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Maria Ivanovna Babanova (Russian: Мария Ивановна Бабанова; 11 November 1900 – 20 March 1983) was a Soviet and Russian stage and film actress. She has been described as Vsevolod Meyerhold's greatest actress[1] and was named a People's Artist of the USSR in 1954.

Babanova made her debut in Theodore Komisarjevsky's theatre in 1919. A year later, she joined Vsevolod Meyerhold's acting courses. Described as "a small, radiant, energetic actor",[2] Babanova captivated the Moscow public in Meyerhold's production of The Magnanimous Cuckold (1922).

The three leading players, Igor Ilyinsky, Maria Babanova and Vasily Zaichikov were so in harmony they became known collectively as 'Il-Ba-Zai'.[3] Babanova was viewed as the first great actress to emerge after the October Revolution. A typical review of her acting read as follows:[4]

Today no one knows her name but tomorrow she will be hailed as the first of a new galaxy of young actresses. Actresses magically born and reared amidst an arid expanse of wooden constructions, under the piercing gaze of a spotlight on a bare stage - stripped of curtains, wings, of all the mysteries of the old theatre. Actresses who owe that theatre nothing.

Babanova's triumphs allegedly aroused the jealousy of Meyerhold's wife, Zinaida Reich. In 1927, Babanova was forced to leave Meyerhold's troupe, as major female roles went to Reich and she felt underemployed. Babanova excelled at the Mayakovsky Theatre in the roles of children and adolescents. She retired from acting in 1979 and died in 1983, aged 82.[5]

Selected filmographyEdit

  • Blue Meteorite (1971) (TV) as narrator
  • The Snow Queen (1957) as The Snow Queen (voice)
  • In a Certain Kingdom (1957) as Pike (voice)
  • Gusi-lebedi (1949) as River (voice)
  • Alisher Navoi (1947) as Gyuli (voice)
  • The Tale of Tsar Saltan (1943) as Tsarevna Swan (voice)
  • Alone (1931) as wife of the village council chairman
  • Hearts and Dollars (1924) as Jen
  • Elder Vasili Gryaznov (1924) as schismatic daughter


  1. ^ Robert Leach. Makers of Modern Theatre. Routledge, 2004, pg. 65.
  2. ^ Theatre Histories: An Introduction (ed. Phillip B. Zarrilli). Taylor / Francis, 2010. Page 382.
  3. ^ Robert Leach. Revolutionary Theatre. Routledge, 2005. Page 111.
  4. ^ Edward Braun. Meyerhold: A Revolution in Theatre. AC Black, 2013, pg. 182; ISBN 9781408148792
  5. ^ Большая российская энциклопедия

External linksEdit