Nikolai Pavlovich Khmelev

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Khmelev, Nikolai Pavlovich


Born July 28 (Aug. 10), 1901, in Sormovo; died Nov. 1, 1945, in Moscow. Soviet Russian actor. People’s Artist of the USSR (1937). Member of the CPSU from 1941.

In 1919, Khmelev began to perform with the second studio of the Moscow Art Theater, and in 1924 he joined the company of the main theater, now renamed the Moscow Art Academic Theater (MKhAT). He was a student of K. S. Stanislavsky and V. I. Nemirovich-Danchenko. Khmelev combined realistic and detailed characterization with profound romanticism. He portrayed characters of various social classes with exceptional accuracy. The philosophical depth of his interpretations, as well as expressiveness of speech and gesture, lent a special quality to his acting.

In 1927, Khmelev became one of the first to undertake the role of the Communist Peklevanov in Vs. Ivanov’s Armored Train14–69. With penetrating force he embodied the roles of the prosecutor Nikolai Skrobotov in Gorky’s Enemies, Karenin in the dramatization of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, and Storozhev in Vir-ta’s Land. At the same time, he expressed gentle charm and intellectual subtlety as Tuzenbakh in Chekhov’s The Three Sisters and the title role in A. K. Tolstoy’s Tsar Fedor Ioannovich. Khmelev was capable of biting satire as well as gentle, lyrical humor, expressed most vividly in the role of Silan in Ostrovskii’s Fiery Heart.

Khmelev performed the role of Prince K. in Uncle’s Dream (based on Dostoevsky’s novella) as a psychological grotesque. He gave a psychologically truthful and accurate interpretation of the White officer Aleksei Turbin in Bulgakov’s Days of the Turbins. Khmelev reached the zenith of his power as a tragedian in his last creation, the role of Ivan the Terrible in A. N. Tolstoy’s The Difficult Years. A representative of the second generation of the MKhAT, he gave brilliant expression to the method of socialist realism and was one of the outstanding group of master actors who brought world fame to the Soviet theater.

Khmelev also worked as a director and teacher, taking part in the staging of a number of MKhAT productions. He was one of the founders of the Theater Studio (1932), which merged with the Moscow Ermolova Theater in 1937. He headed the theater from 1937 to 1945 and directed its productions of Ostrovskii’s Not a Penny, and Suddenly an Altyn (1934; with E. S. Teleshova), Shakespeare’s As You Like It (1940; with M. O. Knebel’), and Gorky’s Children of the Sun (1944; with M. O. Knebel’). He also acted in films, including Generation of Conquerors (1936) and The Man in a Case (1939).

Khmelev was awarded the State Prize of the USSR (1941, 1942, 1946), the Order of the Red Banner of Labor, and several medals.


Markov, P. A. “Khmelev.” In his Teatral’nye portrety: Sb. statei. Moscow-Leningrad, 1939.
Novitskii, P. A. “Khmelev.” In his Obrazy akterov. Moscow, 1941.
Novitskii, P. A. Khmelev. Moscow, 1964.
Ezhegodnik MKhAT, 1945, vol. 2: “Pamiati N. P. Khmeleva.” Moscow-Leningrad, 1948.
Komissarzhevskii, V. G. Khmelev za rezhisserskim stolom. Moscow, 1956.


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