Helene P. Blavatsky was born H elene Petrovna von Hahn on August 12, 1831 (new style calendar), in Ekaterinoslav, now Dnepropetrovsk, Russia. Her father, Peter von Hahn, a captain in the horse artillery of the Russian army, was a direct descendent of Count von Rottenstern-Hahn of Mecklenburg, Germany, who had emigrated to Russia in the previous century.
Her mother, Helena Andreyevna von Hahn, was a highly regarded novelist. She wrote under the pen name of Zenaide R. or Zeneide R-Va and was called the George Sand of Russia by Belinsky and other literary critics who regarded her as one of the principal founders of the women's liberation movement.
In 1842 Helena Andreyevna died when she was only twenty-seven years old, but with her literary reputation already well established. She realized early how rebellious, how courageous and brilliant her eleven-year old daughter was. On her deathbed she stated that perhaps it was just as well that she was dying for she would be spared seeing what befell little Helene.
"Of one thing I am certain," she was quoted as saying. "Her life will not be as that of other women, and she will have much to suffer." Her words proved all too prophetic.
After her mother's death, little Helene went to live with her maternal grandparents, the Fadeefs, first in Saratoff and later in Tiflis. Madame Nadejda Fadeef, the aunt whom Helene deeply loved, wrote about her in later years:
From her earliest childhood, she was unlike any other person. Very lively and highly gifted, full of humor, and of most remarkable daring; she struck everyone with astonishment by her self-willed and determined actions ... It was a fatal mistake to regard and treat her as they would any other child. Her restlessness and very nervous temperament, one that...