Olga Lepeshinskaya, Stalins favourite ballerina
Olga Lepeshinskaya was one of the most honored Soviet ballerinas. She symbolized the whole epoch of the Russian ballet. Among her numerous awards and titles there were the Order of Lenin, which she got at the age of 21, Order of the October Revolution, Medal for the Defence of Moscow, two Orders of the Red Banner of Labour and Amber Cross, the highest award of the Russian Academy of Arts.
They say she was the favorite ballerina of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.
Olga was born on September 15, 1916 in Kiev, Russian Empire into a noble family. As a child the girl was fond of dancing. But she did not think about her hobby as a future profession: she dreamed of becoming an engineer and build bridges.
She became a student of Bolshoi Choreographic School and appeared on the stage at the age of ten in the role of the little bird in the ballet The Daughter of the Snows.
At the age of 18 Lepeshinskaya became famous after the premier of Three Fatmen, based on eponymous fairytale by Yury Olesha. She performed the main role.
In 1933 she graduated from the Moscow Ballet School.
In 1941, when the Stalin Prize was established, Olga Lepeshinskaya was among the first laureates of the prize for her performance in Don Quixote. All together Lepeshinskaya received four Stalin Prizes.
During the war, Olga performed on the front with a specially prepared program.
She was the Bolshoi’s leading ballerina in premieres of many contemporary ballets on Soviet themes including Taras Bulba and Bronze Horseman, Red Poppy and Fadetta.
After retiring from performing in 1963, Olga taught classical ballet in the Soviet Union, France, Germany, Italy, Hungary, Sweden, and China.
Since 1992, Lepeshinskaya was a President of the Russian choreographic association, and in 1996 she headed the Central House of Artists. In 1997 she became a professor in the Russian University of Theatre Arts (GITIS).
In 2004 Olga Lepeshinskaya starred in the film Dialogue With the Legend directed by Nikita Tikhonov.
Lepeshinskaya died of a heart attack on December 20, 2008 in Moscow at the age of 92.
Olga was married three times.
Film director I.Z. Trauberg was her first husband. They divorced shortly before the beginning of the Great Patriotic War.
Her second husband was Soviet intelligence general Leonid Raykhman, who was arrested in 1951. He didn’t return to his wife after the release.
Her third husband was general of the Soviet Army – Alexei Antonov. He died in 1962.
Olga didn’t have children.