Library Archive Museum


Mikhoels Solomon

Real surname: Vovsi. Jewish actor, director and public figure. People's Artist of the USSR (1939), recipient of the Stalin Prize (1946). Born in Dvinsk (now Daugavpils, Latvia). He grew up in a well-to-do Jewish family and received a traditional Jewish education. In 1911 he entered the Kiev Commercial Institute, from which he was expelled for his participation in student movements. After the October revolution he joined the newly-opened Jewish theatre studio of A. M. Granovsky in Petrograd, which later became the State Yiddish Theatre (GOSET). He became a leading actor of the studio when he took the main role in Karl Gutzkow's tragedy "Uriel Akosta". He was one of the founders (in 1925) of the Moscow State Yiddish Theatre, and from 1929 its artistic director. He appeared in the films "Jewish Happiness" (1925), "The Circus" (1936), and "The Oppenheimer Family" (1938). His most notable artistic achievement was his portrayal of Lear in Shakespeare's "King Lear" (1935). He was also active in public life, being chairman of the board of MosOZET. In February 1942 he became the first chairman of the Jewish Antifascist Committee, founded to promote "the worldwide struggle of the Jewish masses against Fascism". In the summer of 1943 he raised thousands of dollars in donations from Jewish organisations in the USA, Canada and Britain. At the end of the war he was one of the signatories of a letter to Stalin requesting that a Jewish Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic be founded in the Crimea. After the war the Jewish Antifascist Committee was disbanded and its leaders subjected to repression; Mikhoels was killed by agents of the MGB, his death being arranged so as to appear accidental.