Les Kurbas

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Kurbas, Les’


(full name, Aleksandr Stepanovich Kurbas). Born Sept. 12, 1887, in the village of Staryi Skalat, now in Ternopol’ Oblast; died Oct. 10, 1942. Soviet Ukrainian director, actor, and theater figure. People’s Artist of the Ukrainian SSR (1925).

Kurbas studied in the universities of Vienna and L’vov. He organized such troupes as the Ternopol’ Theatrical Evenings (1915), the Young Theater (1916), and Berezil’ (1922; since 1934, the T. G. Shevchenko Ukrainian Theater). His major roles included Astrov (Uncle Vania by Chekhov), Khlestakov (The Inspector-General by Gogol), Gnat (A Wretched Woman by Karpenko-Karyi), Oedipus (Oedipus Rex by Sophocles), and Macbeth (Macbeth by Shakespeare).

Kurbas, known as an innovative, inventive director, was a founder of the Soviet Ukrainian theater. His directing, first merely conventional (Oedipus Rex, 1918) and later a synthesis of the conventional and the psychological (Gaidamaki, based on the Shevchenko work, 1920; and Jimmy Higgins, based on a work by Sinclair, 1923), evolved into a philosophical style (Mikitenko’s The Dictatorship, 1930, and Kulish’s The People’s Malakhii, 1928, and Maklena Grasa, 1933). Kurbas’ methodology of directing was based on his own system of “re-created images.”

Actors and directors worked under his direction who became outstanding masters of the Ukrainian stage, including A. M. Buchma, I. A. Mar’ianenko, la. D. Bortnik, V. S. Vasil’ko, M. M. Krushel’nitskii, A. I. Serdiuk, B. F. Tiagno, and D. E. Miliutenko. He wrote several dramatizations and directed the motion pictures The Vendetta (1924), Macdonald (1924), and The Arsenal Men (1925).


Les’ Kurbas: Spohady suchasnykiv. Kiev, 1969.
Kornienko, N. “Les’ Kurbas.” Teatr, 1968, no. 4.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
See Bohdan Nebesio, "Competition from Ukraine: VUFKU and the Soviet Film Industry in the 1920s," Historical Journal of Film, Radio, and Television 29, 2 (2009): 159-80; and my "A Cesspool of Intrigues: Les Kurbas, Aleksandr Dovzhenko, and the Early Soviet Ukrainian Motion Picture Industry," Canadian Slavonic Papers 56, 1-2 (2014): 83-99.
It also highlights the contributions of the experimental work of theater director and film-maker Les Kurbas (1887-1937).
A specialist of Shakespeare reception, especially in the USSR, who is proficient in Russian and Ukrainian, Makaryk delves into a 1924 experimental modernist production of Macbeth by Les Kurbas, one of the most important Ukrainian directors, that came under attack by party officials who believed that "the foundational role of theatre should not lie in aesthetic delight but in its social significance" (30).
For the Moscow State Jewish Theatre (GOSET) Les Kurbas prepared to direct Solomon Mikhoels as Lear in 1933, and they agreed that he learns to feel what the suffering masses feel.
Tkacz--a U.S.-born scholar and translator as well as a director--has devoted her career to restoring the theatrical legacy of one of the Ukraine's prominent theatre figures, Les Kurbas. Kurbas was a theatre director who in 1922 created the Berezil, one of the most innovative and revolutionary theatres in Europe at that time, only to be crushed by the Stalinist Terror of the 1930s.
"Stalin assigned each people a role in the arts," explains Starodub, director of the Les Kurbas Centre in Kharkiv.