Maria Ignatievna Budberg, also known variously as Countess Benckendorff, Baroness Budberg, born in Poltava, was the daughter of Ignaty Platonovitch Zakrevsky, a Russian nobleman and diplomat. She was an adventuress and double agent of OGPU and British Intelligence Service.
She first married Count Johann von Benckendorff, a high-ranking Czarist diplomat, in 1911. They owned the mansion called Jendel in Jäneda, in Estonia where he was shot dead in 1918 by a local peasant. Before the October Revolution Moura worked in the Russian Embassy in Berlin where she became acquainted with British diplomat R. H. Bruce Lockhart. Upon the assassination of her husband in 1918, she was arrested in a suspicion of spying for England and transferred to the Lubyanka prison. Bruce Lockhart, who mentions her, under her given name, in his book Memoirs of a Secret Agent tried to vouch for her, however he was detained as well for couple of weeks. Some allege that they were lovers.
After Lockhart was released and expelled from Russia soon after, in connection with the "Ambassadorial Conspiracy" affair. Budberg was released as well under the condition that she would cooperate with the intelligence service if the need should arise in the future. Budberg got a job publishing "World Literature", where she met the writer Maxim Gorky with the help of Korney Chukovsky. She became a secretary and common law wife of Gorky, living in Gorky's house with a few interruptions from 1920 to 1933. He bitterly dedicated to her his last major work, the novel "The Life of Klim Samgin".