Serge Obolensky

Prince Sergei Platonovich Obolensky Neledinsky-Meletzky (November 3, 1890 – September 29, 1978), known as Serge Obolensky, was a Russian-born aristocrat then American citizen, U.S. Army colonel, socialite and publicist. He served as vice chairman of the board of directors of the Hilton Hotels Corporation.[1]

Prince Serge Obolensky
Serge Obolensky.jpg
Obolensky c. 1943
Sergei Platonovich Obolensky

(1890-10-03)October 3, 1890
DiedSeptember 29, 1978(1978-09-29) (aged 87)
Alma materOxford University
(m. 1916; div. 1923)
(m. 1924; div. 1932)
Marilyn Wall
(m. 1971)

Early lifeEdit

Obolensky's parents were Prince Platon Sergeyevich Obolensky-Neledinsky-Meletzky (1850–1913)[2] and Maria Konstantinovna Naryshkina (1861–1929).[3] He had a younger brother, Vladimir (1896–1968),[4] who died unmarried and childless.

He was an enthusiastic polo player and played for his University Team at Oxford in 1914.[5]


Obolensky was a soldier in two World Wars and in the Russian Civil War and fled his native country after battling Bolsheviks as a guerrilla fighter. He was a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. paratroopers and a member of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), forerunner of the CIA, and made his first five jumps in 1943 at the age of 53.[6]

After his second marriage, he settled in the U.S., working with his new brother-in-law, the real estate entrepreneur Vincent Astor.[6] He also started a business, Parfums Chevalier Garde, with fellow emigre, Aleksandre Tarsaidze (1901–1978). Tarsaidze was president until 1940 when they were cut off from their French suppliers during World War II.[7] When Obolensky was president of the Sherry-Netherland Hotel, Tarsaidze became his assistant. Tarsaidze later wrote a novel about the parents of Obolensky's first wife, Alexander II and Catherine Dolgorukov.[7]

In 1949, he started his own public relations firm in New York City, Serge Obolensky Associates, Inc.,[6] handling accounts like Piper-Heidsieck champagne. "Serge", a friend once remarked, "could be successful selling umbrellas in the middle of the Sahara".

In 1958, Obolensky was made vice chairman of the board of Hilton Hotels Corporation.[6] In the same year, he released his autobiography, One Man In His Time. The Memoirs of Serge Obolensky.[8][9] He maintained a substantial art collection.

Personal lifeEdit

On October 6, 1916, he married Princess Catherine Alexandrovna Yurievskaya (1878–1959) at Yalta. Catherine was the youngest daughter of Russian Emperor Alexander II (1818–1881) and his second, morganatic wife, Princess Catherine Dolgorukova (1847–1922), and was the widow of Prince Alexander Vladimirovich Baryatinsky (1870–1910), with whom she had two children.[10] They divorced in 1924 without any issue.

On July 24, 1924, he married Ava Alice Muriel Astor (1902–1956) in London, Middlesex. Ava was the daughter of John Jacob Astor IV (1864–1912) and his first wife Ava Lowle Willing (1868–1958).[11] Before divorcing in 1932,[12] Obolensky had two children with Ava:

  • Prince Ivan Sergeyevich Obolensky (1925–2019[13]), who married (1) Claire Elizabeth McGinnis (1929—2015[14]) div. 1956, and (2) Mary Elizabeth Morris (1934–2006).
  • Princess Sylvia Sergeievna Obolensky (1931–1997),[15] who was Ava's daughter with Raimund von Hofmannsthal.[16] Ava and von Hofmannsthal would marry quietly in January 1933[17] after she and Obolensky divorced in 1932, but at the time of Sylvia's birth Ava was in Austria and still married to Obolensky. Sylvia married Jean-Louis Ganshof van der Meersch (1924–1982) in New York City on November 1, 1950,[18] they divorced in 1957 without issue. She then married Prince Azamat Kadir Giray (1924–2001),[19] at East Hampton, New York on August 11, 1957. He was the son of Kadir Giray, Prince of Crimea (1892–1953)[20] and Vaguide Sheret-Luk, and had issue before divorcing in 1963. Through his father, Giray was a direct male line descendant of Genghis Khan and Börte through Jochi and the Khans of Crimea.

On June 3, 1971, he married for the third and final time to Marilyn Fraser-Wall (1929–2007) of Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan, with whom he did not have children.[11][21]

Obolensky died in 1978,[22] and is buried in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, Southfield, Michigan.[1]


The "Serge Obolensky Room", at the back of the first floor at the Soldiers', Sailors', Marines', Coast Guard and Airmen's Club in Manhattan, memorializes his services as a soldier. Portraits and memorabilia festoon the walls.


  1. ^ a b "Died". Time. October 16, 1978. Archived from the original on October 14, 2010. Retrieved August 11, 2008. Serge Obolensky, 87, Russian prince who became a publicist and international socialite; in Grosse Pointe Farms, Mich. Scion of a wealthy White Russian family and husband of Czar Alexander II's daughter, the Oxford-educated Obolensky fled his native country after battling Bolsheviks as a guerrilla fighter. The tall, mustachioed aristocrat subsequently divorced Princess Catherine, married the daughter of American Financier John Jacob Astor, settled in the U.S. and worked with his brother-in-law, the real estate entrepreneur Vincent Astor. During World War II, Obolensky at 53 became the U.S. Army's oldest paratrooper and earned the rank of colonel. He started his own public relations firm in New York in 1949, handling accounts like Piper-Heidsieck champagne. "Serge," a friend once remarked, "could be successful selling umbrellas in the middle of the Sahara."
  2. ^ Moscow, June 12, 1850 – Saint Petersburg, June 27, 1913.
  3. ^ Moscow, December 22, 1861 – Paris, February 2, 1929; they were married at Saint Petersburg, January 31, 1888; divorced 1897.
  4. ^ Saint Petersburg, March 14, 1896 – New York, New York County, New York, October 12, 1968.
  5. ^ "Polo Monthly" (PDF). November 1914: 140. Retrieved August 10, 2013. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  6. ^ a b c d Thomas, Robert McG. Jr. (September 27, 1970). "Thriving Society Legend: Serge Obolensky at 80". The New York Times. Retrieved September 6, 2016.
  7. ^ a b Times, Special To The New York (February 28, 1978). "Alexandre Tarsaidze, 77; Czarist Emigre Acquired OwnPublic Relations Firm". The New York Times. Retrieved September 6, 2016.
  8. ^ One Man in His Time, The Complete Memoirs of Serge Obolensky. Mystery Grove Publishing
  9. ^ "Came the Revolution. The Memoirs of Serge Obolensky. Illustrated. 433 pp. New York: McDowell, Obolensky. $6.95". The New York Times. November 16, 1958. Retrieved September 6, 2016.
  10. ^ "Princess Yourievsky, Who as Princess Dolgorouki Wed Alexander II". New York Times. March 11, 1913. Retrieved August 11, 2008. As the representative of Princess Catherine Yourievsky of Paris, who as Princess Dolgorouki contracted a morganatic marriage with Czar Alexander II. of.....
  11. ^ a b "Historical Import Goes to Auction at DuMouchelle Art Galleries". Reuters. January 11, 2008. Archived from the original on March 6, 2008. Retrieved August 11, 2008. Prince Serge Obolensky, former husband to Russian Czar Alexander II's daughter, Princess Catherine Yourievsky, and later to U.S. real-estate tycoon Colonel John Jacob Astor IV's daughter, Ava Astor. ...
  12. ^ "Princess Obolensky In Reno For Divorce. Former Muriel Astor, Sister of Vincent, Married an Ex-Russian Minister to Poland". The New York Times. December 4, 1932. Retrieved September 6, 2016.
  13. ^ May 15, 1925.
  14. ^ "Person Page". Retrieved October 14, 2019.
  15. ^ Vöcklabruck, Austria, May 18, 1931 – London, Middlesex, June 27, 1997.
  16. ^ Baker, Anne Pimlott (2004). "Guirey [née Obolensky], Princess Sylvia (1931–1997), artist and art patron". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/67153. ISBN 978-0-19-861412-8. Retrieved September 6, 2020. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  17. ^ "ASTOR HEIRESS WED QUIETLY IN JERSEY; Princess .Obolensky Becomes Bride of Raimund von Hof- mannsthal of Austria. TROTH NOT ANNOUNCED Ceremony Performed Saturday by Police Court JudgeuCouple Left Immediately for Europe". The New York Times. January 24, 1933. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved September 6, 2020.
  18. ^ Saint-Gilles, Belgium, July 14, 1924 – Le Temple, Lacanau, France August 22, 1982.
  19. ^ New York, New York County, New York, August 14, 1924 – The Bahamas, August 8, 2001.
  20. ^ 1892 – June 2, 1953.
  21. ^ She was born on August 13, in Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan and died on October 5, 2007, in Arlington County, Virginia.
  22. ^ Times, Special To The New York (November 6, 1978). "OBITUARIES". The New York Times. Retrieved September 6, 2016.
  • Obolensky, Serge, One Man in His Time: The Memoirs of Serge Obolensky (New York. McDowell, Obolensky, Inc. 1958). 433 pp. with index.[1]

External linksEdit