• 29 July 1878
  •  Yelets, Oryol Governorate, Russian Empire [now Lipetsk Oblast, Russia]

Varvara Massalitinova


Varvara Osipovna Massalitinova was born on July 29, 1878, in Yelets, Lipetsk province, Russian Empire (now Yelets, Russia). She began acting at an amateur theatre club in the Siberian city of Tomsk, then moved to Moscow and studied acting under A. Lensky at Moscow Theatrical school from which she graduated in 1901, as an actress. From 1901-1945 Varvara Massalitinova was a permanent member of the legendary troupe at Maly Academic Theatre in Moscow. There she worked on stage with such actors as Ermolova, Yelena Gogoleva, A. Yablochkina, Vera Pashennaya, Aleksandr Yuzhin, Aleksandr Ostuzhev, Vladimir Davydov, Konstantin Zubov, Stepan Kuznetsov, Nikolai Annenkov, Mikhail Tsaryov, Igor Ilyinsky and many other notable Russian actors. She became famous in 1902 after her powerful stage performances as Korobochka in Nikolai Gogol's classic drama 'Dead Souls'. Among her best known stage roles were such classic parts, as the officer's widow in the 1903 staging of 'Revizor' (Inspector General), Merchutkina in 'Jubiley' (1904), based on a play by Anton Chekhov, and Kukushkina in the 1911 staging of 'Dokhodnoe Mesto'. Over the course of her stage career Massalitinova established herself as one of the best performers in the classic plays by Aleksandr Ostrovskiy. In 1922 Massalitinova made her film debut in a small role in a silent movie 'Polikushka'. Then she worked with director Yakov Protazanov in the first Russian Sci-Fi experiment, Aelita: Queen of Mars (1924), where she appeared alongside Mikhail Zharov and Igor Ilyinsky among other fellow actors from the Maly Theatre. In 1939 Massalitinova received a state award for her portrayal of the grandmother of writer Maxim Gorky in the 1938 classic film trilogy by director Mark Donskoy based on Gorky's autobiographical books. Her best known role was the mother of the Russian folk hero Buslai in the acclaimed film Alexander Nevsky (1938) by director Sergei Eisenstein, starring Nikolay Cherkasov and Nikolai Okhlopkov. Varvara Massalitinova was designated People's Artist of Russia and was awarded for her performances on stage and in film. She died on October 20, 1945, in Moscow, Russia, Soviet Union and was laid to rest in Novodevichi Cemetery in Moscow.