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Russian Personalities

People well-known in art, sport, film, fashion

Alexei Venetsianov – Russian painter

Alexei Venetsianov. Self-Portrait

Alexei Venetsianov. Self-Portrait

Alexei Venetsianov (1780-1847) was a Russian painter, master of genre scenes of peasant life, teacher, member of the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts, the founder of the so-called Venetsianov School. He was one of the founders of the Russian genre painting.
Great-grandfather of the artist Fyodor Proko, his wife Angela and their son George left Greece and came to Russia in 1730-1740.
Alexei was born on February 7 (18), 1780 in Moscow. His family was engaged in trade, they sold currant bushes, tulip bulbs, as well as paintings. Alexei studied painting at first alone, then with V. Borovikovsky. The first paintings were portraits of the artist’s family and friends.
In 1807 he came to St. Petersburg and began to take painting seriously.
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Joseph Stalin – Soviet leader

Joseph Stalin - Soviet leader

Joseph Stalin – Soviet leader

Joseph Stalin led the Soviet Union for about 25 years. He made it into a world power, but he was known for his harsh rule. He defended the achievements of the Bolshevik Revolution, successfully waged war against NAZI Germany, and contributed to the division of Eastern from Western Europe in the 1940s.
Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was born on December 21, 1879, in Gori, Georgia. His father was a cobbler and his mother a domestic servant. He studied at a local church school and the Tiflis (Tbilisi in Georgian) Orthodox seminary, from which he was expelled in 1899.
His Georgian name was Ioseb Dzhugashvili. Later he used the name of Stalin, which is based on the Russian word for “steel.”
As a young man Stalin became interested in Communism. Communists believe that all citizens should get an equal share of their country’s wealth.
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Pavel Fedotov – Russian painter

Pavel Fedotov. Self-portrait, 1848

Pavel Fedotov. Self-portrait, 1848

Pavel Fedotov was a Russian painter and graphic artist, one of the leading representatives of Russian Romanticism, the founder of critical realism in Russian painting. Officer of the household troops in the Finland regiment became an artist.
Pavel was born on June 22 (4 July), 1815 in Moscow into the family of Andrey Fedotov, who served in the army during the reign of Catherine. His childhood was spent in poverty. His father wanted to see him in a military career and at the age of 11 Pavel entered the First Moscow Cadet Corps. His favorite subjects were mathematics and chemistry, but he also liked to draw. Fedotov read a lot, studied languages, took an interest in music and wrote poetry.
In 1834 Pavel was sent to St. Petersburg, where he served for 10 years. Fedotov attended drawing lessons at the Academy of Fine Arts. His pencil brought to life scenes of senseless, exhausting drills; the themes of his drawings and watercolors were military exercises and camp service.
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Pavel Tretyakov and his Tretyakov Gallery

Pavel Tretyakov

Pavel Tretyakov

Pavel Tretyakov was a Russian businessman, philanthropist and collector of works of Russian art, the founder of the Tretyakov Gallery – one of the best-known picture galleries in Russia.
Pavel was born on December 15 (27), 1832 in Moscow into a family of merchants. He received education at home and began his career in the trade, working with his father. Together with his brother Sergei he built cotton mill where several thousand people worked.
In August 1865 Pavel Mikhailovich married Vera Nikolayevna Mamontova, a cousin of the famous art patron Savva Mamontov.
In 1866 the eldest daughter Vera (1866-1940) was born, then Alexander (1867-1959), Lyubov (1870-1928), Mikhail (1871-1912), Maria (1875-1952), Ivan (1878-1887).
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Matvey Kazakov – Russian architect

Matvey Kazakov – Russian architect

Matvey Kazakov – Russian architect


Matvey Fydorovich Kazakov was one of the greatest Russian architects of the late eighteenth century, who during the reign of Catherine II rebuilt the center of Moscow in the Palladian style.
His first masterpiece was the Petrovskii Transit Palace (1775-82) (now Zhukovsky Air Force Academy). The palace combined the fashion for the Gothic revival with motifs drawn from medieval Russian architecture. Less successful was Kazakov’s design for a palace at Tsaritsyno (begun in 1786).
Kazakov was born in 1738 in Moscow. His family lived near the Kremlin, near Borovitsky bridge. After the death of the father he entered the architectural school. In March 1751 Kazakov became a pupil at known architect D. Ukhtomsky’s school.
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Nikolai Vtorov – the richest man of Russian history

Nikolai Vtorov – the richest man of Russian history

Nikolai Vtorov – the richest man of Russian history


Nikolai Vtorov was the richest man in the Russian Empire. He was called “Russian Morgan” and “Siberian American.” The annual profit of the Vtorov concern before the revolution reached $ 660 million based on the exchange rate in 2000.
Alexander Fyodorovich Vtorov, Nikolai’s father, came from Kostroma. At the age of 21 he decided to go into business. To do this, he went to Irkutsk. Trade opportunities were not the most favorable there (there was not yet Trans-Siberian Railway). He began to attend the fair in Verkhneudinsk and started logistics of goods. Soon Vtorov opened his own shop – the famous “Vtorovsky Passage” in Irkutsk. Soon his shops were opened in 13 cities.
In 1897 Alexander Vtorov and his family moved to Moscow. At that time Nikolai Vtorov was already 31 years old (he was born on April 15, 1866).
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Lev Termen – inventor of thereminovox

Lev Termen – inventor of thereminovox

Lev Termen – inventor of thereminovox


Lev Termen, Russian and Soviet inventor, invented musical instrument called the thereminovox and demonstrated it to the first ruler of the USSR. In 1947 he became a winner of the Stalin Prize for his outstanding invention.
Lev Termen (known as Leon Therimin in the West) was born on August 15, 1896 in St. Petersburg. He was born into a noble Orthodox family with French Huguenot roots (in French his name was written as a Theremin). As a child Lev was very interested in physics and electricity. He studied piano and cello at the conservatory in Leningrad, but afterwards went to university to study physics and astronomy.
Inspired by the Bolshevik revolution in 1917, when everyone was interested in new things, Termen wanted to invent a musical instrument that would not use any mechanical energy, like the conductor of an orchestra, who only moves his hands.
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Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev – Soviet politician

Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev - Soviet politician

Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev – Soviet politician


Many Russians remember his era as a “golden age” (zolotoi vek) when living standards steadily improved. This was the result of his policy of borrowing from the West, combined with the twofold doubling of world oil prices and a deliberate decision after 1971 to reallocate production in favor of consumer products and foods.
Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev was born in 1906 in the village of Kamenskoye. Both his grandfather and father worked in the iron and steel plant. After school Brezhnev went to work in the local factories. When he was 17 he joined the Young Communist League, became interested in farm collectivization, and went to study in Kursk.
When he was 25, Brezhnev returned to his hometown and studied metallurgy, graduating from the local institute in 1935.
In 1941 at the outbreak of World War II in the USSR, Brezhnev joined the army as a political officer. In 1944 he was promoted to major general.
At the end of the war he became leader of the Communist Party in Moldavia.
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Peter Tchaikovsky – outstanding Russian composer

Peter Tchaikovsky – outstanding Russian composer

Peter Tchaikovsky – outstanding Russian composer

Peter Tchaikovsky, an outstanding Russian composer, was born in 1840 in Votkinsk. His family was rich and sent him to special schools. He was fond of music since his early childhood. His mother sang him beautiful songs and taught him to play the piano. Tchaikovsky went to a university and studied law. But at the age of 23, he decided to give his life to music. He studied music in Saint Petersburg and was the best pupil of Anton Rubinshtein. When he was 26, he wrote his first symphony.
When the Moscow Conservatoire was founded Pyotr llyich became a professor there. Tchaikovsky worked in almost all musical genres. He created wonderful music: ten operas, three ballets, six symphonies, seven large symphonic poems and many other musical pieces.
Tchaikovsky became a famous and successful composer. But he did not live a happy or exciting life. He was very shy and lived alone. Every day he stayed home and wrote music. He was often unhappy. He was afraid of many things. He was afraid to die. He was also afraid his head would fall off his shoulders. This was a problem when he conducted music. So he sometimes held his head with his left hand and conducted with his right hand.
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Anton Losenko – founder of Russian historical painting

Anton Losenko – founder of Russian historical painting

Anton Losenko – founder of Russian historical painting


Anton Losenko was a Russian painter of Ukrainian origin, the founder of Russian historical painting.
Anton was born on July 30 (August 10), 1737 into a Cossack family in the town of Glukhovo near Chernigov. In 1744 (after the death of his parents) the boy joined the court choir and was sent to St. Petersburg. Seven-year old Anton sang chants and new concerts at the court of Empress Elizabeth and played the flute. The talented boy also studied painting.
In 1753 Losenko lost his voice and became a student of famous painter Ivan Argunov. And in the next year his pictures were shown to the Empress Elizabeth. As proof of Losenko’s success, Argunov showed his picture Tobias and the Angel and his portrait of the court musician V. Stepanov, drawn from life. At the end of 1760 Anton went to Paris.
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