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GenreGame-show franchise
Created bySergey Muratov, Albert Axelrod, Mikhail Yakovlev
Country of originSoviet Union, Russian Federation
Running time60–180 minutes (depending on the version)
Production companiesHome Edition programs for the youth of the Central Television of the USSR (1961-1990)
AMiK (1990-present)
Original release8 November 1961 (1961-11-08) –

KVN (Russian: КВН, an abbreviation of Клуб весёлых и находчивых, Klub Vesyólykh i Nakhódchivykh or Ka-Ve-En, "Club of the Funny and Inventive") is a Russian (and formerly Soviet) humour TV show and an international competition where teams (usually composed of college students) compete by giving funny answers to questions and showing prepared sketches. The Club originated in the Soviet Union, building on the popularity of an earlier program, An Evening of Funny Questions (Russian: Вечер весёлых вопросов, romanizedVecher vesyolykh voprosov); the television programme first aired on the First Soviet Channel on November 8, 1961.[1] Eleven years later, in 1972, when few programmes were being broadcast live, Soviet censors, finding the students' impromptu jokes offensive and anti-Soviet, banned KVN. The show was revived fourteen years later during the Perestroika era in 1986, with Alexander Maslyakov as its host. It is one of the longest-running TV programmes on Russian television. It has its own holiday on November 8, the birthday of the game - celebrated by KVN players every year since it was announced and widely celebrated for the first time in 2001.

During the Perestroika era (c. 1985-1991), KVN spread to Russian expatriate communities around the world. In 1992 the Israel team tested the waters, playing against the CIS team. The game became an unquestionable success, and more international games on the highest level followed: the CIS team visited Israel, Germany and the United States. The culmination came in 1994 with the First KVN World Festival in Israel, featuring four teams (representing the United States, Israel, the CIS and Germany).

KVN as a competition[edit]

Groups of KVN teams are organized into several Leagues, where they compete annually for the League Champion title. To organize the movement, the KVN Union created a (in Russian) structure of regional and multi-regional arrangements of Leagues. The Major League and the Premier-League are regularly broadcast on Russian Channel One. Other Leagues are broadcast on local channels. The winner of the Major League (Vysshaya Liga Russian: Высшая Лига) is declared the Champion of the Club. There are other KVN competitions outside the Leagues: the KVN Festival (KiViN) is held in Sochi every January and attracts hundreds of teams from around the world, this is where teams are arranged into Leagues for the Season, the Musical Festival which is called "Singing KiViN" (Golosyaschiy KiViN, Russian: Голосящий КиВиН) is held every July in Jūrmala, Latvia (from 2015 in Svetlogorsk, Kaliningrad Oblast, Russia) where teams are competing to win KiViNs, which are also very prestigious prizes, the Summer Cup or Supercup is played usually in August every year in a different place, usually in Sochi, and only Major League Champions are allowed to compete (with some exceptions, when in 2003 a unique team of famous KVN players competed (and also won) and 2007, 2008 and 2010 when Finalists were invited), another game is held every year in November to celebrate KVN's birthday and is called the Specproject (pronounced "Spetsproyekt"). Many places in the CIS have Leagues independent from the KVN Union and conduct their own competitions. The same is true of KVN competitions outside the CIS which have no connection to KVN Union.

KVN as a game[edit]

Alexander Maslyakov hosts the Major League on April 1, 2013

KVN is a task-based team competition in front of a live audience and judged by a panel of judges. Typically, each team is asked to complete in four–five thematically connected assignments, such as:

  • Mandatory
    • Greeting (Privetstviye, Russian: Приветствие): witty introduction of the team, humorous greeting to the jury and spectators.
    • Warm-up (Razminka, Russian: Разминка) (usually the second contest): rapid exchange of funny questions and improvised answers, sometimes played against the audience, jury and/or the host.
    • Musical Competition (Muzykalnyy Konkurs, Russian: Музыкальный конкурс): a competition in which the competing teams show musical sketches and acts involving singing, playing musical instruments and dancing. Sometimes an alternate shorter version called One Song-Contest (Konkurs Odnoy Pesni, Russian: Конкурс одной песни) is played. In this competition the players must use only one melody throughout the competition.
  • Optional
    • STEM ("students' variety miniature theater") (Russian: СТЭМ): a contest in which only three performers from a team are allowed to be on stage simultaneously (the rule didn't apply at the 2008–2009 seasons).
    • Captains' contest (Kapitanskiy Konkurs, Russian: Капитанский конкурс): individual competition between the team captains.
    • Homework (Domashneye Zadaniye, Russian: Домашнее задание): comedy theatre sketches on a given topic, sometimes a Musical Homework is played when there is no Musical Competition.
    • BRIZ (Bureau of Rationalization and Invention) (Russian: БРИЗ): In this contest the teams need to present something such as an invention, a brief historical survey, movies, photo-albums or any type of new idea. It is also called a literature contest because it mainly consists of textual jokes.
    • News Contest (Konkurs Novostey, Russian: Конкурс новостей): similar to the BRIZ, but focuses on strange and funny "news".
    • Biathlon (Russian: Биатлон): a contest in which a representative of each team "shoots" one joke or more at the audience. The jury decides who leaves the "shooting range" until only two contestants remain and the jury picks one winner who gets 1 point. In case of a draw the finalists receive 0.9 points each.
    • Freestyle (Russian: Фристайл): a more modern and free version of the Greeting in which the teams have no restrictions of genre.
    • Cinema Contest (Kinokonkurs, Russian: Киноконкурс): a contest which involves making a movie, making a clip to a song, making a clip consisting of different video and audio pieces or dubbing a well-known movie.

Rarely, other activities are assigned.

A panel of judges, usually well-known celebrities, actors, and writers, evaluates performances on wit, humour, production values, and spectators reaction and declares a winner by awarding points to the teams. In the Premier-League the jury consists usually of famous KVN players.

KVN as a social phenomenon[edit]

Vladimir Putin attends the taping of the 50th anniversary episode of the KVN comedy show and congratulates KVN members, November 13, 2011

KVN's reach is impressive. According to the official site of KVN Union:

  • over 5 million live spectators annually watch now
  • more than 40,000 participants organized into
  • more than 3,000 regularly competing teams from
  • more than 100 cities play game of KVN.

For more than 20 years TV broadcasts of KVN games receive the highest ratings in Russia. The popularity of the game is so high that even politicians use it as an opportunity to gain extra points, Boris Yeltsin, Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev attended games played before the elections. The game of KVN helps in interstate relationships. The CISIsrael game broadcast on September 19, 1992 helped in warming up relationships between the two countries (mostly on Russia's side). KVN became part of the culture, illustrated by the fact that it became a game of choice in Russian-speaking communities around the globe.

Also, the president of the club, Alexander Maslyakov, received one of the highest (if not the highest) award from Vladimir Putin, the President of Russia, for hosting the game for so many decades. This happened at the end of the game dedicated to KVN's 45th anniversary in November 2006.

KVN around the world[edit]

Since Perestroika opened former-Soviet borders for emigrants, KVN has reached Israel, Germany, Australia, Portugal, France, The United Kingdom, Vietnam and the United States. Many countries created their own teams, leagues and competitions. In 1992 the Israel team tested the waters playing against the CIS team. The game was an unquestionable success and more international games on a highest level followed: the CIS team visited Israel, Germany and the United States. The culmination was in 1994 with the First KVN World Festival in Israel with 4 teams (the United States, Israel, CIS and Germany). This event attracted a new generation of players to KVN. Currently, the American League includes more than 30 teams from different universities, including such prominent ones as Harvard, Berkeley and New York University (NYU) (the very first[2] League Champion). KVN Israel comprises two Leagues with about 30 teams from different towns. The U.K. also has a prominent KVN community, with teams from a number of universities.

Notable KVN alumni[edit]

Volodymyr Zelensky, President of Ukraine (2019–present), captain of Kvartal 95, Kryvyi Rih (1998–2003, Major League).


  1. ^ «С чего всё начиналось» на AMIK.RU
  2. ^ "NYU".
  3. ^ a b The club of merry, inventive, rich and famous article from Komsomolskaya Pravda, November 3, 2011 (in Russian)
  4. ^ a b Boris Kavashkin. KVN alumni: From Zyuganov to Pels by RIA Novosti, November 11, 2008 (in Russian)
  5. ^ a b c d You never knew they played KVN (in Russian)
  6. ^ Sergey Muratov.I was born during the rise of the world television interview at the Kommersant newspaper, April 25, 2011 (in Russian)
  7. ^ Mikhail Zadornov.How I performed in KVN and acted in a video clip, official website, October 11, 2013 (in Russian)
  8. ^ Zadornov vs. American at the KVN official YouTube channel
  9. ^ Biography at the website in the memory of Mikhail Yevdokimov (in Russian)
  10. ^ Final 1988 video at the Neschastny Sluchai official YouTube channel (in Russian)
  11. ^ Leonid Slutsky: Adrenalin never lets you go interview at Moskovskij Komsomolets, July 20, 2011 (in Russian)
  12. ^ MFUA 2013, Final at the KVN official YouTube channel
  13. ^ PhysTech, STEM with Slutsky at the KVN official YouTube channel
  14. ^ Vladimir Zelenskiy Archived 2019-03-31 at the Wayback Machine at the official Kvartal 95 website
  15. ^ KVN Major League (1997) first appearance at the KVN official YouTube channel
  16. ^ Grigori Gorin. Humor in every phrase at Russia-K, March 13, 2010 (in Russian)
  17. ^ Alevtina Trynova. At least there are anecdotes left... article and interview in the Sverdlovsk Oblast newspaper, November 8, 2014 (in Russian)
  18. ^ "KVN was the boldest TV show of the unfreedom epoch" by Channel One Russia, November 16, 2016 (in Russian)
  19. ^ RUDN 2003, Aria parody at the KVN official YouTube channel
  20. ^ Interview at the STV Belarus website, November 11, 2011 (in Russian)
  21. ^ Interview at the Evening Urgant TV show, June 5, 2017 (in Russian)
  22. ^ Anatoly Wasserman at the 2010 Premier-League talking about his past days at the KVN official YouTube channel

External links[edit]