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Sep 8, 2021
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National and national

The appearance of these people on the stage invariably caused a standing ovation. When they appeared on the screen, joyful animation arose in the hall. They – People’s Artists of the USSR – were respected and bathed in the rays of glory. Because the audience knew that the actors would once again show their talent, their unsurpassed ability to transform. During the existence of the Soviet Union, more than a thousand people were awarded the honorary title.

A small preface. In tsarist Russia, there were the titles “Honored Artist of the Imperial Theaters” and “Soloist of His Imperial Majesty.” They were, in particular, awarded to dramatic actress Maria Ermolova, ballerina Matilda Kshesinskaya, singer Antonina Nezhdanova. The latter received the title of People’s Artist of the USSR in 1936.

After the revolution, the “royal” titles were abolished and a new one was introduced – “People’s Artist of the Republic”. The first owners of this title in 1918 were the singers Fyodor Chaliapin and Leonid Sobinov. However, trouble happened to Fedor Ivanovich – he donated the entire collection from one of the foreign concerts to the children of emigrants. This was regarded as a betrayal, and in August 1927, by the Decree of the Council of People’s Commissars, Chaliapin was deprived of the title of People’s Artist and the right to return to the USSR. Vladimir Mayakovsky threw angry lines after the star: “Come back / Now / such an artist / back / to Russian rubles – / I will be the first to shout: / – Roll back, / People’s Artist of the Republic!”.

Surely, although this is not known for certain, the establishment of the title of People’s Artist of the USSR was due to the patronage of Stalin. He was a great theater-goer, often attending drama and musical performances. In particular, his priority was the Moscow Art Theater and the Bolshoi Theater.

Sometimes the leader even gave instructions on how to play, build mise-en-scenes, and so on. For poor performance, in his opinion, he did not punish, but he could give such derogatory assessments that the performers lost sleep and appetite for a long time.

Stalin had his favorites, who took advantage of his location, showered with all sorts of benefits. Such, in particular, was the wonderful singer Natalia Shpiller. As Galina Vishnevskaya said in her memoirs, once the leader after a concert publicly said to another brilliant performer of the Bolshoi Theater Vera Davydova, pointing his finger at Spiller:

– This is who you need to learn to sing from. You don’t have a school.

With this not too “elegant” remark, he took away several years of Davydova’s life.

Speaking about the title “People’s Artist of the USSR” established under Stalin, one cannot but say why the Soviet leader treated him so seriously. And also about his own creative inclinations. The fact is that Stalin was still in his youth, while studying at the Gori Theological School, he sang in the choir. He had a beautiful high viola, and soon he became a soloist and a favorite of the singing teacher Simeon Goglichidze. He writes about this in his book “Bolshoi Theater. Culture and politics. New history “famous journalist, writer and culturologist Solomon Volkov. According to him, Soso became Goglichidze’s assistant in managing the choir. Joseph was invited to the celebrations, and his performances were a success. It’s funny to imagine that this person could not become a famous politician, but a famous performer. And the world would not have recognized the formidable and majestic Stalin, but would have awarded the artist Dzhugashvili with applause …

However, he could also become a poet, for in his youth he wrote good lyric poetry. For example, such:

Next to the violet sister
The red rose has opened.
Lily woke up too
And bowed to the breeze.
They rang high in the sky
Skylark overflow,
And a nightingale at the edge
He sang with inspiration, happily:
“Georgia, dear, hello!
Blossom eternal joy to us!
My friend, study and the Fatherland
Decorate with knowledge and delight.

Young Joseph was engaged in painting and performed in the performances of the drama circle. However, all his hobbies over time dissolved in an indomitable desire to turn Russia over together with Lenin and other Bolsheviks. But although politics became his passion, Stalin did not forget his passion. He not only visited the temples of Melpomene, but he himself was known as a master of the Bolshoi Political Theater, where he was both an actor and a director. It is not for nothing that many contemporaries noted his incomparable ability to reincarnate. Stalin was sometimes charming, kind, sometimes evil, merciless, by anyone. Probably, he himself reveled in such “creativity”.

“As for acting, it became, one might say, one of the defining features of the Stalinist personality: it was not for nothing that Nikita Khrushchev called him an actor, and Lazar Kaganovich once noticed that he knew at least several different Stalins,” Volkov writes.

– Stalin successfully used these acting qualities in his political activities. Stalin, having become a statesman, considered music, like culture in general, as a potential political instrument, the writer notes.

However, enough about Stalin’s artistic inclinations, although that says a lot. Fast forward to September 1936, when two resolutions of the Central Executive Committee of the USSR were issued: “On establishing the title of People’s Artist of the USSR” and “On conferring the title of People’s Artist of the USSR”.

On September 7, 1936, Pravda published an article entitled Outstanding Masters of the Soviet Theater, which, in particular, said: “The mighty youth of our country, which threw off the shackles of capitalist slavery, was passed on to the best and foremost artists of our country. Relentless time silvered the hair of the artist Stanislavsky, this “handsome man”, according to Gorky, but he is full of strength, he is still at his post. In a halo of well-deserved fame, surrounded by honor and love, this artist gave himself entirely to the education of theatrical youth. People’s Artist of the USSR Stanislavsky and his colleague, the glorious master of the stage, People’s Artist of the USSR Nemirovich-Danchenko – the organizers of the theater named after Gorky – these people represent a whole era of art history! … “

Laudatory words were also expressed to other people who were awarded the title of People’s Artists: Vasily Kachalov, Ivan Moskvin, Maria Blumenthal-Tamarina, Ekaterina Korchagina-Aleksandrovskaya.

“They have enriched the treasury of Russian art, and all the peoples of the Soviet Union are now drawing from this treasury with a full hand. But, like a fabulous bowl, this treasury is becoming richer and richer … “, – said in the article” Pravda “.

In addition to the above-mentioned personalities, Antonina Nezhdanova, Boris Shchukin, Akaki Khorava, Maria Litvinenko-Volgemut, Panas Saksaganskiy, Akaki Vasadze, Kulyash Baiseitova received the honorary title.

The names of the first two artists are still widely known. The rest were swallowed up by the dusk of the era … Taking this opportunity, let us honor the memory of some of them.

Khorava, a former proofreader of the Tiflis newspaper “Soplis Musha”, worked in the troupe of the Shota Rustaveli Drama Theater, taught Chechen artists. He was a teacher at the Tbilisi Theater Institute. Horva became a three-time Stalin Prize laureate.

Litvinenko-Volgemut was a popular soloist of the Kiev Taras Shevchenko Opera and Ballet Theater. The singer’s repertoire consisted of about 80 parts. Maria Ivanovna is the first performer of the role of Turandot in the opera of the same name by Giacomo Puccini.

Baiseitova was a member of the troupe of the Musical Theater – now it is the Abai Kazakh Theater. There she performed for the rest of her life. Bolshoi Theater soloist Valeria Barsova spoke of Baiseitova with admiration: “I could not name a singer with whom I could compare her – so individual and peculiar is the high, light and transparent voice of the Kazakh singer …”

During the existence of the Soviet Union, the title of People’s Artists was awarded, we repeat, more than a thousand people. Among them are Lyubov Orlova, Boris Livanov, Leonid Utesov, Alla Tarasova, Ruben Simonov, Nikolai Cherkasov, Yuri Zavadsky, Ivan Kozlovsky, Sergei Lemeshev, Galina Ulanova, Maya Plisetskaya, Sergey Gerasimov, Boris Andreev …

The title of People’s Artist of the USSR was the blue dream of many, for people’s artists received various benefits. In particular, they had an increased salary, the right to use public transport for free. People’s artists were entitled to a 50 percent discount on payment for apartments and utilities, special rations, an official car, a state dacha.

In other words, the favorites of the public were from another, privileged world, the entrance to which was inaccessible to mere mortals.

Alas, the honorary title drifted away from others at the very last moment. In this case, life. For example, Mark Bernes died a few days before the signing of the award list in the Kremlin. Rina Zelenaya died completely on the day when Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev issued a corresponding decree.

For a long time Lev Durov could not get the title of “people’s”. He was twice invited to the Kremlin, but he could not come because of the filming. A year and a half passed, and his colleague Nikolai Gubenko called him. And already insistently, and even with a joking threat in his voice, he called for an honorary procedure: “Lyova, be you wrong, I’m the Minister of Culture, so that you come to me on Monday, or there on Sunday, you and I are neighbors down the street. I will kill if I meet you. I say good. He came, and when he handed me this blue folder, and said: here I am presenting the title of People’s Artist of the USSR to Lev Konstantinovich Durov. I took this folder and my fingers fell into something soft, and he took it and blew, and dust in my chest, I became all gray. It turned out that she had been lying for a year and a half, my folder. I never got it out of the hands of Mikhail Sergeevich. And let Mikhail Sergeevich not take offense at me. “

Alas, under Gorbachev, the title of People’s Artist of the USSR was buried. However, at this time the Soviet Union itself was sinking into oblivion. The last holders of the honorary title were the singer Alla Pugacheva, theater and film actors Oleg Yankovsky and Sofya Pilyavskaya.

By the way, Sofya Stanislavovna was a student of the first People’s Artist of the USSR Stanislavsky. And it is symbolic that it was she who completed the list of awarded art workers of the Soviet Union.

Unfortunately, many famous, true folk artists were never awarded the honorary title. For various reasons – some were disliked by the film and theater bosses, some “violated the regime,” that is, abused, of course. Among them are Peter Aleinikov, who was a favorite of a big country before the war, film director Sergei Eisenstein, composer Sergei Prokofiev, singer Valentina Tolkunova. actors Andrey Mironov, Yuri Vizbor, Nikolay Rybnikov, Leonid Bykov, Vasily Shukshin …

But the creativity of these people does not fade. They are remembered and revered.
Finally, it is appropriate to recall the brilliant poet and singer Alexander Vertinsky. When he filled out a questionnaire at the Ministry of Culture, he was asked whether he was a People’s Artist or an Honored One. Vertinsky with irony looked down at the secretary and said in his unique voice: “Baby, I have nothing but a world name!”

Valery Bert



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