Vasili Vasilyevich Merkuryev (Russian: Васи́лий Васи́льевич Мерку́рьев; 6 April 1904 – 12 May 1978 [1]) was a Soviet actor, stage director and drama teacher. He was named People's Artist of the USSR in 1960.

Vasili Merkuryev
Васи́лий Мерку́рьев
Vasily Vasilyevich Merkuryev (2).jpg
Born(1904-04-06)6 April 1904
Died12 May 1978(1978-05-12) (aged 74)
Leningrad, USSR, Russia
Resting placeVolkovo Cemetery
Saint Petersburg, Russia
EducationSaint Petersburg State Theatre Arts Academy
Years active1935-1974
Spouse(s)Irina Meyerhold
(1933-1978; his death)
ChildrenPyotr Merkurev


Vasili Merkuryev was born in 1904 into a mixed Russian-German family. His father Vasily Ilyich Merkuryev was a Russian laborer turned a merchant. He ran a successful business selling tar and fish. His mother Anna Ivanovna Grossen was of German descent. She emigrated from Switzerland along with her brother Heinrich. Vasili was the fourth of their six sons.

He was raised in his native town of Ostrov and became an actor of the local theater at the age of 16. In 1921 he moved to Petrograd and entered the Saint Petersburg State Theatre Arts Academy which he finished in 1926. He later returned to the academy to work as a teacher and became a professor in 1961. Between 1926 and 1937 Merkuryev had worked in five different drama theaters, all based in Leningrad. In 1937 he entered the Alexandrinsky Theatre where he served till his death, both as an actor and stage director.

He turned to cinema in 1924 and played a small part in the 9 January propaganda movie. His next role happened only 10 years later in a social drama Engineer Gof (also known as Land Ahead) directed by Rashel Milman. Although he played the main part, the movie turned unsuccessful. He met Irina Meyerhold during the filming process and married her.

Between 1935 and 1974 Merkuryev appeared in 58 films. He is mostly remembered for his comedy roles in movies such as True Friends (1954), Heavenly Slug (1945) and Cinderella (1947). He also played one of the main parts in the war drama The Cranes Are Flying directed by Mikhail Kalatozov that won the Palme d'Or at the 1958 Cannes Film Festival.[2]

He continued his theater and movie career when the war started. During the evacuation he served as a director of the Narym Theater (1942-1944), as well as a director of the Novosibirsk Youth Theatre in 1944-1945.

Vasili Merkuryev died on 12 May 1978 in Leningrad. He was buried in the Volkovo Cemetery.


Vasili Merkuryev was married to Irina Meyerhold an actress, daughter of the acclaimed Russian/Soviet stage director Vsevolod Meyerhold, also of German descent. Together they had two daughters (Anna and Ekaterina) and one son Pyotr Merkuryev (1943—2010), who also became a prominent Soviet/Russian actor and musicologist.

Merkuryev had five brothers, each of them lived a very different and tragic life.

  • Leonid (1896—1915) was killed during World War I.
  • Alexandr (1898—1942) lived in Leningrad and starved to death during the Leningrad Blockade.
  • Yevgeni (1900) was a Russian composer and conductor who left Russia after the October Revolution with his German uncle and was never heard from ever again.
  • Pyotr (1906—1940) was arrested in 1939 during the Stalinist repressions and died in prison. His children Vitaly, Yevgeni and Natalia - were adopted by Vasili. He also named his own son in the memory of his brother. Yevgeni Merkuryev (1936—2007) became a famous Soviet/Russian actor as well.
  • Vladimir died at the age of 9.

During the war Vasili Merkuryev also adopted two children who had lost their parents. They had lived with him up till 1947 when their mother was found. By that time Merkuryev's family consisted of 14 people.

Selected filmographyEdit


  1. ^ Могила Василия Меркурьева
  2. ^ "Festival de Cannes: The Cranes are Flying". Retrieved 10 February 2009.

External linksEdit