30 years ago, on October 6, 1991, the loudest and most mysterious murder in the history of Russian show business happened. Singer and composer Igor Talkov was shot in the heart in the corridor outside his dressing room in the St. Petersburg Yubileiny Sports Palace. Izvestia was investigating why the crime has not yet been solved.
What happened on the eve of the tragedy
Igor Talkov, according to his wife’s recollections, was not going to take part in that fateful concert – on that day he was supposed to fly to Sochi for several days. However, for the upcoming solo performances in Moscow, he needed equipment, which was used at the concert in the “Jubilee”. In preparation for the event, Talkov hoped to resolve this issue.
The artist went to the northern capital by train on the evening of October 5. In St. Petersburg, he settled on the motor ship “Alexei Surkov”, in the afternoon went to the local television, and by 16 o’clock arrived at the “Yubileiny”, where the concert had already begun.
Photo: Global Look Press / Evguenii Matveev / Singer and composer Igor Talkov
Among the artists who performed at the event were Mikhail Muromov, Zhenya Belousov, Alexander Tsekalo and Lolita Milyavskaya, Olga Kormukhina, Andrey Derzhavin, Igor Nikolaev and Natasha Koroleva, Aziza, Oleg Gazmanov. Igor Talkov was supposed to perform at 16:20, he was going to perform the song “Mr. President”. After him, the concert was to be completed by Oleg Gazmanov.
What caused the conflict
By the time the musician arrived, according to eyewitnesses, the conflict, which ended in tragedy, was already brewing. 28-year-old Igor Malakhov, a bodyguard and close friend of Aziza, who was supposed to sing in front of Talkov, demanded that the organizers change their places, arguing that the singer was late and would not have time to prepare for going on stage. People close to show business also noted that it was a matter of prestige – the main stars end the concert. Malakhov was told that it was very difficult to change the order of speeches for technical reasons, but he still insisted on his own.
According to Maria Berkova, Talkov’s dresser, the administrator took the message calmly and began to prepare to go on stage. However, Valery Shlyafman, the director of Talkov, decided to find out why the changes had occurred and went to Malakhov. When he returned, he said that he talked to him in a boorish way, called himself “a big businessman in the shadow economy” and advised him to do everything as he said. Talkov asked to call Malakhov to his dressing room. When he arrived, they had a conversation in a raised voice, after which Talkov’s guards took Aziza’s bodyguard into the corridor.
Who shot Talkov
Malakhov, taken out into the corridor, took out a weapon. According to eyewitnesses, it was a revolver of the Nagant system. Shlyafman ran to Talkov with the words: “Igor, give me something, he got a gun!” The musician took out his gas pistol, which he bought for his wife, but took with him that day, and left the dressing room. There he fired several shots in the direction of Malakhov, which had no effect: either the distance was too great, or the cartridges were faulty. However, the guards, taking advantage of the moment, pounced on Aziza’s friend and knocked him down. He managed to make two shots – one bullet hit the floor, the other – into the box from under the equipment, after which, according to eyewitnesses, the weapon was knocked out of his hands.
Igor Talkov / Photo: Global Look Press / Yurii Zheludev
The third shot was fatal for Igor Talkov. But who made it and from what weapon, with all the abundance of eyewitnesses, is still unknown. Someone says that Shlyafman picked up the pistol knocked out of Malakhov’s hands, and he shot Talkov, according to some assumptions, by accident. Someone assumes that Malakhov was shooting after all, while others did not see anything at all.
At this time Igor Nikolaev sang on the stage. The presenter interrupted his speech, reported what had happened and asked the doctors present in the hall to go backstage. The ambulance team that arrived had only to state the death of the victim. As the doctors noted, the injury was incompatible with life, he died even before their arrival – the bullet interrupted the most important coronary vessels that feed the heart, and caused extensive internal bleeding with the destruction of vital organs. This allowed later to make assumptions that the death of the artist was not accidental and a specially trained person shot him.
However, the deceased artist was put on an oxygen mask, laid on a stretcher and taken to the ambulance. Later, the doctors admitted that they did it, because the crowd was raging around, demanding to revive Talkov.
Where did the murder weapon disappear?
The fate of the revolver from which the artist was killed is also shrouded in mystery – the police never found it. According to the most common version, after the incident, Shlyafman ran into the dressing room and threw the revolver either on the cistern, or into the toilet bowl, and Aziza, who followed him, took it and gave it to Malakhov. He caught a taxi on the street and fled, getting rid of the weapon on the way – taking it apart and throwing them into the Moika, Fontanka and Neva.
On the fact of Talkov’s murder, the St. Petersburg prosecutor’s office opened a criminal case. The charge of Talkov’s murder was brought against Igor Malakhov; on October 10, 1991, he was put on the all-Union wanted list. The next day, he himself surrendered to law enforcement agencies. However, as a result of the investigative experiments carried out, it was established that he could not shoot Talkov – at that moment he was on the floor, and the shot was fired from a standing position.
Photo: RIA Novosti / Alexander Makarov / Farewell to the tragically deceased singer and composer Igor Talkov
He was released on recognizance not to leave and in 1994 was sentenced to two and a half years’ suspended imprisonment for illegal possession of weapons. In 1998, he changed his last name, sold a Moscow apartment and moved to a private house near Moscow, where he lived until his death in 2016.
Valery Shlyafman, by the time the authorities became closely interested in him, had emigrated through Ukraine to Israel. On his shirt, which was confiscated only in February 1992, traces of gunpowder were found. He was charged in absentia under Art. 106 (murder by negligence), but was soon suspended due to the fact that the suspect fled from the investigation. Attempts to involve the Israeli authorities in the investigation of the crime and to organize the extradition were unsuccessful; as a result, all the materials of the investigation were transferred to Israel with the comment that if the evidence of his guilt there is found convincing, he will be tried there. However, this business did not develop in Israel. Shlyafman, who has already changed his surname, considers Igor Malakhov to be the culprit in the murder.
Where did the investigation stop?
The investigation of the case was suspended several times, but in November 2018 it was resumed at the request of the widow of Igor Talkov, who was recognized as a victim. Previously, the victim was his mother, but she died in 2007. Tatiana was familiarized with the case materials, in particular with the data of several expert examinations, but no further progress occurred, Shlyafman is still inaccessible. In 2019, she filed a new petition to re-qualify the criminal case – from unintentional to premeditated murder.
What alternative investigations have shown
The high-profile murder caused a great public outcry, various organizations and individuals tried to investigate it, some continue to do so to this day.
Igor Talkov / Photo: Global Look Press / Evguenii Matveev
As a result of multiple journalistic investigations, three versions were put forward – household, financial and political. They talked about the involvement of criminal structures, special services, representatives of various political movements in the incident. They recalled that he criticized the political leadership of the USSR, that at a concert in Yubileiny he was supposed to perform the song “Mr. President”, which was written after the August putsch and contained an appeal to Yeltsin demanding that Gorbachev be removed from power. The nationalists said that it was a ritual murder committed by the enemies of Russia.
The murder was also linked to the filming of the film Tsar Ivan the Terrible (directed by Gennady Vasiliev, producer Ismail Tagi-zade). Talkov, who played the role of Prince Serebryany in it, did not like the resulting material and the artist refused to voice it.
However, all these and many other versions have remained versions, and the murder has not yet been solved.
Cover photo: RIA Novosti / Galina Kmit