Oleg Basilashvili

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Oleg Basilashvili
Басилашвили в честь Японии.jpg
Born Oleg Valerianovich Basilashvili
(1934-09-26) 26 September 1934 (age 80)
Moscow, USSR
Years active 1955 – present
Awards Orden of Friendship.png

Oleg Valerianovich Basilashvili (Russian: Оле́г Валериа́нович Басилашви́ли, born 26 September 1934) is a well-known Soviet/Russian film and theatre actor of Georgian and Polish origin, as well as political figure in the former Soviet Union and in the new Russia.

Biography[edit]

Childhood[edit]

Oleg Valerianovich Basilashvili was born on 26 September 1934 in Moscow, USSR. His father, named Valerian Basilashvili, was a director of the Moscow Polytechnical College. His mother, named Irina Ilyinskaya, was a teacher of linguistics.

His father made up a humorous story that his grandfather had once arrested a dangerous criminal, named Dzhugashvili, who was really Joseph Stalin. In reality Basilashvili's maternal grandfather was a Russian orthodox priest and an architect, who participated in the construction of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow. During the Second World War young Oleg Basilashvili was evacuated from Moscow to the Transcaucasian republic of Georgia. There young Basilashvili went to a primary school and lived with his paternal grandfather until the end of World War II.

Acting career[edit]

In 1956 Oleg Basilashvili graduated from the Acting School of the Moscow Art Theatre (MkHAT), where he had studied under Pavel Massalsky. His group was one of the most talented: among his group mates there was Yevgeniy Yevstigneyev, Mikhail Kozakov and Tatiana Doronina, his first wife. He made his film debut as a young groom in film Nevesta (aka .. The Bride, 1956) by director Grigori Nikulin based on a story by Anton Chekhov. At that time together with his first wife, Tatiana Doronina, Basilashvili joined the troupe at the Bolshoi Drama Theatre (BDT) in Leningrad under the leadership of the legendary director Georgi Tovstonogov. Since 1959 Basilashvili has been a permanent member of the troupe at the BDT in St. Petersburg. There his stage partners were such stars as Kirill Lavrov, Tatyana Doronina, Alisa Freindlich, Lyudmila Makarova, Svetlana Kryuchkova, Zinaida Sharko, Valentina Kovel, Innokenti Smoktunovsky, Oleg Borisov, Pavel Luspekayev, Sergei Yursky, and many other remarkable Russian actors. Basilashvili's most memorable stage works were in the play Uncle Vanya by Anton Chekhov, Kholstomer based on the eponymous story of Leo Tolstoy, The Lower Depths by Maxim Gorky, and other classic plays directed by Georgi Tovstonogov at the BDT in St. Petersburg.

Film career[edit]

Oleg Basilashvili shot to fame with his roles in films by director Eldar Ryazanov. They collaborated in such popular films as Office Romance (1977), Station for Two (1982), The Promised Heavens (1991), and Predskazanie (1993), which became significant box-office hits. Among Basilashvili’s film partners were such actors as Alisa Freindlich, Lyudmila Gurchenko, Nikita Mikhalkov, Nonna Mordyukova, Evgeni Leonov, and Natalya Gundareva, among many other Soviet/Russian film actors.

His most acclaimed film role was made in collaboration with director Georgi Daneliya in a remarkable film Autumn Marathon (1979). The film is a cross-genre comedy and melodrama with a bitter humor and satire of the Soviet life. In it Basilashvili plays a man in his mid-life crisis, who is torn between two nice women, his wife and his mistress, and all three of them become entangled in the game of lies and personal demands, being at the same time strangled by the stagnant Soviet reality. Basilashvili co-created a memorable acting ensemble with such actors, as Natalya Gundareva, Evgeni Leonov, Marina Neyolova, and Nikolai Kryuchkov. The film became a Soviet classic, and was awarded at International film festivals in Berlin and San Sebastian.

In the 1980s he appeared in eccentric films by Karen Shakhnazarov. Those were Kurer (Courier) (1987), Gorod Zero (Zero City) (1988), and Sny (Dreams) (1993). Dreams, a wild comedy about Perestroika is especially remarkable: in it Basilashvili tried on several images, those of a noble count from the past, a pornographer and a rock star.

In 2001 Oleg Basilashvili starred in Karen Shakhnazarov’s comedy Yady, ili vsemirnaya istoriya otravleniy (Poisons or the World History of Poisoning) (2001). The actor performed both as pensioner Prohorov and the Pope Alexander VI Borgia in it.

Among the actor’s other works of the early 21st century one can mention the role of Prof. Fyodorov in the historical film The Romanovs: A Crowned Family (2000) and General Yepanchin in the TV series The Idiot (2003) directed by Vladimir Bortko after the famous novel by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

Political career[edit]

During the 1990s he was a visible political figure in Russia, and was elected the representative of Leningrad (St. Petersburg) in 1990. Eventually he became a member of the pro-democratic group of representatives in the Russian Parliament, and a supporter of such politicians as Anatoly Sobchak and the first Russian President Boris Yeltsin. Oleg Basilashvili was a strong proponent of returning the original name to the city of St. Petersburg. He quit politics after 2000, and focused on his acting career.

Comeback[edit]

After a few years of his artistic hiatus, Oleg Basilashvili made a comeback with an impressive performance as Woland in the TV miniseries The Master and Margarita (2005), an adaptation of the eponymous novel of Mikhail Bulgakov by director Vladimir Bortko. In his own words, Basilashvili played the character of Woland in resemblance of an authoritarian and manipulative bureaucrat, alluding to a Soviet-era dictator. Basilashvili created a powerful interplay with a stellar ensemble of actors, such as Aleksandr Abdulov, Kirill Lavrov, Anna Kovalchuk, Aleksandr Galibin, and other notable Russian actors.

Recognition[edit]

This article incorporates information from the equivalent article on the Russian Wikipedia.

Oleg Basilashvili was designated People's Artist of the USSR (1984). He was awarded the State Prize and was decorated by the Russian government.

  • Order of the Red Banner of Labour (1979)
  • Order of Merit for the Fatherland:
    • 3rd class (5 February 2009) - for outstanding contribution to the development of domestic theatrical art and many years of fruitful activity
    • 4th class (13 February 2004) - for outstanding contribution to the development of domestic theatrical art
  • Order of Friendship (17 December 1994) - for services to the people associated with the development of Russian statehood, the achievements in labor, science, culture, arts, strengthening friendship and cooperation between nations
  • People's Artist of USSR (1984)
  • Honored Artist of the RSFSR (1969)
  • People's Artist of RSFSR (1977)
  • State Prize of the RSFSR (1979) - for his role as Samokhvalova in the movie "Office Romance"
  • Prize of the Government of St. Petersburg in the field of literature, art and architecture
  • The award "Gold soffit" for Best Actor (1997)
  • The award "Golden Mask" award for Best Actor (2009) - the role of Prince K. in the play "Uncle's Dream"
  • International Theatre Prize in 2009 in the category "for his contribution to Russian theatre"
  • Honorary Member of Russian Academy of Arts
  • Presidential Order of Light (2010, Georgia)


External links[edit]