But she converted to Islam in 2007 and three months ago walked into the house of a Muslim cleric in Dagestan, Russia, wearing a 3lb bomb, and blew herself up – killing eight people including her.
Once a stage actress, the 29-year-old mother had transformed into a Muslim suicide bomber. The blast shocked Russia but her mother Vera Saprighina insists she was ‘a kind person, not a monster’.
Kurbanova was brought up in Makhachkala, Dagestan, and gained top marks at the city’s arts and drama college – where she met her future husband Marat Kurbanov.
The couple married in 2003 and she gave birth to a daughter, Malika, two years later. In 2006 the couple were introduced to Islam by Marat’s brother Rustam – and Kurbanov converted a year later.
‘She said she had finally found the right religion for her,’ her mother Vera Saprighina told the Sunday Times. ‘Before long, both left the theatre because dancing and acting are considered un-Islamic.’
But Rustam was killed in a police house raid on suspected militants in 2008. It shocked the couple. Marat left home, never to come back, and is thought to have joined militants to avenge the death.
However 12 months later, Marat also died when police opened fire on a car that did not stop at a checkpoint – and Kurbanova ‘often said she wished she had died with him’, Ms Saprighina stated.
Then Marat’s other brother Ali, a sportsman living in Moscow, vanished on holiday in Dagestan after being allegedly killed by police. Therefore by this stage, both of Marat’s brothers were dead – along with him.
Kurbanova started to earn money as an Islamic dress seamstress and became more religious. She began to be watched by security services, who allegedly searched her flat and questioned her after the death of her husband.
She later married the best man at her wedding, Timur Kurbamagomedov, but this was short-lived – and she left a note for her mother in March saying she was worried about being tortured.
Kurbanova walked into the home of Sheikh Said Atsayev, 74, after kissing her daughter goodbye and blew herself up with a steel-bolt bomb, killing seven others – including the cleric himself and a 12-year-old boy who was there with his father.
Her relatives tried to keep the news from Malika, but she overheard at school that ‘your mum’s a suicide bomber’ and saw her mother’s severed head on TV, reported the Sunday Times.
At least 12 religious leaders have been killed over the last two years in Dagestan – allegedly by militants angry that they are too friendly with the authorities. Atsayev could have been targeted because he spoke against violent Islam.
Kurbanova’s family said Malika often asks questions about her late parents and wants to know ‘when she will join them up there in the sky’.