Friday, 5 October 2012

Averbakh 17: Outside the world of chess.

Trickling down the pages, in ones and twos, sometimes more, are the names of many whose involvement with chess was at best tangential: few are identified. It can be that little is in the public domain. An all too common problem when researching individual Soviets. Even the life histories of relatively prominent men can be largely obliterated. For instance, David Glantz (page 130, Kharkov 1942, ISBN 978-0-7110-3468-6) quotes Marshall Bagramyan's biography of an army group commander:

Maj-Gen Leonid Vasilyevich Bobkin (birthplace unknown) joined the Red Guard in 1917 and later served during the Civil War, where he earned the Order of the Red Banner. A cavalry officer, during 1924 and 1925 he served with G.K. Zhukov, K.K. Rokossovsky, A.I. Yeremenko and Bagramyan at the Higher Cavalry School in Leningrad. There, and subsequently, he proved to be a skilled commander and expert in cavalry tactics. In May 1942 he was Assistant Commander of South-Western Front forces for cavalry. In this capacity Timoshenko tasked him with organising and leading the specially formed Army Group.

The commander of the 38th Army at that time, Lt-Gen K.S. Moshkalenko, endorsed this assessment of Bobkin's abilities: an extremely capable, skilful and energetic commander.

To remove all doubt, Bobkin's name does not pop up in Centre-Stage.

On page 119 Averbakh tells of a battle between Armenians and Georgians when the music of Babadzhanian was played over and over again. Probably many readers will know that there are many rivalries in the Caucasus, thus both nations, despite practising distinct forms of Christianity, have traditionally had troubled relations. Something that Moscow has been able to exploit in the past. Incidentally, Bagramyan, briefly mentioned above, notwithstanding his status as a hero of the Great Patriotic War, was ethnically Armenian, something his name so indicates. Similarly, Prince Bagration, a Russian hero from the campaign of 1812, when Napoleon invaded Russia, was a Georgian prince.

Arno Harutyuni Babadzhanian (1921 – 1983) was a notable composer and pianist. Born in Yerevan, he studied composition at its Conservatory, graduating in 1947. He moved to the Moscow Conservatory from which he graduated in 1948. In 1950 he became a faculty member at Yerevan Conservatory. His Piano Trio, with its strong national overtones, won a USSR State Prize in 1953.

There is no note on page 120 about Vakhtang Mikhaylovich Chabukiani (1910 – 1992). Dancer, choreographer and teacher, he first studied ballet in Tbilisi, before moving to Leningrad Ballet School (the School was founded at the same time as the Maryinsky Ballet, it has been known successively as the Imperial Theatre School, the St. Petersburg, the Petrograd State Ballet School, the Leningrad Ballet School and from 1957 as the Vaganova School) from which he graduated in 1929. He then became a leading soloist at the Kirov (as the Maryinsky Ballet was then known. There has been much debate as to whether Sergey Mironovich Kirov was murdered in 1934 on Stalin's orders.) until 1941, during which time he developed a broad repertoire and became known for his magnificent technique, particularly for his heroic style and great leaps. He was one of the first Soviet dancers to visit the United States (1934). Moving to Georgia in 1941, he served as the principal choreographer and teacher of the Paliashvili Theatre of Opera and Ballet (an online history is available at the official site) until 1973, as well as other arts establishments within Georgia.

On page 125 Ivan Kozlovsky enters the narrative, The Soviet Union, a biographical dictionary gives:
Ivan Semenovich Kozlovsky (born 1900) Tenor. Ivan Kozlovsky was born in the village of Mar'yanovka. Of humble origins, he studied under Yelena Murav'eva at the Kiev Institute of Music and Drama (1917-19), after which he served in the Red Army for the following five years. In 1924 he became a soloist with the Khar'kov Opera Theatre, joining the Sverdlovsk Theatre in 1925. From 1926 to 1954 he was attached to the Bol'shoy, where his lyrical tenor voice with its appealing timbre was highly esteemed. He was made a People's Artist in 1940 and is the recipient of several State Prizes.

Worth recording is that Mar'yanovka is a village of some antiquity, in Kiev Oblast. Kozlovsky passed away in 1993. There are videos dedicated to him on YouTube, I enjoyed  listening to them. According to this web page there is a bust dedicated to his memory in Kiev. As an aside, Sverdlovsk has reverted to its earlier name of Yekaterinburg.

Also mentioned in that same sentence is Igor Ilyinsky. The Biographical Dictionary yields: Igor Vladimirovich Il'insky (1901-1987) Actor. Il'insky was an enormously popular comic actor of stage and screen. He began his career in Foregger's Theatre of the Four Masks in 1918 appearing in French farces and worked in the Meyerhold Theatre from 1920 to 1935, acting in Meyerhold's productions of Verhaeren's 'The dawn' (1920), Mayakovsky's 'Mystery-bouffe' (1921), and Ostrovky's 'The Forest' (1924). He later worked in the Moscow Malyy Theatre. His first film role was the detective in Protazanov's 'Aelita' (1924) and he subsequently played with great success in 'The Cigarette Girl from Mosselprom' (1924), 'The Tailor from Torzhok' (1925), 'The Three Millions Trial' and 'Miss Mend' (both 1926), 'The Kiss of Mary Pickford (1927) and 'The Feast of St Jürgen' (1930). One of his greatest film roles was his portrayal of the bureaucrat Byvalov in Alexandrov's 'Volga-Volga' (1938).

Unknown to me prior to reading Averbakh was Artur Arturovich Eisen (1927 – 2008). I couldn't find his name in any book of mine. There is a web page here, it appears to have been written by one of his children. It says that he sang the role of Don Basilio in The Barber of Seville. From which I conclude that he was a bass opera singer. Another web page, which is consistent with the first is here. This second looks inaccurate to me, it states that he was born into a family of Latvian nationalists. The noun nationalist is a loaded word, it seems incongruous for a Soviet singer. The first text prefers revolutionary, which is likely to be closer to the truth, given the source.

Quickly going through the other names given:

Nikolay Osipovich Ruban (1913 – 1987), another opera singer, he seemed to specialise in lighter roles. This is sourced from this Russian language website, which is credited to his daughter Tatiana Nikolayevich Ruban.

Mark Bernes (1911 – 1969) unlike the previous singers was more of a popular entertainer. He also appeared in Soviet films. Examples of his art can be found on YouTube using the Russian Марк Бернес.

Boris Sergeyevich Brunov (1922 – 1997) was a Soviet actor. He was born in Tbilisi. He was the director of the Moscow Variety Theatre from 1983. There is a Russian language article about him available here. On this page one can see his well maintained, imaginative grave. Also worth reading is this.

Mikhail Naumovich Garkavy (1897 – 1964) was a professional actor and comedian. There is an online article devoted to him (in Russian) available here. First mentioned on page 125 in the English edition of Averbakh's memoirs, a portrait is painted on pages 148-9. Quite amusing is the tale of the simultaneous display (sic) given by Garkavy!

Vadim Svyatoslavovych Sinyavsky (1906-1972) was a radio sports commentator. He briefly attracted attention in the West following some adverse comments about British hospitality in relation to the tour of Britain by Moscow Dynamo in 1946. Sinyavsky had accompanied the footballers. There is a Russian language interview with his daughter available online here. A brief Russian language biography is available here. Apparently he was badly wounded (1942) during the siege of Sevastopol.

Nikolay Ozerov (1922 – 1997) also was a Soviet sports commentator, a very well known one, which he took up when his tennis career ended. He also was an actor at the Moscow Arts Theatre. There is an English language article devoted to him here.

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