Joseph Kobzon

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Joseph Kobzon
Иосиф Кобзон
Official portrait of Iosif Kobzon (1).jpg
Iosif Davidovich Kobzon

(1937-09-11)11 September 1937
Died30 August 2018(2018-08-30) (aged 80)
Occupation(s)Singer, deputy of the Russian State Duma
Political partyUnited Russia (until 2018)
Musical career
GenresSoviet music, opera, operatic pop, pop, jazz
Years active1956–2018
Автограф Иосифа Кобзона.png

Iosif (Joseph) Davydovich Kobzon (Russian: Ио́сиф Давы́дович Кобзо́н; 11 September 1937 – 30 August 2018) was 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 Donbas 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 Ostrovsky 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 [ru] 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.

His best-known song is "Instants" from the legendary Soviet TV series Seventeen Moments of Spring (1973).[3] Kobzon sang many songs for the Seventeen Moments of Spring, but, because of his Jewish nationality, he was not listed on the credits.[4]

In 1983, Kobzon was expelled from the Communist Party of the Soviet Union 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.[5] However, the following year, (1984) his reputation was restored, as he was honored with the USSR State Prize.

Joseph Kobzon has performed in 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.

Since May 1995, Kobzon and his entire family was banned from entering the United States due to his allegedly close associations with drug trafficking, illicit arms trading, and Russian mafia in Moscow especially Viktor Nikiforov (Kalina) (Russian: Виктор Никифоров), Otari Kvantrishvili (Otarik, Krivonos), Alexander Zakharov (Zakhar), Alimzhan Tokhtakhunov (Taiwanchik) and Vyacheslav Ivankov (Yaponchik).[6][7][8][9][10]

Although he officially ended his international touring career in 1997, he continued to appear in regular concerts before audiences around the world and was frequently seen on Russian television.

Public life[edit]

Vladimir Putin congratulated Iosif Kobzon on his 80th birthday. Left: Ninel Kobzon, the singer's wife, 11 September 2017
Joseph Kobzon monument in Donetsk

On many occasions, Kobzon performed in disaster areas and military hot-spots such as Afghanistan during the Soviet-Afghan War, and Chechnya during the Chechen War.[11]

In 1986, Kobzon was the first celebrity to visit and perform in the town of Chernobyl to cheer the nuclear reactor rescuers. Two years later, Kobzon was the first celebrity to visit and perform for victims of the 1988 Armenian earthquake.[11]

Kobzon has been active in Russian politics since 1989. He was an experienced Russian MP and enjoyed landslide election victories.[12]

His first major political achievement (1989–1991) transpired when his promotion of Jewish culture in the USSR aided the establishment of diplomatic ties between USSR and Israel.[11]

For many years, Kobzon has presided over numerous charitable organisations. Since 1989, he has been Chairman of The Movement for Honour and Dignity of Russian Citizens. He is also the president of the Humanitarian Initiatives Fund, and the president of a charitable fund known as ‘Shield and Lira" which is devoted to helping families of those killed and injured in action while on law enforcement duties.[11]

He was Chairman of the Public Council of Moscow's Police Department, and leader of his political party "The Russian Party for Peace".[13]

Since the early 1990s, Kobzon has personally funded numerous orphanages around the country.[14]

In 2002, he risked his life as key negotiator in the Moscow theater hostage crisis. His involvement resulted in the release of a mother with three children and a British citizen.[15]

Kobzon's innumerable contributions to culture, music, humanitarian and political life across the Commonwealth of Independent States saw a monument depicting Kobzon erected near his birthplace, in Donetsk, Ukraine in 2003.

Between 2005 and 2007, he was the head of the State Duma's culture committee.[citation needed]

In 2007, his name was entered into the Guinness Book of Records (Russian Edition) as the most decorated artist in the country's history.[16]

In 2009, Kobzon became the 24th individual to be named Honorary Citizen of Moscow.[17]

He has suffered from prostate cancer since 2005.[18] He died on 30 August 2018.[19]

"Russia's Frank Sinatra"[edit]

Considering Kobzon's career, personality, spirit and singing style, many say that he was Russia's answer to the U.S. crooner Frank Sinatra.[20][21] Besides their singing careers, both Sinatra and Kobzon used their popularity towards an active involvement in politics.[21] 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.[22] As a result, Kobzon was barred entry to the United States from 1995 when his visa was revoked on allegations of mafia ties.[3] In response, Kobzon successfully sued numerous publications for propagating unsubstantiated rumours,[23] asserting his impeccable reputation and great honour among millions of Russian-speakers worldwide.

Stance on Ukraine[edit]

In March 2014, Kobzon was among 500 Russian artists who signed an open letter in support of Russia's annexation of Crimea.[24] As a result, in July 2014, Kobzon was included in a selected group of Russian artists banned from entering Latvia.[25]

Following the Revolution of Dignity, pro-Russian unrest broke out in Ukraine.[26] In late October 2014, Kobzon visited Donbas on a humanitarian mission, providing medications to hospitals in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions[27] and giving a free concert in support of the people of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic.[28] As a result of the visit, Alexander Zakharchenko (then Prime Minister of the Donetsk People's Republic) bestowed on Kobzon the title of Russia's "honorary consul" to DPR.[29] However, the title had questionable meaning[30] as there are no reports of Russia formally sending Kobzon as an honorary consul to DPR nor ratifying this appointment.

On 3 September 2014 deputies of the Dnipropetrovsk City Council deprived Kobzon of the title of "Honorary citizen of Dnipropetrovsk", on 25 November 2014 Poltava City Council removed his title of "Honorary citizen of Poltava", and on 28 January 2015 Kramatorsk City Council removed his title of "Honorary citizen of Kramatorsk." In autumn 2014, Ukraine's national security service banned him from entering the country.[31] Kobzon responded by saying that "he shouldn't need a visa to visit his own homeland and birthplace."[32] He stated that he welcomed any decision by Ukraine's authorities to strip him of honours, as he didn't want to be "an honorary citizen of a country that is run by a fascist regime."[33] He requested that Ukraine also strip him of his People's Artist of Ukraine award.[34] In February 2015, Kobzon was awarded Honorary Citizenship of Yenakiieve in Donetsk Oblast (controlled by the Donetsk People's Republic), and was later awarded the honour of 'People's Artist' by self-proclaimed Luhansk People's Republic.[35]

In February 2015, the European Union added Kobzon to its list of individuals sanctioned with asset freezes and travel bans because he had "visited the so-called Donetsk People's Republic and during his visit made statements supporting separatists";[36] Kobzon responded that he was "very pleased and grateful."[29] Canada also applied economic sanctions and a travel ban.[37] He was "proud to be included in a list of people who are not indifferent to the fate of internally displaced Russian-speakers in Donbas and the fate of Russia".[38] Russian MPs spoke out in response to the EU sanctions, while Kobzon's fans launched a Twitter campaign in his support.[39] Russia's Foreign Ministry said that the new sanctions defy common sense, referring to the fact that Kobzon was on a humanitarian mission to help innocent people caught in a war zone and that the sanctions were imposed just one day after the Minsk II agreement came into force.[citation needed] The agreement was reached between EU representatives (Germany and France), Ukraine and Russia, and was aimed at resolving the War in Donbas. Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov condemned Kobzon's inclusion on the sanctions list as "vile" and "cynical", questioning the purpose of sanctioning "a highly respected national artist" whose mission in Donbas was "fundamentally humanitarian."[40] A ruling party MP, Vyacheslav Nikonov, spoke in parliament to support Kobzon, stating "We are with you. If they're all Charlie, then we are all Kobzon", playing on the "Je Suis Charlie" slogan used in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo shooting.[39] In response to calls for retaliatory sanctions, Russia's culture minister Vladimir Medinsky said that Moscow could not impose equal sanctions on the EU, because "Europe simply lacks a star of the same standing as Kobzon."[39] Kobzon returned to Donbas one week following the EU's decision. This was his second humanitarian mission to the region delivering medications to hospitals in Luhansk, and giving another free concert "to support local residents".[41][better source needed]

"Going to a Kobzon concert"[edit]

The "Kobzon Concert" meme arose after the murder of Alexander Zakharchenko, the leader of the self-proclaimed DPR, which took place on August 31, 2018. At that time, jokes were spread in Ukrainian social networks that Zakharchenko went to the "Kobzon concert", who died the day before - on August 30.[42]

After the 24 February 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, the phrase in Ukrainian sent to a Kobzon concert (Ukrainian: «відправили на концерт Кобзона») grew in popularity to denote that a pro Russia combatant who was "going to a Kobzon concert" had met a quick death.[43][44][45][46][47]

Personal life[edit]

Kobzon has been married three times. In 1965, he married the singer, Veronika Kruglova [ru]; then in 1969 Kobzon married Lyudmila Gurchenko, one of the best known comic actresses of the Soviet cinema. In 1971, he married Ninel Drizina with whom he had two children. As of October 2012, his daughter, who is banned from entering the United States, holds an Australian passport and lives in England with her husband and three children and his son, who is banned from entering the United States, has three children.[6]

Honours and awards[edit]

Kobzon on a 2022 stamp of Russia
The title of Hero of Labour of the Russian Federation is awarded to Iosif Kobzon by Vladimir Putin, 30 April 2016
Kobzon in Donetsk in April 2015

Order Country / Org Year
100 lenin rib.png
Jubilee Medal "In Commemoration of the 100th Anniversary since the Birth of Vladimir Il'ich Lenin"  Soviet Union
1500th Anniversary of Kiev Ribbon bar.png Medal "In Commemoration of the 1500th Anniversary of Kyiv"  Soviet Union
Medal "Veteran of Labour"  Soviet Union
Outstanding achievements labor.png Medal "For Labour Valour"  Soviet Union 1970
Ribbon 300 years to russian fleet.png Jubilee Medal "300 Years of the Russian Navy"  Russia
Ribbon Medal 850 Moscow.png Medal "In Commemoration of the 850th Anniversary of Moscow"  Russia
60 victory rib.png Jubilee Medal "60 Years of Victory in the Great Patriotic War 1941–1945"  Russia
Medal Sholokhov.png Jubilee Medal "Great Russian writer Nobel Mikhail Sholokhov 1905–2005"  Russia
ForStrengtheningCombatCooperation2009 rib.png Medal "For Strengthening Military Cooperation"  Russia
200MVD rib.png Medal "200 Years of the Ministry of Internal Affairs"  Russia 2008
200MO rib.png Medal "200 Years of the Ministry of Defence"  Russia
ZaZaslperStavKr rib.png Medal "For Services to the Stavropol Territory"  Russia 2008
Medal "Glory of Adygea"  Russia 2008
Medal of Merit for the Chechen Republic  Russia
MedalAstana.png Medal "Astana"  Kazakhstan
Medal50Celina.png Medal "50 Years of Celine"  Kazakhstan
  • 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)
Preceded by Living Legend Award
Joseph Kobzon
Succeeded by

Kobzon was awarded honorary citizenship of 28 cities: Anapa, Saratov (1998), Donetsk (2007), Bishkek, Dnipro (deprived of the honor on 3 September 2014),[49] Kramatorsk, Noginsk, Poltava (deprived of the honor on 25 November 2014),[50] 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".

Other honours

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


  1. ^ "Moscow newspaper lists top Melodia pop artists". Billboard. 26 December 1981. p. 76. Retrieved 16 February 2012.
  2. ^ a b c d Red Stars:Personality and the Soviet Popular Song, 1955–1991 by David MacFadyen, McGill-Queen's University Press, 2001, ISBN 0773521062
  3. ^ a b "Legendary Soviet Crooner and Lawmaker Iosif Kobzon Dies". The Moscow Times. 30 August 2018. Retrieved 30 August 2018.
  4. ^ Razzakov, Fedor. "КОМПОЗИТОР" [Composer]. (in Russian). Archived from the original on 22 September 2022. Retrieved 22 September 2022. This is from the book in Russian "Наше любимое кино. Интриги за кадром." ("Our Favorite Movie: Intrigues behind the scenes") by Ф. Раззаков (Fedor Razzakov) and published by Алгоритм (Algorithm) in 2004.
  5. ^ Kobzon, Joseph (16 December 2001). "Not Enough of Her For All". Izvestia (Interview) (in Russian). Interviewed by Maria Podolskaya. Moscow. Retrieved 25 October 2012.
  6. ^ a b "США объявили Лепса мафией: Минфин США внес Григория Лепса в черные списки, заподозрив его в связях с мафией. Певцу отказано в деловых контактах с американцами, его активы будут заблокированы" [Kobzon is not allowed in the United States: The U.S. continues to deny Kobzon a visa. According to representatives of the embassy, the Russian singer and deputy does not meet the requirements for obtaining a visa]. Interfax (in Russian). 1 October 2012. Archived from the original on 26 November 2014. Retrieved 22 September 2022.
  7. ^ Pavlovsky, Gleb. "ЮРИЙ ЛУЖКОВ ПОДОЗРЕВАЕТСЯ В СВЯЗЯХ С ОРГАНИЗОВАННЫМИ ПРЕСТУПНЫМИ ГРУППИРОВКАМИ: Феномен Кобзона-Квантришвили" [YURI LUZHKOV IS SUSPECTED OF HAVING LINKS WITH ORGANIZED CRIMINAL GROUPS: Kobzon-Kvantrishvili phenomenon]. (in Russian). Archived from the original on 5 June 2000. Retrieved 22 September 2022. Alternate archive as (Kobzon-Kvantrishvili phenomenon) in Russian in Autumn 1999 at
  8. ^ Мчедлишвили, Миша (Mchedlishvili, Misha) (2013). "Иосиф Давидович Кобзон (Страница 1)" [Iosif Davidovich Kobzon (page 1)]. «Чиновникам—НЕТ!» ( (in Russian). Archived from the original on 10 August 2013. Retrieved 22 September 2022.
  9. ^ Мчедлишвили, Миша (Mchedlishvili, Misha) (2013). "Иосиф Давидович Кобзон (Страница 2)" [Iosif Davidovich Kobzon (page 2)]. «Чиновникам—НЕТ!» ( (in Russian). Archived from the original on 14 September 2013. Retrieved 22 September 2022.
  10. ^ Мчедлишвили, Миша (Mchedlishvili, Misha) (2013). "Иосиф Давидович Кобзон (Страница 3)" [Iosif Davidovich Kobzon (page 3)]. «Чиновникам—НЕТ!» ( (in Russian). Archived from the original on 13 December 2013. Retrieved 22 September 2022.
  11. ^ a b c d [1] Archived 2 June 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ "Iosef Kobzon". Retrieved 3 September 2015.
  13. ^ "Новости :: Кобзон возглавил партию мира". 17 December 2001. Retrieved 3 September 2015.
  14. ^ "Activities". Retrieved 3 September 2015.
  15. ^ ru:Террористический акт на Дубровке#cite note-33
  16. ^ "Interesting facts". Retrieved 3 September 2015.
  17. ^ "Moscow City Duma". Duma.mos/ru. Retrieved 3 September 2015.
  18. ^ Не так страшен рак, как его малюют: звезды против онкологии
  19. ^ "Legendary Soviet Crooner and Lawmaker Iosif Kobzon Dies". 30 August 2018.
  20. ^ [2] Archived 11 December 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  21. ^ a b "ROLLING STONE RUSSIA – мужской журнал о современной культуре и обществе". Archived from the original on 23 June 2019. Retrieved 3 September 2015.
  22. ^ [3] Archived 13 December 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  23. ^ "Новости :: Кобзон готов предстать перед российским судом". 4 October 2002. Retrieved 3 September 2015.
  24. ^ "Musicians Seen As "Pro-Russian" Are Not Welcome in the UK and Latvia · Global Voices". Global Voices. 20 November 2014. Retrieved 3 September 2015.
  25. ^ "Russian Pop Stars Banned From Entering Latvia Over Ukraine Crisis". The Moscow Times. 21 July 2014.
  26. ^ Ukraine crisis timeline, BBC News
  27. ^ "Новости :: Кобзон дал концерт на Донбассе, спев хором с лидером сепаратистов". 27 October 2014. Retrieved 3 September 2015.
  28. ^ "Ukraine crisis: Russia to recognise rebel vote in Donetsk and Luhansk". BBC News. 28 October 2014.
  29. ^ a b Kan, Alexander (16 February 2015). "Profile: Iosif Kobzon, Russian crooner and MP". BBC News.
  30. ^ Jonathan Warren (16 May 2009). "Consular Chamber of Commerce: What is an Honorary Consul?". Retrieved 3 September 2015.
  31. ^ "Ukrainian City Strips Russian Singer Of Honorary Citizenship". Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. 25 November 2014.
  32. ^ "Новости дня: Иосиф Кобзон приехал на родину в Донбасс, несмотря на запрет СБУ – 27.10.2014 сегодня". Retrieved 3 September 2015.
  33. ^ "Кобзон заявил, что сам не хочет быть почетным гражданином Полтавы". РИА Новости. 25 November 2014. Retrieved 3 September 2015.
  34. ^ "Кобзон попросил лишить его звания народного артиста Украины". Retrieved 3 September 2015.
  35. ^ "Кобзон получил звание Народного артиста ЛНР". 22 February 2015. Retrieved 3 September 2015.
  36. ^ "EU Adds Famous Russian Singer and Deputy Ministers to Ukraine Sanctions List". The Moscow Times. 16 February 2015. Archived from the original on 16 February 2015.
  37. ^ "Expanded sanctions list". Government of Canada. 17 February 2015. Retrieved 27 August 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  38. ^ "- 812". Retrieved 3 September 2015.
  39. ^ a b c "Fans protest as 'Russian Sinatra' hit by EU sanctions". Yahoo News. 17 February 2015. Retrieved 3 September 2015.
  40. ^ "Зюганов счел циничным и подлым включение Кобзона в санкционный список". РИА Новости. 17 February 2015. Retrieved 3 September 2015.
  41. ^ "Кобзон приехал в Луганск с концертами и гумпомощью". ФЕДЕРАЛЬНОЕ АГЕНТСТВО НОВОСТЕЙ. 22 February 2015. Retrieved 3 September 2015.
  42. ^ ""Їду на концерт Кобзона": реакція соцмереж на вбивство ватажка "ДНР" Захарченка". (in Ukrainian). Retrieved 27 September 2022.
  43. ^ "В Кам'янці затримали ниву" [A field was detained in Kamianets]. Кам`янець-Подільський «ПЕРШИЙ ПОРТАЛ» (in Ukrainian). Archived from the original on 1 March 2022. Retrieved 22 September 2022.
  44. ^ "Бойовикам на Донбасі передали "запрошення на концерт Кобзона" (фото)" [Militants in Donbas were given an "invitation to a concert of Kobzon" (photo)]. (in Ukrainian). 19 August 2022. Archived from the original on 23 March 2022. Retrieved 22 September 2022.
  45. ^ "«Армія дронів»: ЗСУ отримали перші 20 ударних безпілотників – Мінцифри" ["Army of Drones": The Armed Forces of Ukraine received the first 20 strike drones - Ministry of Digital Transformation]. Радіо Свобода (Radio Svoboda) (in Ukrainian). 7 September 2022. Retrieved 22 September 2022.
  46. ^ "Квиток на концерт кобзона. В Україні ліквідована спецгрупа "кадирівців"" [Ticket to the concert of the kobzon. The special group of "Kadyrivtsi" met a quick death in Ukraine]. UA-Football (in Ukrainian). 1 March 2022. Archived from the original on 1 March 2022. Retrieved 22 September 2022.
  47. ^ "Закарпатців запрошують стати розвідниками тероборони. Як це зробити?" [Transcarpathians are invited to become intelligence officers of the territorial defense]. (in Ukrainian). 1 March 2022. Archived from the original on 1 March 2022. Retrieved 22 September 2022.
  48. ^ "Про присвоєння Кобзону Й.Д. почесного звання "Нар... – від 27.12.1991 № 18". Retrieved 3 September 2015.
  49. ^ "Кобзон лишен звания почетного гражданина Днепропетровска". Зеркало недели – Дзеркало тижня – Mirror Weekly. 3 September 2014. Retrieved 3 September 2015.
  50. ^ "Кобзона лишили статуса почетного гражданина Полтавы, – нардеп – Полтава | РБК Украина". 25 November 2014. Retrieved 4 September 2015.

External links[edit]