A Gentleman in Moscow: Is Nina Kulikova Inspired by a Real Person?

Image Credit: Ben Blackall/Paramount+ With Showtime

Showtime’s ‘A Gentleman in Moscow’ takes the audience to the 1920s, where an aristocrat named Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov is placed under permanent house arrest in a hotel where he had found his temporary abode. While the political, social, and cultural face of Russia undergoes a drastic change, the Count is confined to the hotel and has no option but to befriend other guests and live vicariously through those who have the freedom to come and go from the front door of the building. One such person is Nina Kulikova, with whom the Count forms a deep bond. Who is she, and does she have any counterpart in real life? SPOILERS AHEAD

Nina’s Fictional Character Gives a Fatherly Touch to Count Rostov

Like the story and all of its other characters, Nina Kulikova in ‘A Gentleman in Moscow’ is a fictional character who was created by Amor Towles, the author of the book on which the show is based, to bring a sense of levity and reprieve to the Count in the early days of his confinement. After being sentenced to spend the rest of his days in the Metropol, the Count tries to keep himself in good spirits, refusing to be beaten down by his oppressors. However, with the way everything unravels around him, it becomes difficult for him to remain sane. This is where Nina comes in.

Image Credit: Ben Blackall/Paramount+ With Showtime

When Nina is introduced to the audience, she is nine years old, still not quite in touch with what’s happening in the country and how it will decide her future. The innocence of a child transforms the Metropol’s prison for the Count, and he finds an anchor, something to hold on to and not drift away completely. Apart from her age, Nina’s situation also puts her in a bracket different from that of the Count.

While the Count is in his early 30s when he is imprisoned, Nina is barely ten. Unlike him, she is not sentenced to stay in the Metropol. She is there because of her father, who is a bureaucrat and is in Moscow due to his official posting there. He is a widower, and with him off to the office and no mother to supervise their daughter, Nina is free to roam around and explore the Metropol, which is how she learns to open all the doors of the place.

The development in Nina’s story also works as a marker for the Count to realize how much time is passing around him. As he watches her grow older in front of himself, he is reminded of his own years in the Metropol and how he is doomed never to set foot outside the place. In the same vein, Nina’s absence also has an impact on him, especially after she leaves the hotel when she steps into adulthood.

With Nina, the Count gets to be a father figure in the absence of her real father. He gets to experience something that his imprisonment doesn’t allow him. His entire family is gone; whatever remained of his home was burned down in the revolution. He has no place to call home and no one to call family. In Nina, he finds a semblance of family, the only one he will ever have, and the deep bond forged between them eventually changes everything for both of them. Their intertwined stories and the emotional depth of their bond make both of them real to the audience, even though they are fictional.

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