Alexandra was born in 1973. After a typical English country childhood and traditional boarding school education at Downe House and Wellington College, she spent six months in Moscow learning Russian before starting university. In 1992 this was an unusual choice as the Soviet Union had only recently collapsed and the new Russia was chaotic and grim. Nevertheless, she fell in love with Russia and went on to study Russian language and literature at the University of Edinburgh.
After graduating, Alexandra won a place on the graduate training scheme at Credit Suisse First Boston as a broker on their Eastern European equities desk. However, she quickly realised city life was not for her and left the bank with a desire to see more of the world. A serendipitous meeting with an old university friend led to the formation of the Silk Road Expedition and after a year and a half of preparation, organising logistics and raising sponsorship and publicity, in 1999 the team of four girls set out to ride horses and camels 5,000 miles along the Silk Road, from Merv in Turkmenistan to the ancient Silk Road city of Xian in China. A nine-month journey of living in tents in some of the harshest and most remote spots on earth, it triggered a passion for travel and adventure in Alexandra.
In the next few years she wrote articles for newspapers and magazines on the Silk Road Expedition and secured a book deal. ‘The Last Secrets of the Silk Road’ was published by Profile Books in 2003.
In 2002 Alexandra and a girlfriend spent six months riding through Mongolia and Eastern Siberia, this time with no back-up vehicle and only pack horses for support. Again, she wrote articles about the expedition and in the same year also began to lead groups of intrepid tourists on riding holidays to Central Asia.
By 2005 Alexandra had moved to Moscow and was spending the winters working for various UK companies, including Yo! Sushi and Nicky Haslam, helping them to secure Russian partners and navigate the Moscow market, while the summers were spent leading riding holidays through the Tien Shan Mountains of Kyrgzystan. Another adventure dream was fulfilled in 2006, re-creating a legendary Soviet expedition of Turkmen riders on Akhal Teke horses, who rode from Ashgabad to Moscow’s Red Square in the 1930s.
In 2007 Alexandra was approached by BBC2 to present a television series on societies whose lives revolve around horses. She spent a year living and filming in Yakutia (Siberia), Andalucia and Montana and in 2009 ‘Horse People with Alexandra Tolstoy’ was aired.
Whilst working at The Laureus Awards in St Petersburg in 2008, Alexandra met Sergei Pugachev, one of the so-called ‘oligarchs’ and a senator in Putin’s government. Their relationship developed and in 2009 Alexandra gave birth to their first son, followed by another son and daughter in 2010 and 2012 respectively.
Alexandra and Sergei moved to live in London after Sergei was deposed as a senator and began to have his assets expropriated by the Russian government. In 2015 he fled the UK for France, in an attempt to avoid proceedings brought against him by Russia in London’s High Court. Alexandra decided not to follow and stayed with the children in London. They in turn were prosecuted by the Russian government, which in 2017 managed to secure a ruling taking away their London home in lieu of Sergei’s ‘debt’ to Russia.
Alexandra has returned to leading bespoke escapes to the former Russian Empire, including riding escapes to Kyrgyzstan and cultural escapes to St Petersburg. With her deep knowledge and extensive contacts, she can provide unrivalled access to this historically and culturally fascinating region.