Kachalov, Vasilii

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Kachalov, Vasilii Ivanovich


(real surname, Shverubovich). Born Jan. 30 (Feb. 11), 1875, in Vilnius; died Sept. 30, 1948, in Moscow. Soviet Russian actor. People’s Artist of the USSR (1936.)

Kachalov was the son of a priest. While a student at the law department of the University of St. Petersburg he was a member of the drama group directed by V. N. Davydov. He worked with the A. S. Suvorin Theater in St. Petersburg in 1896–97 and with the M. M. Borodai Company in Kazan and Saratov between 1897 and 1900. In 1900 he joined the troupe of the Moscow Art Theater.

Kachalov possessed exceptional artistry, enormous stage charm, and a voice rare in its musicality. As a man and artist he was distinguished by keen powers of analysis and a philosophical approach to life. He based his art on the force of both emotion and intellect and on his ability to reflect in drama the psychological and moral conflicts within his heroes. He played 55 roles with the Moscow Art Theater. His performances in the plays of A. P. Chekhov and M. Gorky made him the favorite actor of the Russian democratic intelligentsia. Tuzenbakh, who dreams of a bright future, Petia Trofimov, who longs to meet life and struggle, and Ivanov, who despairs but rejects compromise (in Chekhov’s plays Three Sisters, 1902; The Cherry Orchard, 1904; and Ivanov, 1904), all expressed the expectation of social change that seized Russian society at the beginning of the century. As the baron in Gorky’s The Lower Depths, (1902), Kachalov revealed the social nature of the psychology in the gentleman’s change into a tramp and pimp, providing a remarkable example of the art of dramatic transformation. He offered an acute portrayal of the problem of “the intelligentsia and revolution” in his role as Protasov in Gorky’s Children of the Sun (1905).

Kachalov’s best prerevolutionary roles included Berendei in The Snow Maiden by Ostrovskii (1900), Johannes Vockerat in Lonely Lives by Hauptmann (1903), the title roles in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar (1903) and Ibsen’s Brandt (1906), Glumov in Even a Wise Man Stumbles by Ostrovskii (1910), Karenin in The Living Corpse by L. N. Tolstoy (1911) and Gorskii in No Stronger Than Its Weakest Link by Turgenev (1912). The brilliance of Kachalov’s intellectual force was apparent in his portrayal of Chatskii in Woe From Withy Griboedov (1906, revived in 1914 and 1938) and Hamlet in Shakespeare’s Hamlet (1911). His protrayal of Ivan Karamazov in The Brothers Karamozov (adapted from Dostoevsky, 1910) was imbued with a passionate belief in the power of reason.

Between 1922 and 1924 Kachalov toured Europe and America with the Moscow Art Theater. In the Soviet era his art, along with its courageous and passionate humanism and its reassertion of the heroic principles in man, leaned toward particularly sharp satiric expose. In 1926 in the role of Nicholas I in Nicholas I and the Decembrists (Kugel’), Kachalov achieved vivid stage presence in his psychological portrayal of the tsar-provocateur. In his role as Zakhar Bardin in Gorky’s Enemies (1935) he continued in the direction of social satire and blended it with Gorky’s dramatic art. His dramatic portrayal of the partisan leader Nikita Vershinin in Armored Train 14–69 by Vs. Ivanov (1927) has taken a notable place in the history of Soviet theater. In the adaptation of Tolstoy’s Resurrection (1930), Kachalov created, in his role as the author, what K. S. Stanislavsky called “a new genre—the voice of the author, his soul” (Sobr. soch., vol. 8, 1961, p. 411).

Kachalov appeared on stage in recitations of verse and prose, as well as in literary-musical and dramatic works of his own composition. At times he played scenes with more than one character—from Julius Caesar, Hamlet, and The Lower Depths, for example. Kachalov was awarded the State Prize of the USSR (1943), two Orders of Lenin, and the Order of the Red Banner of Labor.


Efros, N. E. V. I. Kachalov. Petrograd, 1920.
Kugefl’ A. R. V. I. Kachalov. Moscow-Leningrad, 1927.
Markov, P. A. TeatraVnye portrety. Moscow-Leningrad, 1939.
Ezhegodnik MKhT za 1948 g., vol. 2 (“Pamiati V. I. Kachalova”). Moscow-Leningrad, 1951. (Bibliography.)
V. I. Kachalov. Sb. statei, vospominanii, pisem. Moscow, 1954. (Bibliography.)
Vilenkin, V. Ia. Kachalov. Moscow, 1962.
Volkov, N. D. TeatraVnye vechera. Moscow, 1966.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.