not impressed that Peter has married Fevronia, though, and are unhappy at the idea of a peasant woman ruling the Principality. They offer Fevronia any wealth or riches she wants to simply leave the city and never return. Fevronia agrees, asking that they let her take just one item. The Aristocrats agree, and Fevronia leaves the city.

It soon becomes apparent that the new Prince is missing after his wife leaves, and the Aristocrats quickly realize that the “one item” the lady chose to take with her was her husband. The Royal couple lives in exile for a short time as Murom descends into chaos with no Prince to run it. Finally, the Aristocrats ask the two to return and they agree, ruling wisely until their dying days.

The two live their last days out in separate monasteries. They both ask to be buried in the same grave, and die on the same day. After their deaths, the church chooses not to honor their wish and buries them in separate graves. Their bodies disappear from their coffins soon after, though, and are later found in a common grave they had asked for. After another attempt at separating the bodies fails, they are finally left in their grave together.

Peter and Fevronia are considered to be Patrons of Marriage and Love in Russia and their story illustrates the cultural important of marriage and fidelity to Russian ladies.