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 Lidia Ruslanova

Born:   October 27, 1900
Deceased:   September 21, 1973



The Queen of Russian Folklore - the title undoubtedly suits no one but Lidia Ruslanova, who revived old folk songs with her immense inner power and marvelous vocal. It is in her performance that most folk songs are remembered by the audience of today. A strong, straightforward and stately woman, she was the symbol of Motherland for her compatriots, when her voice encouraged soldiers during the Great patriotic war and later, when she withstood the pressures of Soviet authorities and terrors of Stalinist reprisals.

Undoubtedly she contributed much to preservation of Russian folk songs; many of them are alive in the people's memory as performed by Ruslanova: 'Valenki' , 'Mezh vysokih khlebov' , etc. One could only marvel at her unusual artistic intuition - so subtle and profound was her feeling of the essence of the Russian folk song and so skillfully she conveyed all its infinity and fascination.

'Heavenly angel is singing', - nuns would say of little Lida Ruslanova, performing the solo part in the church choir. The 'angel' had no special musical education.

Lidia Ruslanova Born into a poor peasant family in a small village near Saratov town on the banks of Volga River, she got into an orphanage after the death of her mother. There, yet a little girl, she started singing on stage. Her voice impressed the local precentor: "Oh you've got a real contralto!", and soon she became the soloist of the church choir. People came from Saratov and the neighborhoods to listen to the splendid voice of the little orphan singer.

"Songs were my nannies. They taught me everything a person can be taught. They brought me up, educated me, helped me to better understand the world", said Ruslanova. "What would I be without songs? When, a poor orphan, I earned my first bread by singing, my grandmother scolded me. "God Almighty, what a shame to sing and dance for bread!", she said. But I wasn't ashamed ..." "After the orphanage, when I worked at a furniture factory, everyone would also help me for my songs. At about 17 I was already an experienced artiste and was afraid of nothing: neither stage nor audience." - recalled the singer.

She was invited to study at the Saratov Conservatoire, yet academic training was not of great attraction for the young star. And that's for the better, as due to the fact she managed to preserve her vocal in its rare original beauty. One could only marvel at her unusual artistic intuition - so subtle and profound was her feeling of the essence of the Russian folk song and so skillfully could she convey all its infinity and fascination.

Lidia Ruslanova When the civil war started (the early 1920s), Ruslanova was already performing on stage as a professional variety artist in Rostov-on-the-Don. Later she moved to Moscow to gain universal acclaim among the Russian audience. Most amazing was her timbre, impossible to mix with any other's voice. Her peculiar vocal style revived the forgotten traditions of Russian female singers that once performed at folk festivities. Undoubtedly she contributed much to preservation of Russian folk songs, a lot of which are alive in the people's memory as performed by Ruslanova: 'Valenki', 'Mezh vysokih khlebov', etc.

For 15 years starting from 1933 she worked as an artist of the State association of musical, variety and circus enterprises. It was a hard time for variety artists when they were criticized without grounds, in most cases for quasi disaccord with communist ideology. One of the critics wrote once about Ruslanova: "Pinafore dresses and bast shoes have long gone out of fashion, along with 'feeling of expansive liberty and heart yearning'. Ruslanova has to think hard of her position on the modern stage". It is interesting to note that thirty years later the same critic sweetly expressed his admiration with the same image of Ruslanova.

Lidia Ruslanova From the very first days of the Great Patriotic War Lidia Ruslanova performed for troops at the frontline. She was a symbol of the Motherland, a symbol of home and hope for the defenders. At one of the front-line concerts she was asked to sing louder. The loud speakers were put so that the Germans could hear her, too. When she started singing, there came silence on both sides of the front. During the two hours while Ruslanova was singing our troops changed the positions and passed to the offensive.

Together with the troops, Ruslanova reached Berlin. At the stairs of Reichstag, she sang Russian folk songs to the winners.

Lidia Ruslanova 1948 brought about a new wave of Stalinist reprisals. Ruslanova's husband (commander of a cavalry corps General Vladimir Kruchkov whom she had met at the front) and then she herself were arrested. As it turned out later, the reason was her husband's friendship with Admiral Zhukov, a war hero who was persecuted by the envious and fearful Stalin and his accomplices. Ruslanova was pressed to sign a forged accusation of treason against her husband, but refused and spent five years in prison on the allegations of anti-Soviet talk and anecdotes. In 1953 after the death of Joseph Stalin she was released and returned to the stage.

In 1942 she was granted with the title of the Honoured Artist of the Russian Soviet Federative Republic. Ruslanova went on singing till her death in 1973.


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