OBITUARY : Alexandra Titarenko

Alexandra Titarenko was the mother-in-law of the former President of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev, and the driving force behind her daughter Raisa. Gorbachev himself often listened to her wise advice.

Alexandra Petrovna, known as "Sasha" or "Shurochka" (both diminutives of Alexandra), was born at Veseloyarsk, "Jolly Resort", in western Siberia, in 1913, one of the six children of Petr Stepanovich Porada, a poor peasant, originally from Ukraine. During Stalin's collectivisation campaign, Porada was declared a kulak, their house and land were confiscated, and in 1937 he was arrested. Being uneducated, he had no idea who Trotsky was, yet he was accused of being a Trotskyist; he perished in the Gulag.

At the age of 19, Sasha met and married Maxim Titarenko, who had come from Ukraine to the Altai Krai, as western Siberia was renamed, in search of employment. He found a job in the railroad construction industry and rose to become an engineer. Raisa, their first child, was born in 1932, in Rubtsovsk. Sasha had her secretly christened at a local Russian Orthodox priest's flat. A son and another daughter followed.

During the Second World War the family lived in various places in the Urals and after it moved to Sterlitamak, centre of the Soviet Union's chemical industry, south of Ufa, the capital of the Bashkir Autonomous Republic.

Alexandra Petrovna was determined to give her children the best education she could. It was she who in 1949 encouraged Raisa to enrol at Moscow University. She approved her daughter's choice when, in 1953, Raisa married Mikhail ("Misha") Gorbachev, a brilliant law student. When the couple left for Stavropol in southern Russia she kept in close touch with her daughter, who spent two years out of work.

The Gorbachevs' only child, their daughter Irina - Sasha's first grandchild - was born in 1957 in the tiny room they rented. Irina spent her summer holidays with her grandparents at Sterlitamak, and it was on her grandmother's advice that in 1974 she became a medical student at Stavropol. In the 1980s Irina gave her two great-granddaughters, Ksenia and Nastenka.

When in 1985 Mikhail Gorbachev became First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, it was reported that Alexandra Petrovna could not bring herself to contact her daughter, the new First Lady: to use the Kremlin's internal line would be to disturb the head of state. It took her time to get used to her own new position; but she remained Raisa's confidante, especially when her daughter was in difficulties.

When in 1991 Alexandra Petrovna saw on television that her daughter and son-in-law were virtually under arrest on the island of Foros in the Crimea, she wanted to go there; only her frailty prevented her. As soon as telephone lines were restored, she spoke to Raisa and her husband. She advised them both to hold on and not to give in to their enemies. She was a firm support when, shortly afterwards, Raisa was partly paralysed following a minor stroke.

Raisa's brother Yevgeni graduated from military school, but became an alcoholic. It was his mother who persuaded him to enter a clinic for treatment, after which he became a writer, graduating from the Literary Institute. Her younger daughter, Liudmila, graduated from the Medical Institute at Ufa, and gave her a grandson.

In 1986, when her husband Maxim died at a Moscow hospital after a series of operations, she refused her son-in-law's invitation to move to Moscow and live with the Gorbachevs at their official country residence off Rublevskoe Highway. She thought it would be wrong to take advantage of her son-in- law's position. Instead she moved to Ufa, where she spent her last nine years in an ordinary one-bedroom flat.

Mikhail Gorbachev paid tribute to the active role Alexandra Petrovna played in his work as a statesman and politician and described her as an extremely decent, reliable and appreciative woman.

Jeanne Vronskaya

Alexandra Petrovna Porada: born Veseloyarsk, Siberia 14 March 1913; married 1931 Maxim Andreevich Titarenko (died 1986; one son, two daughters); died Ufa, Bashkiria 14 July 1995.

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

HR Manager - London - £40,000 + bonus

£32000 - £40000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager (Generalist) -Old...

Talent Manager / HR Manager - central London - £50,000

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Talent / Learning & Development Mana...

HR Manager (standalone) - London

Up to £40,000: Ashdown Group: Standalone HR Manager role for an SME business b...

HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350-£400

£350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350 - £400 per ...

Day In a Page

Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

What is the appeal of Twitch?

Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

How bosses are making us work harder

As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

A tale of two writers

Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

Should pupils get a lie in?

Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

Prepare for Jewish jokes...

... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

A dream come true for SJ Watson

Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
10 best cycling bags for commuters

10 best cycling bags for commuters

Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

Paul Scholes column

Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?