top of page
Countess Sofia Vladimirovna Panina

Born in 1871, descended from the Russian aristocracy’s highest ranks, and heiress to one of its great fortunes, Countess Sofia Vladimirova Panina won the admiration of progressive contemporaries for her work to expand access to education and culture for the working class before World War I.  Early in the revolutionary year of 1917, after the monarchy fell and a provisional government took over Russia’s deteriorating military front and collapsing economy, she moved onto the political stage and attracted national and international attention as the first woman in world history to occupy a ministerial position in a government. 


After a second revolution toppled that government in October, the liberal countess became an “enemy of the people.”  In December 1917, “Citizen Panina,” charged with stealing government funds, faced the Bolsheviks’ new revolutionary tribunal in their first trial of a political opponent. 


After leaving everything she possessed to flee Russia and the Bolsheviks in 1920, Countess spent the rest of her life in humanitarian activities, assisting Russian emigres stranded in Europe prior to World War II as well as prisoners of war and other displaced persons.  Countess Panina once counted among the best-known members of her generation. Few works by Western historians have mentioned her name, and her remarkable life has never been written—until now.  

Additional Resources

Internet Museum of Sofia Panina:

Panina Family Tree: PDF download:

bottom of page