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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a family of Russian actors.

Vasilii Mikhailovich Samoilov. Born Apr. 6 (17), 1782, in Moscow; died July 11 (23), 1839, in St. Petersburg. Performer at the St. Petersburg Bolshoi Theater from 1803 to 1839.

Samoilov performed primarily in opera, singing tenor and baritone roles; he also appeared in dramatic productions. Combining vocal development with realistic characterization, he enjoyed particular success in lyric-dramatic and heroic roles in operas by Fräntzl, C. A. Cavos, and F. Paer.

Sofia Vasil’evna Samoilova. (née Chernikova). Born 1787; died Feb. 19 (Mar. 3), 1854. Dramatic and operatic performer. Wife of Vasilii Mikhailovich Samoilov.

After graduating from a theatrical school, Samoilova made her debut on the St. Petersburg stage in 1804. She performed in opera (for example, Masha in Cavos’ Ivan Susanin) and in opera-vaudeville (for example, Ziulema in Pisarev’s Amusements of the Caliph, with music by Aliab’ev, Verstovskii, and Shol’ts). She retired from the stage in 1843.

Vasilii Vasil’evich Samoilov. Born Jan. 13 (25), 1813, in St. Petersburg; died there Mar. 27 (Apr. 8), 1887. Dramatic actor. Son of Vasilii Mikhailovich Samoilov and Sofia Vasil’evna Samoilova.

Samoilov graduated from the Cadet Mining School in 1829 and the Forestry Institute in 1832. He made his stage debut in 1834, singing the title role in the opera Joseph by Méhul. From 1835 to 1875 he performed at the Aleksandrinskii Theater.

Samoilov’s development as an actor was influenced by the naturalist school, with its interest in “physiological sketches” of the life of the common people and a sympathetic treatment of the “little man.” However, the social tendencies associated with the development of Russian stage realism at that time had only a limited influence on his work. Samoilov was more concerned with creating a realistic impression by developing the specific character traits of the people he portrayed. Samoilov developed a sharply expressive style through his use of makeup, costume, speech, and gesture. He acted with particular brilliance in roles involving several changes of costume and character, such as Makar Gubkin in Koni’s Student, Artist, Chorister, and Swindler and Struzhkin in Nekrasov’s The Actor. Also among his best roles were Rastakovskii in Gogol’s The Inspector-General, Cromwell in Meris’s Georges Trevor, Cromwell in Raupach’s Cromwell and The Death of Cromwell, and Cardinal Richelieu in Bourgeois and Lescoin’s Seraphina Laphaile and in Bulwer-Lytton’s Richelieu. Samoilov also appeared in plays by Shakespeare (for example, the title role in King Lear) and A. N. Os-trovskii, but his performances in these demanding works were little more than melodramatic psychological portrayals coupled with close attention to ethnographic detail. His style was more suited to roles in the contemporary popular repertoire, which he regarded as little more than an opportunity to display his acting skills.

Vera Vasil’evna Samoilova. Born 1824 in St. Petersburg; died there Nov. 8 (20), 1880. Dramatic actress. Daughter of Vasilii Mikhailovich Samoilov and Sofia Vasil’evna Samoilova.

During the years 1841–53, Samoilova acted at the Aleksandrinskii Theater. She performed with artistry, grace, and lightness in lyric-dramatic and comedic roles, such as Olga in Efimovich’s Vladimir Zaverskii and Elmira in Molière’s Tartuffe. She was a master of the art of dialogue and could convey an author’s style with great subtlety. I. S. Turgenev, who highly esteemed her work, wrote two comedies for her: Where It’s Thin, It Tears and A Provincial Lady.

Nadezhda Vasil’evna Samoilova. Born Jan. 6 (18), 1818, in St. Petersburg; died there Mar. 18 (30), 1899. Dramatic actress. Daughter of Vasilii Mikhailovich Samoilov and Sof’ia Vasil’evna Samoilova.

During the period 1838–59, Samoilova acted at the Aleksandrinskii Theater, playing ingenue roles in vaudevilles.

Pavel VasiVevich Samoilov. Born June 29 (July 11), 1866, in St. Petersburg; died Apr. 16, 1931, in Leningrad. Dramatic actor. Honored Artist of the Republic (1923). Son of Vasilii Vasil’-evich Samoilov.

Samoilov began his stage career in St. Petersburg in 1888. He subsequently appeared in the provinces in the troupes of M. M. Borodai and others, at the Korsh’ Theater in Moscow (1891– 93), and at Kommissarzhevskaia’s Theater in St. Petersburg (1904–05). From 1900 to 1904 and from 1920 to 1924, he was a member of the troupe of the former Aleksandrinskii Theater. Samoilov excelled at portraying troubled heroes, tragically aware of their inability to realize their ideals. Such roles included the title role in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Chatskii in Griboedov’s Woe From Wit, Astrov in Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya, Storitsyn in Andreev’s Professor Storitsyn, and Oswald in Ibsen’s Ghosts. Samoilov’s artistry took on new dimensions during the Soviet period, exemplified by his role as the communist worker in Lunacharskii’s The Chancellor and the Locksmith.


Berezark, I. B. V. V. Samoilov. Leningrad, 1948.
Al’tshuller, A. Ia. Teatr proslavlennykh masterov. Leningrad, 1968.
Danilov, S. S., and M. G. Portugalova. Russkii dramaticheskii teatr XIX v., vol. 2. Leningrad, 1974.


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