Who doesn't know a mischievous old woman with a rat on a leash, singing "You can't become famous for good deeds." In addition to the fact that she often carries a slingshot with her and sincerely loves Lariska, we don’t know anything about her. Meanwhile, the image of Shapoklyak is a collective one, and the first wife of Eduard Uspensky served as one of its prototypes.
The writer's first wife
Rimma Uspenskaya, with whom the writer lived for 18 years, died in 2014 from cancer. She was 77. According to her daughter Tatyana, in recent months the woman has not gotten out of bed, and her father gave money only for the funeral - which, however, he did not appear.
Uspensky's biographer Hannu Mäkelä wrote that the prototype of the fashionable old woman was the writer's mother, Natalya Alekseevna, a mechanical engineer and the wife of a party official. But in subsequent interviews, Ouspensky did not agree with this:
"No… more like a wife. In general, it is believed that a man chooses his wife according to the model of his mother. My mother was a rather nasty aunt. (…) According to this type, I chose a wife for myself, whom I also did not love. And since my first wife, I may have been writing. She is so strict, nasty, harmful”
About his first wife Rimma, whom he met at the Moscow Aviation Institute (MAI), he spoke exclusively in a dismissive tone, called her “a harmful lady in every respect”: “Now I just wonder how we managed to live together eighteen years! Although, to be completely honest, Shapoklyak also has my features. My character is also not angelic. In marriage, the couple had a daughter, Tatyana, who, until the death of Uspensky, never forgave her father.
“I know that my parents studied together at the Moscow Aviation Institute,” says Tatyana. - As far as I know, dad took care of my mother for a very long time. They didn’t get married right away, she didn’t really want to marry him, but they lived in marriage for 20 years. From childhood, I remember only the constant scandals of my parents, screams. Since then, I really don’t like it when someone swears, it just physically makes me feel bad. Dad drank, different women appeared with him, mother didn’t like it. She probably did something wrong, since there were such moments, and so did he. Dad had such an interesting feature - he always considered himself a victim.”
Uspensky did not indicate Tatyana in his will, only his adopted daughters appeared there.
The artist's mother-in-law
But we know Shapoklyak not only from the book, but also from cartoons. The puppet old woman on the style is a vivid reflection of her era - the 1930s. Fashion historian Mariana Skuratovskaya is sure that “Chanel herself would have approved of her costume”: a black year skirt, a “shapoklyak” top hat with a hatpin and a reticule (in which it is so convenient to hide a rat) …
The artist Leonid Shvartsman, who came up with the appearance of the old woman, also took it out of thin air: “One specific image helped me in creating the old woman Shapoklyak. Firstly, the very word "shapoklyak" gave a hint: it is a folding top hat, XIX century, jabot, white cuffs… And my mother-in-law's appearance played an important role here. She was a woman from that time, she had gray hair, a gray bun. I only lengthened her nose, made it malicious, and her eyes crafty. In general, this character was born quite quickly.”
What about the old lady?
But the fabulous image of a granny itself is not so simple. She must have been in her 30s in the 1930s. The well-educated fashionista must have wanted to move to Paris and become famous. But ten years later, the war happened - and it didn't work out.
Despite her malevolence, she often shows mercy and is very active. As, for example, in the plot with the workers who played dominoes instead of repairing the school. After all, it was Shapoklyak who forced the lazy foremen to get down to business. As a fairy-tale character, Shapoklyak combines the features of an antagonist and a protagonist. She is a typical trickster: there is a lot of chaos, humor and mischief around her…
In the article “The Old Woman Shapoklyak as a Gone Symbol of the Russian-Imperial Intelligentsia”, Dmitry Doronin recalls the “living examples” of Shapoklyak that he encountered: “In his youth, my father was very fond of running and regularly went to the Moscow Hippodrome. The main audience at the hippodrome was, of course, the Moscow proletariat.
And against the background of this proletariat, elderly, portly women in unusual dresses with lace stood out very much, who silently, without shouting and gesticulating, watched the duel of riders through lorgnettes and pince-nez What did these “old women Shapoklyak” go through in their lives? Where did they get lorgnettes in the 70s in the Soviet Union? What happened to their fathers and husbands during the years of revolution, repression and war?
It turns out that thanks to the stupid Soviet cartoon, the people's memory remains, albeit in the form of a caricature, the type of educated Russian women who received pre-revolutionary education and survived in the hell of the 20th century.”