Joseph Kobzon

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Iosif Kobzon
Kobzon with mic.JPG
Kobzon at a recent social event
Background information
Birth name Iosif Davidovich Kobzon
Born (1937-09-11) September 11, 1937 (age 77)
Chasiv Yar, Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine, USSR
Genres Russian crooner
Occupations Singer, Deputy of the Russian State Duma
Years active 1958–present

Iosif (Joseph) Davydovich Kobzon (Russian: Иосиф Давыдович Кобзон; born September 11, 1937) is a Russian singer,[1] known for his crooner style.

Early life[edit]

Kobzon was born to Jewish parents in the mining town of Chasiv Yar, in the Donbass region of Ukraine.[2]

As a boy he demonstrated a talent for singing, winning numerous regional singing contests. He reached the national finals on two separate occasions, appearing in concerts dedicated to Joseph Stalin - a significant honour at the time.

Despite his talent for singing, Kobzon went on to technical school to study geology and mining in Dnipropetrovsk,[2] as this was considered a lucrative vocation in the Soviet Union following the Second World War. However, in 1959, following his 1956-1959 contact with professional music instructors in the Soviet Army where he was a member of the armies song and dance ensemble, he decided that music would be his preferred vocation.[2]

Stage career[edit]

In 1958, Kobzon officially started his singing career in Moscow, and enrolled to study at the Gnessin Institute.[2] In the next few years he made valuable contacts in Moscow's entertainment world, and was eventually given a chance by composer Arkady Ostrovski to perform some of his music. Initially, he performed in a duet with the tenor Viktor Kokhno, but was eventually offered a solo repertoire by many of the outstanding composers of the time such as Mark Fradkin, Alexander Dolukhanian and Yan Frenkel.

In 1962, he recorded his first LP which included songs written by Aleksandra Pakhmutova. In 1964, he triumphed at the International Song Contest in Sopot, Poland, and in the following year he took part in the "Friendship" contest held across six nations, winning first prize in Warsaw, Berlin and Budapest. His popularity rose quickly, and demand for his singing saw him frequently performing two to three concerts a day. His most popular hit song at the time was titled "A u nas vo dvore". During Leonid Brezhnev's time in office (1964–82), there was hardly an official concert where Kobzon did not take part, and in 1980 he was awarded the honour of People's Artist of the USSR.

In 1983, Kobzon was expelled from the Communist Party and reprimanded for "political short sightedness," after he performed Jewish songs during an international friendship concert, which resulted in the Arab delegations leaving in protest.[3] However, the following year, (1984) his reputation was restored, as he was honored with the USSR State Prize. His best-known song is "Instants" from the legendary Soviet TV series Seventeen Instants of Spring (1973).

Joseph Kobzon appeared with solo concerts in most cities of the former USSR. He was also bestowed the rare honour of performing international concerts tours as a representative of USSR in United States, Panama, Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Uruguay, Costa Rica, Argentina, Israel, Republic of the Congo, Zaire, Angola, Nigeria, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Germany, Greece, and Finland. Throughout his career, he has shared the stage with many Western superstars, including the likes of Liza Minnelli and Julio Iglesias. In 1986, he was the first celebrity to visit and perform in the town of Chernobyl to cheer the nuclear reactor rescuers. Since then, Kobzon has performed on many occasions in disaster areas, and military hot-spots such as Afghanistan during the Soviet-Afghan war, and Chechnya. Although he officially ended his international touring career in 1997, he continues to appear in regular concerts before audiences around the world, and is frequently seen on Russian television to date.

In July 2014, Kobzon was banned from entering Latvia. The Latvian Foreign Affairs Ministry stated that "through words and actions [he had] contributed to the undermining of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity."[4] In August 2014, Kobzon declared fellow singer Andrey Makarevich a traitor after the latter performed for internally displaced people in Ukraine.[5]

Family life[edit]

Kobzon was married three times. In 1965, he married the singer, Veronika Kruglova; then in 1969 Kobzon married Lyudmila Gurchenko, one of the best known comic actresses of the Soviet cinema. In 1971, he married his current wife Ninel Drizina with whom he had two children.

Monument to Kobzon in Donetsk.


Kobzon has funded numerous orphanages around the country.[citation needed] In 2002, he was a key negotiator in the Moscow theater hostage crisis. His involvement resulted in the release of a mother with three children and a citizen of the United Kingdom.[citation needed]

Kobzon has been active in Russian politics since 1989. He is probably the most experienced Russian MP, and also the one who gets reelected with the largest margin in the country's history.[citation needed] Between 2005 and 2007, he was the head of the State Duma's culture committee.

In 2009, Kobzon became the 24th individual to be named Honorary Citizen of Moscow.[citation needed] In 2003, a statue of him was erected near his birthplace, in Donetsk, Ukraine. In 2007, his name was entered into the Official Book of Russian Records as the most decorated artist in the country's history.[citation needed]

Honours and awards[edit]

This article incorporates information from the equivalent article on the Russian Wikipedia.
  • Medal "For Services to the Stavropol Territory" (Stavropol Territory, June 2008) - for outstanding contribution to the development of art and culture, preservation and promotion of the best examples of patriotic songs of Russia
  • Medal "Glory of Adygea" (2008)
  • Medal of Merit for the Chechen Republic
  • Medal "Astana"

Kobzon is an honorary citizen of 28 cities: Anapa, Saratov (1998), Donetsk (2007), Bishkek, Dnepropetrovsk, Kramatorsk, Noginsk, Poltava, Slavic (1999), Chasiv Yar, Cherkessk, Artemovsk, Horlivka and others. He is also an honorary citizen of the Saratov Oblast, Ust-Orda Buryat Autonomous Okrug (abolished 1 January 2008) and the Transbaikal Oblast (23 September 2010).

On 31 March 2009, Kobzon was awarded the title of Honorary Citizen of Moscow - "for his services and contribution to the organization and development of national culture, long-term activities designed to meet the challenges of the patriotic and cultural education of the Russian people, as well as charitable activity in the city of Moscow and other Russian regions".

  • USSR State Prize (1984) - for concert programs 1980-1983
  • Lenin Komsomol Prize (1976) - for concert programs 1974-1975, active propaganda Soviet Komsomol songs
  • Russian Federal Security Service Award "for creative contribution to the patriotic education of Russian citizens" (2009)
Other honours

A comprehensive list of all 300+ honours awarded to Joseph Kobzon can be viewed at (in Russian).


Refer to *Official site of Iosif Kobzon

'Russia's Frank Sinatra'[edit]

Considering Kobzon's career, personality, spirit and singing style, many say that he is Russia's answer to the U.S. crooner Frank Sinatra.[7][8] Besides their singing careers, both Sinatra and Kobzon used their popularity towards an active involvement in politics.[8] The parallels between the two became the focus of media articles, books and novels claiming to have detailed knowledge of Russia's gangster world based on inside information obtained from the CIA.[9] Kobzon has since sued numerous publications for propagating unsubstantiated rumours,[10] presenting a multitude of personal and professional references from the likes of Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev, who have attested to his impeccable reputation and great honour.

In defending his reputation, Kobzon considered suing the U.S. government[10] arguing that by denying visa applicants recourse to judicial protection, the powers of U.S. consular services contradict the Separation of Powers principles of government, and are, therefore, open to abuse by individual government organs. Kobzon submitted that the visa denial stemmed from allegations contained in a fabricated information file supplied to the Americans by Yeltsin's henchmen, who 'used' the Americans in an engineered attempt at Kobzon's character-assassination. This was a protective measure employed against Kobzon by political powers at the time who were threatened by both his enormous popularity and independent political alignment.[10]

In April 2012, the US once again denied Kobzon an entry visa citing the same grounds as in 1995. Kobzon said that if the US had any evidence against him, which was in some way pertinent to the country's security or other interests, they should be trying to bring him into the country to face questions, not keeping him out.[11]


External links[edit]