The adventuresome and talented Nadezhda Plevitskaya was born in a Russian village in 1884. Being one of 11 children she was placed in a nunnery which she fled by joining a travelling circus.
In 1909 she began singing in restaurants in Moscow and became known for her rare mezzo-soprano range and subtle performances. Nadezhda sang for Tzar Nicholas II and received a lucrative contract with the Bolshoi Theatre. During WW 1 she appeared in several films and after the Russian Revolution she sang for the Red Army. Although captured by the White Army she ended up marrying its leader, Nikolai Skoblin.
They were exiled to Paris but recruited by the Soviet intelligence — the Communist Secret Police. Nadezhda continued her singing career touring Europe and the U.S. For years, she and her husband spied on the anti-Bolshevik movement (Russian All-Military Union) and were responsible for the capture of 17 agents smuggled into the USSR to sabotage. However, in 1937 Nadezhda was arrested in Paris for her involvement in the abduction of General Yevgeny Miller. Although Skoblin escaped, Nadezhda was sentenced to 20 years of hard labour and died in prison in 1940. Although she was treated well when captured by the White Army, when imprisoned years later for espionage, she was sentenced in a similar manner to her male counterparts.
There is a history of espionage women agents who were celebrity singers and entertainers across various eras and countries. It is good cover for a woman as they can travel easily without suspicion. The next article is about another chanteuse ~ a WW 2 woman who became an asset for the British Special Operations Executive (SOE).