MIL OSI Translation. Region: Russian Federation –
About the life of the great actor before the appearance of theater and cinema in it, about how he almost died twice and why he received one of the medals half a century late.
The first association with the phrase “Innokenty Smoktunovsky’s awards” is, of course, theater and cinema. The actor has collected a lot of prizes and titles for his life: People’s Artist of the USSR, Honored Art Worker of Slovakia, Lenin Prize laureate for playing the title role in the film “Hamlet”, diploma winner and winner of international film festivals in San Sebastian, Cartagena, Panama, Venice … But before Smoktunovsky played his main roles, thanks to which he was recognized and loved by the audience not only in the USSR, but also in many countries of the world, he had a completely different life. Innokenty Mikhailovich’s youth fell on the Great Patriotic War. This is reminded by two medals “For Courage”, kept today in the Moscow Victory Museum.
Private Smoktunovich. First medal
An 18-year-old resident of Krasnoyarsk, Innokentiy Smoktunovich (the real name of Smoktunovsky) was drafted into the Red Army in January 1943. He was enrolled in the Kiev Infantry School, which was at that time in Achinsk. However, already in August of the same year, they were urgently sent without assigning an officer rank to a private in the 75th Guards Rifle Division to the Kursk Bulge.
The future artist participated in the crossing of the Dnieper, during this operation he received his first award – the medal “For Courage”. He, along with another soldier, was instructed to deliver important documents to the headquarters, located on an island in the middle of the Dnieper. The river had to be forded – and this despite the fact that the enemy knew perfectly well the location of the headquarters and shot through the crossing. Two couriers had already been killed the day before. This is how Smoktunovsky later recalled this:
“This idea was doomed, everyone understood it. My partner, as soon as he entered the water, was wounded and could not keep close to me. I had to leave, try to break through the firing zone … Somewhere in the middle of the channel, choking, barely managing to grab the air before going under the water again, looking back, I saw how he, strangely throwing his arms, sideways, like stumbled or drunk, fell heavily into the water, floundered, got up and again fell on his side … “
On October 19, 1943, Private Innokenty Mikhailovich Smoktunovich, a liaison officer of the guard regiment, was awarded the medal “For Courage”. More precisely, on that day, a corresponding order was issued, and the medal was awarded to him later – after almost half a century, because the award list was lost. In 1991, at the request of the division’s veterans and on the basis of data from the Central Archives of the USSR Ministry of Defense, justice was restored. The award ceremony took place on the stage of the Moscow Art Theater named after A.P. Chekhov after the play “Cabal of the holy man”, in which Smoktunovsky played the role of King Louis XIV.
Second medal. Sergeant Smoktunovich
In December 1943, Innokenty Smoktunovich was captured. He passed through the prisoner of war camps in Zhitomir, Shepetovka, Berdichev. On January 7, 1944, he miraculously managed to escape. Completely exhausted, almost dying, he made his way to the village, knocked on the first house he came across, and lost consciousness. Risking her life and the lives of her children, the Ukrainian peasant woman Vasilisa Shevchuk left him. The actor kept in touch with her family for the rest of his life. In the house of his savior, he met the deputy commander of the partisan detachment of the Kamenets-Podolsk formation and in February 1944 he began to beat the enemy as part of the Lenin partisan detachment.
When the front line approached the village, the detachment joined the regular units of the Red Army. With the rank of junior sergeant, Smoktunovsky commanded a company of machine gunners in the 318th Guards Rifle Regiment. Participated in the liberation of Warsaw. In the battles during the breakthrough of the enemy’s defenses in the area of the village of Lortzen on January 14, 1945, his squad was one of the first to burst into the enemy’s trenches, destroying about twenty people. For this he was re-awarded the Medal For Courage. He ended the war in German Grevesmühlen.
Innokenty Smoktunovsky passed away in 1994. After his death, both medals “For Courage” and one certificate preserved in the family were donated to the Victory Museum by his daughter Maria Smoktunovskaya.
The front-line actor almost did not appear in films about the Great Patriotic War. The only exceptions are the films They Fought for the Motherland (1975) by Sergei Bondarchuk and Soldiers (1956) by Alexander Ivanov. The role of Lieutenant Farber, romantic and intellectual, in “Soldiers” was one of the first creative successes of the actor.
The artistic director of the Leningrad Bolshoi Drama Theater Georgy Tovstonogov liked his Farber so much that he almost without hesitation invited the little-known actor to play the lead role in the play The Idiot, which he was working on then. Prince Myshkin Smoktunovsky played in such a way that both the strict master, theatrical critics and ordinary spectators were amazed. After the premiere on December 31, 1957, the actor woke up famous – he was called a genius. The offers of leading roles from the leading filmmakers of the country showered down. Life was divided into before and after.
His small but unforgettable cameo in the first part of Vladimir Menshov’s film “Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears” illustrates the period of his life before this significant role. Heroines Vera Alentova and Irina Muravyova stand in a crowd of onlookers welcoming the artists at the opening of the film festival. One of the girls calls out to a man who is modestly walking up the stairs: “Are you also an actor? What’s your last name?” To which he replies slightly irritated: “My name will not tell you anything. Smoktunovsky. Well?”
Thoughts about his own solvency then really interested him very much. Smoktunovsky chose the acting path as a teenager, in 1939, at the age of 14, for the first time, having visited the drama theater of his native Krasnoyarsk. When his father went to the front, the care of the family fell on his shoulders. He worked in a military unit located in Krasnoyarsk and a hospital attached to it, and in his free time he went to the theater – in the same year he joined the troupe as an extra. Demobilized in 1945, he returned to Krasnoyarsk, graduated from a studio at the local drama theater, later played in theaters in Norilsk, Grozny, Makhachkala, Stalingrad (now Volgograd). From Stalingrad in early 1955, Smoktunovsky went to Moscow on the advice of the acting couple Leonid and Rimma Markov, who highly appreciated his talent.
“If you don’t hear about me in five years, I’ll do something else,” with these words the actor, by his own admission, said goodbye to his Stalingrad friends. He coped with his prescription ahead of schedule. The audience began to come to the performances with his participation from different parts of the country a little less than two years later.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is a translation. Apologies should the grammar and or sentence structure not be perfect.