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The Two Husbands of Vera Tiscenko: Apostasy, Conversion, and Divorce in Late Colonial India


On June 27, 1940, Vera Tiscenko, a Polish actress formerly with the Moscow Arts Theatre, “of her own free will and after due deliberation” embraced the Islamic faith at the Nakoda Mosque at 19 Chowringee Road, Calcutta. Vera Tiscenko's journey from Moscow to colonial Calcutta was a long and tortuous one. Fleeing the country after the revolution, Vera settled in Berlin where she married a Russian émigré, Eugene Tiscenko. Over the next few years they moved across Europe from Nazi Berlin to civil war Spain and finally settled in Mussolini's Rome, where Vera gave birth to a son, Oleg. In 1938, Eugene Tiscenko went to Edinburgh to qualify for a British medical degree, while Vera and her son left Rome for Calcutta after being invited by Professor Shahid Suhrawardy, her former director at the Moscow Arts Theatre. The reason for the separation between the couple remains unclear. Chief Justice Derbyshire was to speculate that Eugene Tiscenko might have intended to settle somewhere in British India after qualifying, but Vera herself admitted that the marriage had been unhappy. Finding “relief and solace in the teachings of Islam,” she cabled her husband the news of her conversion and requested that he accept the Islamic faith. Eugene Tiscenko replied that his religious convictions were unshakable and “refused absolutely” to change his faith.

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This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

Lauren Benton , “Colonial Law and Cultural Difference: Jurisdictional Politics and the Formation of the Colonial StateComparative Studies in Society and History 41 (3) (1999): 563–88

Anne Mclintock , “Family Feuds: Gender, Nationalism and the Family,” Feminist Review 44 (1993): 61

Radhika Singha , “Settle, Mobilize, Verify: Identity Practices in British India,” Studies in History 16 (2000): 152

Rohit De , “Mumtaz Bibi's Broken Heart: The Many Lives of the Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act, 1939,” Indian Economic and Social History Review 46 (1) (2009): 105–30

Kumkum Sangari , “Gender Lines: Personal Laws, Uniform Laws, Conversions,” Social Scientist (27) (5/6) (1999): 1761

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Law and History Review
  • ISSN: 0738-2480
  • EISSN: 1939-9022
  • URL: /core/journals/law-and-history-review
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