Boris Nikolayevich Lisanevich, a.k.a. Boris Lissanevitch, Russian: Борис Николаевич Лисаневич, (October 4, 1905 in Odessa, Russia – October 20, 1985 in Kathmandu, Nepal) was a Russian emigre to Nepal, a ballet dancer, and a hotelier and restaurateur. He helped pave the way for tourism in Nepal, when he opened the country's first hotel, the Hotel Royal, and later when he created the Yak & Yeti Hotel and Restaurant.
Early life and ballet career
At age 9, Boris entered the Odessa Cadet Academy. In 1924 he moved to France. In Monte-Carlo he married a ballet dancer named Kira Shcherbacheva, who died in 2016. This would eventually lead to him dancing with Diaghilev's Ballets Russes until 1929. Then Boris left for South America and continued dancing, including in London, Milan.
However his work visa expired in the UK and he only had a League of Nations Refugee Passport. In the 1930s he got work in Bombay and traveled in Ceylon, Indochina, Malaya, Shanghai and then went back to India and stayed in Calcutta, where, with the help of his friends, he founded "Club 300". Lisanevich was the person who introduced the famous dish, Chicken a la Kiev, to Calcutta as a menu item at "Club 300". The club was opened in 1936 and he ran it until 1946 and then left for New York City; subsequently he came back to India. Lisanevich made friends with Prince Emmanuel Golitsyn and in 1944 met and became friends with the Nepalese king Tribhuvan, who was in Calcutta for medical treatment. Lisanevich launched secret meetings of Tribhuvan with Indian prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru and participated in restoring Tribhuvan to power. Lisanevich married a Danish woman, Inger Pheiffer (died in 2013), whom he had met in Bombay. He had three sons with Inger: Mischa, Alexander and Nicholas, and one daughter Xenia from his previous marriage to Kira. In 1951 the king deposed the Rana family from power and invited Boris to Nepal as a tourist. Then he got a job in Nepal where he managed tourism and served as a consultant to the government. The local Soviet embassy asked Lisanevich to organize a meeting for Valentina Tereshkova there.
At the time, Visas were difficult to obtain in Nepal. In an attempt to reform this process, Lisanevich convinced a group of 20 tourists from Kolkata, mostly women, to come to Nepal in 1955 and then proceeded to have an intense discussion with the newly crowned King Mahendra about granting them a 15-day visa. Finally the king relented, the guests arrived and Boris held the country’s first handicraft exhibition.
In 1951 Lisanevich opened the country's first hotel, The Hotel Royal, in a converted Rana Palace. He went on to open the famous Restaurant "The Chimney", which he later expanded into what is now the Yak & Yeti Hotel. He subsequently lost control of the hotel to his business partners.
- Victor Klenov. "From Odessa to Kathmandu". Journal of the Britain-Nepal Society, No 24 (2000), p. 9-15.
- Michel Peissel. Tiger For Breakfast. Time Books International, 1990 Full Text of Tiger For Breakfast, the Story of Boris of Kathmandu (Click here for pdf version) -> https://www.dropbox.com/s/6m836l1csv9qr06/Tiger%20For%20Breakfast.pdf?dl=0
- New York Times 1929 Ballet Russe Review, Prokofiev conducting Stravinsky's Renard, Boris Lissanevitch dancing. New York Times 1929 Ballet Russe Review
- New York Times 1956 Article on Coronation of King Mahendra of Nepal New York Times 1956 Coronation of King of Nepal
- New York Times 1976 "Boris Lures Tourists to Land of Yak & Yeti. New York Times 1976 "Boris Lures Tourists to Land of Yak & Yeti
- Boris on Saturday Night Live TV Comedy Sketch 1977
- Boris interview in Kathmandu 1961 with video montage
- [youtube link removed because of Wikipedia restrictions: Goto YouTube and search for "Boris Lissanevitch" Documentary on life of Boris Lissanevitch, Moscow (Russian with English subtitles)]