Aleksandr Martynov

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Martynov, Aleksandr Evstaf’evich


Born July 8 (20), 1816, in St. Petersburg; died Aug. 16 (28), 1860, in Kharkov. Russian actor; one of the founders of the Russian school of stage realism.

Martynov came from a poor family. From 1827 to 1835 he studied at the St. Petersburg Theatrical School, first in the ballet class of C. Didelot and then in the drama class of P. A. Karatygin. He made his stage debut while still a student. In 1836, Martynov joined the troupe of the Aleksandrinskii Theater. In a number of vaudeville roles he revealed his great talent for portraying different types of characters and his mastery of mimicry, gestures, and movement.

Already in the early years of his career, Martynov sought to create realistic portrayals. A democratic actor who shared the aspirations of the natural school (first stage of critical realism) of Russian literature of the 1840’s, he sought to reveal the essence of every character, the complexity of the spiritual world, and the suffering of humble folk. V. G. Belinskii, the first critic to recognize Martynov’s great talents, frequently gave the actor advice and particularly praised his portrayal of Sinichkin in D. T. Lenskii’s vaudeville Lev Gurych Sinichkin (1840). The socially critical, satirical character of Martynov’s acting was clearly revealed in his performances in plays by N. V. Gogol, for example, in the role of Khlestakov in The Inspector-General (1843).

A new period in Martynov’s acting career was marked by his performances in plays by I. S. Turgenev and A. N. Ostrovskii. His portrayal of Moshkin in Turgenev’s The Bachelor (1859) was one of the most outstanding examples of psychological realism on the Russian stage. The actor’s portrayal of Tikhon in Ostrovskii’s The Thunderstorm (1859) as a man destroyed by the cruel rules laid down by the Domostroi lives on in the history of the Russian theater.

Martynov’s repertoire included 600 roles, ranging from sharply satirical comedy with elements of parody and grotesquerie to genuine tragedy. The bases of his acting were profound sincerity and simplicity. The actor died of tuberculosis, and his funeral was attended by a crowd of several thousand. Martynov’s career marked a positive phase in the development of the Russian theater. It was in harmony with the efforts of the revolutionary democrats V. G. Belinskii, N. A. Dobroliubov, and N. G. Chernyshevskii to establish realism in the theater.


Brianskii, A. M. A. E. Martynov. Leningrad-Moscow, 1941.
Aseev, B. N. A. E. Martynov. Moscow-Leningrad, 1946.
Al’tshuller, A. A. E. Martynov. Leningrad-Moscow, 1959.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.