Olga Knipper-Chekhova

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Knipper-Chekhova, Ol’ga Leonardovna


Born Sept. 9 (21), 1868, in Glazov, in present-day Udmurt ASSR; died Mar. 22, 1959, in Moscow. Soviet Russian actress. People’s Artist of the USSR (1937). The wife of A. P. Chekhov.

Knipper-Chekhova was the daughter of an engineer. Upon graduation from the drama division of the School of Music and Drama of the Moscow Philharmonic Society in 1898, where she had been a pupil of V. I. Nemirovich-Danchenko, she was accepted into the company of the newly founded Moscow Art Theater. In the theater’s first production, A. K. Tolstoy’s Tsar Fedor Ioannovich, she played the part of Tsarina Irina. Despite the unique individuality of her artistic style, Knipper-Chekhova was an extremely versatile actress. She was capable of conveying both subtle lyricism and deeply hidden passion. She was able to capture the essence of a character and had the ability to project a bizarre image.

Knipper-Chekhova was the first to create the Chekhovian women, portraying the “charming vulgarian” (Nemirovich-Danchenko’s definition) Arkadina in The Sea Gull (1898), the spiritually passive Elena Andreevna in Uncle Vanya (1899), the infatuated Masha in The Three Sisters (1901), the lyrical-comical Ranevskaia in The Cherry Orchard (1901), and the tragic Sarra in Ivanov (1901). Her portrayals of such characters as Elena in Gorky’s Smug Citizens (1902), Anna Mahr in Hauptmann’s Ein-same Menschen (1899), and Maia in Ibsen’s When We Dead Awaken (1900) were imbued with an optimistic love of life, a spirit of rebelliousness, and emotional fortitude. Her portrayal of Nastia in Gorky’s The Lower Depths (1902) was socially expressive and filled with transitions from a comical to a highly dramatic spirit. Her roles from the classical comical repertoire included the Countess-Granddaughter in Griboedov’s Woe From Wit (1906), Anna Andreevna in Gogol’s The Inspector-General (1908), and Belina in Molière’s Le Malade imaginaire (1913). Her portrayal of Natal’ia Petrovna in Turgenev’s A Month in the Country (1909) was marked by particular elegance. In the Soviet period she played, in satirical manner, Mariia Aleksandrovna in an adaptation of Dostoevsky’s Uncle’s Dream (1929), Countess Charskaia in an adaptation of L. N. Tolstoy’s Resurrection (1930), and Polina Bardina in Gorky’s The Enemies (1935).

A recipient of the State Prize of the USSR in 1943, Knipper-Chekhova was awarded two Orders of Lenin and two other orders.


Perepiska A. P. Chekhova s O. L. Knipper, vols. 1–2. Moscow, 1934–36.
Shchepkina-Kupernik, T. L. “O. L. Knipper-Chekhova v roliakh p’es A. P. Chekhova.” In Ezhegodnik Moskovskogo Khudozhestvennogo teatra: 1945, vol. 1. Moscow-Leningrad, 1948.
Giatsintova, S. V. “Ol’ga Leonardovna Knipper-Chekhova: Iz rannikh vospominanii.” In Ezhegodnik Moskovskogo Khudozhestvennogo teatra: 1945, vol. 1. Moscow-Leningrad, 1948.
Turovskaia, M. O. L. Knipper-Chekhova: 1868–1959. Moscow, 1959.
Ol’ga Leonardovna Knipper-Chekhova. (Vospominaniia i perepiska), parts 1–2. Moscow, 1972.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
At that time, she was taken with another young girl to meet Olga Knipper-Chekhova, to give her flowers on her 90th birthday.