Grigory Chukhray

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Grigory Chukhrai
Grigory chukhray.jpg
Grigory Naumovich Chukhrai

(1921-05-23)23 May 1921
Died29 October 2001(2001-10-29) (aged 80)
Resting placeVagankovo Cemetery, Moscow
OccupationFilm director, screenwriter
Years active1956-1984
Notable work
TitlePeople's Artist of the USSR (1981)

Grigory Naumovich Chukhray (Russian: Григо́рий Нау́мович Чухра́й, Ukrainian: Григорiй Наумович Чухрай; 23 May 1921 – 29 October 2001) was a Soviet film director and screenwriter, and a People's Artist of the USSR (1981).[1] He was the father of the Russian film director Pavel Chukhrai.

Мемориальная доска Григорию Чухраю.jpg

Early life[edit]

Grigory Chukhrai was born in Melitopol (modern-day Zaporizhia Oblast of Ukraine) to Red Army soldiers Naum Zinovievich Rubanov and Claudia Petrovna Chuchrai. He was of Ukrainian origin.[2][3] His parents divorced when he was three years old. He was raised by a stepfather, Pavel Antonovich Litvinenko, the head of kolkhoz. His mother Claudia Chuchrai took an active part in the collectivization and dekulakization of the Ukrainian SSR, then worked as an investigation officer at militsiya.[2]

In 1939 he was drafted to the army. A decorated veteran of World War II, Chukhrai's wartime experiences profoundly affected him and the majority of his films. He served in the 229th separate communications battalion of the 134th Infantry Division (later part of the 19th Army). He fought at the Southern, Stalingrad and Don Fronts. From 1943 on, he served in airborne troops at the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Ukrainian Fronts and took part in operation "Dnipro Troopers".[4] He was wounded three times. In 1944 he joined the Communist Party.[3][5]


At war's end, he studied filmmaking at VGIK, the course led by Sergei Yutkevich and Mikhail Romm, and then developed his skills as a director's assistant at the Kiev Film Studio. By the mid-1950s, he began writing and directing his own films at the Mosfilm studio, gaining cinematic recognition outside the Soviet Union at the 1957 Cannes Film Festival with his film The Forty-First (1956).[4]

Chukhrai directed and co-wrote Ballad of a Soldier (1959). Around the themes of love and the tragedy of war, the film received acclaim at home, earning the Lenin Prize. It was heralded internationally for both its story and cinematic technique. At the 1960 Cannes Film Festival it was awarded a special jury prize for "high humanism and outstanding quality." Ballad of a Soldier premiered in the United States in 1960 at the San Francisco International Film Festival.[6] The film won the Festival's Golden Gate Award, for Best Picture and for Best Director for Grigori Chukhrai. Playing worldwide, the following year, it earned the BAFTA Award for Best Film. Grigori Chukhrai and script co-writer Valentin Yezhov were also nominated for the 1961 Academy Award for Writing Original Screenplay.[7]

Chukhrai's next film was Clear Skies (1961). It told the story of a Soviet pilot who had survived Nazi imprisonment during the war, but was accused of spying. It was one of the first Soviet films to deal with some of the repressive practices under the Soviet leadership of Joseph Stalin. It won the Grand Prix (in a tie with Kaneto Shindo's The Naked Island) at the 2nd Moscow International Film Festival.[8] Two years later Chukhrai served as the President of the Jury at the 3rd Moscow International Film Festival.[9]

Between 1966 and 1971 Chukhrai headed the director's courses at VGIK. In 1965 he founded and headed the Experimental Studio at Mosfilm that produced such films as White Sun of the Desert (1970), The Twelve Chairs (1971), Ivan Vasilievich: Back to the Future (1973), A Slave of Love (1976), and other popular movies. He also served as a member of the State Committee for Cinematography between 1964 and 1991.[1]

Grigori Chukhrai's grave on the Vagankovo Cemetery in Moscow.

In 1984 Chukhrai directed his final Soviet film, together with Yuri Shvyryov: I'll Teach You to Dream. In 1992—1993 he and Rolf Schübel co-directed Todfeinde. Vom Sterben und Überleben in Stalingrad, a joined Russian-Germany documentary in two parts about the Battle of Stalingrad. In this film Chukhrai as well as other Russian and German survivors told about their experiences during the battle.

In 1994 Chukhrai was awarded a Nika Award for his lifetime contribution to cinema.[10] In 2001 he published two volumes of memoirs entitled My War and My Cinema, dedicated to his war experience and his work in cinema, respectively.

He was married to Iraida Chukhrai (née Penkova), a teacher of Russian language and literature. They had two children: Pavel Chukhrai (born 1946), a Russian director, and Elena Chukhrai (born 1961), an expert in film studies.

Grigori Chukhrai died of heart failure in Moscow in 2001 at the age of eighty. He was buried at the Vagankovo Cemetery.

Honours and awards[edit]


Year English Title Original Title Notes
1956 The Forty-first Сорок первый Director
1959 Ballad of a Soldier Баллада о солдате Director; screenwriter
1961 Clear Skies Чистое небо Director
1965 There Was an Old Couple Жили-были старик со старухой Director
1966 People! Director
1971 Memory Память Director; documentary
1978 Untypical Story Трясина Director; screenwriter
1979 Life Is Beautiful Жизнь прекрасна Director; screenwriter
1984 I'll Teach You to Dream Я научу вас мечтать Co-director with Yuri Shvyryov; documentary


  1. ^ a b Cinema: Encyclopedic Dictionary // main editor Sergei Yutkevich (1987). — Moscow: Soviet Encyclopedia, 640 pages
  2. ^ a b Grigori Chukrai, My Cinema. Moscow, 2001, 98 p. ISBN 5-9265-0047-8
  3. ^ a b Award List Archived 2017-03-04 at the Wayback Machine scan at The People's Feat During the Great Patriotic War of 1941—1945 database
  4. ^ a b Энциклопедия отечественного кино
  5. ^ Chukhrai Grigory Naumovich fighting map at The People's Memory 1941—1945 database
  6. ^ LIFE Magazine: Two Winning Russians. Time Inc. 1960. p. 110.
  7. ^ "Grigori Chukhrai". Retrieved 2016-01-14.
  8. ^ "2nd Moscow International Film Festival (1961)". MIFF. Archived from the original on 2013-01-16. Retrieved 2012-11-18.
  9. ^ "3rd Moscow International Film Festival (1963)". MIFF. Archived from the original on 2013-01-16. Retrieved 2012-11-25.
  10. ^ Григорий Наумович Чухрай (1921-2001)

External links[edit]