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 Vyacheslav Tikhonov

Born:   08 February 1928



Actor Vyacheslav Tikhonov personifies a whole epoch. In the dull years of Soviet Stagnation he contrived to create a real hero on screen. Having played fifty-odd film roles throughout over half a century of being in filming, Vyacheslav Tikhonov still remains first of all the charming and noble, determined and strong-willed secret agent Stirlitz for viewers.

Vyacheslav Tikhonov was born on February 8, 1928 in the little old town of Pavlovsky Posad in the vicinity of Moscow. His father, Vasili Romanovich worked as a weaver's looms technician at the factory producing the famous “pavlo-posadskie” shawls. His mother Valentina Vyacheslavovna was a kindergarten teacher.

When the war started Vyacheslav entered an industrial school, where he learned the turner’s trade at the same time working. After finishing it he submitted documents to VGIK (All-Union Institute for Cinema), yet failed at the acting exam. Despite the fact, in 1945 he was, however, accepted as a student for a trial period. The point was that during the war lots of men had left for the front and there were very few students to play male roles at the course. Anyway, in 1948 the actor debuted with the role of Volodya Osmukhin in the film Molodaya gvardiya (The Young Guard). Two years later, in 1950, Vyacheslav Tikhonov graduated with honours, his creative biography starting from then on.

After graduation Vyacheslav Tikhonov was admitted to the Theatre Studio of Film Actor and played on that theatre stage for six years. True masters were among his partners: Erast Garin, Nikolai Kryuchkov, Boris Andreev, and others. While working in the theatre Tikhonov also attracted attention of some film directors. During that period he appeared in films Maksimka (1952), Zvezdy Na Krylyah (Stars on Wings) (1955 .), Ob etom zabyvat nelzya (It Cannot be Forgotten) (1955 .), Serdze byotsa vnov (Heart is Beating Again) (1956 .) However those were small supporting roles.


True success came in 1957 with the talented drama Delo bylo v Penkove (It Happened in Penkovo) (1958) starring Tikhonov as a charming village fellow named Matvei. The film directed by Stanislav Rostotsky gained unanimous love of the viewers and marked a new stage in Tikhonov’s career: from then on he was offered leading roles. New films came one after another: Chrezvychainoe proisshestvie (Extraordinary Accident) in 1958, Mayskie zvyozdy (May Stars) (1959) in 1959, Michman Panin in 1960, and Dve zhizni (Two Lives) in 1961.

Lots of film directors wanted to film Vyacheslav Tikhonov, yet Mosfilm Studio turned to be inaccessible for the actor for many years (almost all his creative life is associated with M. Gorky Film Studio). It was all due to Ivan Pyryev, who was the director of Mosfilm and looked all the screen tests through: he believed that Tikhonov did not look like a Russian. To him the actor was either an Azerbaijani or an Armenian but no way a Russian.

Tikhonov’s outstanding role of Prince Andrei Bolkonsky in the classical epopee Voyna i mir (War and Peace) (1965-1967) by Sergei Bondarchuk was a well-deserved triumph. The film based on the famous novel by Leo Tolstoy gained international acknowledgement along with an Oscar.

Then followed the films Semeynoe schaste (Family Happiness) (1970) and Chelovek s drugoy storony (The Man from the Other Side) (1972).


In 1970 Vyacheslav Tikhonov started to work for Tatyana Lioznova’s historical feature Semnadtsat mgnoveniy vesny (Seventeen Moments of Spring) (1973), which was destined to become a cult film for several generations. Yet, the film faced the risk of not going on screen: member of the Politbureau of the Communist Party of Soviet Union Central Committee Mikhail Suslov opposed the film to go on general release. He stated that the film was “not showing the feat of the Soviet people in the war”. Fortunately the would-be film classic was upheld by KGB Chairman Yuri Andropov.

The film series premiered at the end of summer 1973 and was crowned with a resounding success. From August 11 to 24 the entire country was just glued to the TV screens when the film was being telecast. Tikhonov created such a veritable character of the Soviet secret agent that not only millions of viewers but even Leonid Brezhnev himself came to believe in real existence of Stirlitz. After watching the film the head of the USSR was so carried away by its events that he made up his mind to find and award the real Stirlitz.

In 1975 Sergei Bondarchuk invited Vyacheslav Tikhonov to play the role of Strel'tsov in his war drama Oni srazhalis za rodinu (They Fought for Their Country) (1975), another outstanding work of art.


Then followed Belyy Bim - Chyornoe ukho (White Bim Black Ear) (1976), Front v tylu vraga (Front in the Rear of the Enemy) (1981) and TASS upolnomochen zayavit (TASS Is Authorized to Declare) (1984). During Perestroika Vyacheslav Tikhonov played in two famous films: Ubit drakona (To Kill a Dragon) (1988) and Lyubov s privilegiyami (Love and Privileges) (1989).

In the 1990s Tikhonov had fewer roles, one of them being an episodic part in Nikita Mikhalkov’s prizewinning Utomlyonnye solntsem (Burnt by the Sun) (1994). In 1998 he played in the film Sochineniye ko dnyu pobedy (Composition for Victory Day) (1998) and for several years afterwards was out of filming. In 2005 he came back on screen in the film Glazami volka (Through Wolf’s Eyes) and a year later played in biopic Andersen. Zhizn bez lyubvi (Life Without Love) directed by Eldar Ryazanov.

The actor’s first wife was Nonna Mordyukova with whom they lived for 13 years. They gave birth to son Vladimir (1950—1990), whose children – Vasili (born in 1972) and Vladimir (born in 1982) were born from different marriages.

Tikhonov’s second wife was Tamara Ivanovna, a teacher of French, who gave birth to daughter Anna (born 1969), whose children – twins Vyacheslav and Georgiy were born in 2005.

The last work of Tikhonov was his role in Nikita Mikhalkov’s sequel Burnt by the Sun 2 (2010).

Tikhonov became “the last hero” of the Soviet epoch, who created a beautiful myth about a strong but not hardhearted man, an embodiment of manly charm, so rare in all times.

Lately the actor was ailing a lot and hardly ever left his country house. Vyacheslav Tikhonov died of infarction on 12 December 2009 in Moscow. The actor was laid to rest at Novodevichi Cemetery in Moscow.


Tags: Russian cinema Russian actors Vyacheslav Tikhonov   

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