The Saga Of Feodor Vassilyev: A Man Who Fathered 22 Twins In The 1700s

Feodor Vassilyev was one of the most prolific fathers in recorded history. A peasant from Shuya, Russia, he lived from 1707-1782 and fathered 87 children before dying at the age of 76. And nearly all of these children were twins, triplets, or quadruplets. Vassilyev's first wife, who holds the world record for most children born to a single woman, birthed 69 of those children, while his second wife had 18.

Though little information exists about Vassilyev's descendants, we know an astonishing 82 out of the 87 children survived infancy, and many lived in Moscow on government assistance. To some, the story may seem impossible, but others find the evidence quite reasonable.

  • His First Wife Gave Birth To 69 Children

    Feodor Vassilyev's contribution to the whole arrangement remains mind-boggling enough, but he isn't even the most impressive person in the story. Vassilyev's first wife gave birth to a total of 69 children, spread over 27 births, pushing the limits of the human body in a way many scientists believe should hardly be possible.

    Pregnancy and childbirth are some of the most physically intense experiences the human body can endure, and Mrs. Vassilyev did it continuously for 18 years. That's the same amount of time it takes to raise one child to maturity. Mrs. Vassilyev - whose first name was never revealed - holds the world record for bearing the largest number of children.

  • 82 Out Of 87 Children Survived

    Shockingly, 82 of Feodor Vassilyev's 87 children survived infancy. This survival rate is even more of a feat in a time when infant mortality was high. For example, every third child in 18th-century Sweden died before reaching adulthood. Because they're often born prematurely, twins, triplets, and quadruplets are less likely to live - as are children born into poverty. Despite those odds, the Vassilyevs managed to produce 82 children who survived.

  • Many People Doubt The Veracity Of The Story

    Many People Doubt The Veracity Of The Story
    Photo: Alexey Venetsianov / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Many people can't quite believe the spectacular fertility claims made about the Vassilyevs. The chances of conceiving, carrying, and delivering that many children seem low, at best, and there's no definitive proof it truly occurred. That said, it's not entirely impossible.

    Mrs. Vassilyev spent a total of 18 years being pregnant. Even accounting for breaks in between pregnancies to nurse the newly delivered children, she technically had enough time for 27 pregnancies. Because the tendency toward multiple births is genetically determined, it makes sense why she had so many twins and triplets. 

    That said, a theory isn't necessarily reality. Mrs. Vassilyev's chances of surviving childbirth 27 times, as well as her kids' chances of surviving childhood, seems to many like a pipe dream. 

  • The Vassilyevs Were Doubted In Their Own Time, Too

    It isn't only modern scientists who balk at the concept of one man fathering close to 100 children. Those seeking proof in the 18th century asked the Imperial Academy of St. Petersburg, who claimed no evidence was needed since the Vassilyev children resided in Moscow and received government assistance. One could also look at the records kept by the Monastery of Nikolsk, which documented births in Moscow at the time.

  • His Second Wife Had 'Only' 18 Children

    As an older man, Feodor Vassilyev married a second time. It's easy to assume he'd be tired of having kids after fathering 69 of them, but Vassilyev wasn't finished yet. His second wife, whose name is also unknown, allegedly gave birth to 18 children. While that's a staggering number, compared to his first wife's 69 kids, it doesn't sound too bad.

  • It's A Miracle The First Mrs. Vassilyev Survived

    Today, dying in childbirth is a rarity in developed nations. As of 2015, only eight of every 100,000 women in the UK died due to pregnancy-related complications or within six weeks of ending a pregnancy. Other developed nations boast similar statistics. By contrast, Sierra Leone, one of the world's poorest countries, possessed a rate of 1,100 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births.

    Russian women in the 1700s faced many risks. Life-threatening issues had no real treatment, and certain emergencies, like hemorrhaging, were significantly more likely during multiple births. Mrs. Vassilyev's 27 pregnancies carried with them significant risks, so the fact that she survived into her 70s is nothing short of a miracle.