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Prominent Russians: Inna Churikova

Born 5 October, 1943
Inna Churikova (Photo from Inna Churikova (Photo from

“In spite of the fact that horrors prevail on television, I still believe in man. Nobody can make me change my mind. It is essential for man to unfold, because one has much Divine inside. This is what I do believe in. May be this is the most important thing?” Inna Churikova.

Inna Churikova is an outstanding Russian movie and theatre actress, and her films are extremely popular in Russia. She created a gallery of remarkable female portraits. Her characters are usually not beautiful, but highly spiritual women. No other actress besides her could be so nonchalant about looking ugly or funny while appearing on the silver screen. Inna Churikova's plain looks and wide-eyed demeanor often obscure the fact that she is a film star of the highest stature. Churikova's unique presence in Soviet cinema has done much to strengthen the self-esteem of ordinary women. Churikova charms the audience with her brilliant acting, inner harmony and purity. She was given a 30-minute ovation at the 1990 Cannes Film Festival for her title role in “Mother”, directed by her husband Gleb Panfilov. Churikova is unforgettable and brilliant in comedies and tragedies alike. Churikova specializes in playing ordinary women who have to make extraordinary decisions, a talent which is very much admired to this day. 


Inna Mikhailovna Churikova was born in the town of Belebey, near Ufa, in what is now the Russian Republic of Bashkortostan.  Born to a peasant family, from an early age Inna dreamed of becoming the greatest actress of all time. Though her father, Mikhail Kuzmich Churikov, worked at the Academy of Agriculture and her mother, Elisaveta Zakharovna, was a Professor of Biochemistry, they supported their daughter in all her endeavors. In the early 1950s her mother and Inna moved to Moscow. Inna still was bent on becoming an actress. She studied at the drama studio attached to the Stanislavsky Theatre while enrolled in school. After finishing her studies, Inna attempted to enter the Shchukin Drama School she was so desperate attend, but failed. The teachers did not take kindly to her unconventional appearance.

Кадр из фильма  Морозко Marfusha in Father Frost, 1964

Finally the examiners at the Schepkin School of Theatre took pity on her. Churikova said she wanted to become a great actress before bursting into tears, touching everyone with her earnestness in the process.

Birth of a star

From 1960 - 1965 she attended the Schepkin Theatrical School at Maly Theatre, graduating in 1965 as an actress.

Her creative character and eagerness for acting led her onto the screen during her first year at the Shchepkin Drama School. Her debut was an episodic role in “Clouds Over Borsk” in 1960. Later she made a bright appearance episode in the comedy “Walking the streets of Moscow” in 1963. After graduating from the Schepkin Drama School in 1965, for years Inna Churikova was not able to find a better stage job than playing Baba Yaga at the Moscow Theatre of Young Spectators. At the same time she did several supporting episodic movie roles, including the mean, ugly girl Marfusha in the famous fairy tale movie “Father Frost” in 1964. She also made unforgettable appearances in “The Cook” in 1965 and “Elder Sister” in 1966. 

Кадр из фильма  В огне брода нет No Path Through Fire, 1967

In 1968 Gleb Panfilov – her future husband – invited Inna Churikova to star in his debut film, the war drama “No Path Through Fire” in 1967. The film can be considered the true professional debut of the actress, revealing her undeniable and enormous talent. After her first big success, Inna Churikova left the stage to work in cinema only, devoting her entire life to Gleb Panfilov. For more than two decades Churikova worked almost exclusively with Panfilov. Their next film “The Debut” in 1970 was a triumph again. This remarkable story of personal growth and artistic ambition is one of Churikova's best roles. Both the director and the actress saw “The Debut” as a preparatory stage for the epic film about the heroic Joan of Arc, and wanted to start producing it as soon as possible. Unfortunately the permit for filming was postponed for many years until the cinema authorities finally decided to reject the project once and for all. The 1980s for Churikova and Panfilov were a time of literary adaptations: two based on Maxim Gorky's works, and one on Shakespeare. The pre-revolutionary melodrama “Vassa” in 1983 focused on yet another strong character, the shipyard owner Vassa Zheleznova, and her family tragedy. Panfilov's adaptation was acclaimed at Cannes, at the European Film Awards, and won several of the newly established Russian “Nika” awards. 


“The queen of stage” (Mark Zakharov, the artistic director of “Lenkom” theater)

Сцена из спектакля «Гамлет». Фото из архива театра. Hamlet play, photo from the theatre archives

In 1973 the famous movie and theatre director Mark Zakharov invited Inna Churikova to play at the Lenkom Theatre, marking her return to the stage. Since 1974 Inna Churikova has been a member of the troupe at Lenkom Theatre in Moscow under the directorship of Mark Zakharov.

Her theatre roles such as Arkadina in Anton Chekhov’s “Seagull”, the Grandma in “Barbara and a Heretic” and Dostoyevsky’s “Gambler”, Philumen Marturano in Eduardo de Filippo’s “City of Millionaires”, and many others further solidified her reputation. In the two productions of Hamlet, staged in the LENKOM Theatre (the first one directed by Andrey Tarkovsky (the famous Russian director) and the second one by Gleb Panfilov) Inna Churikova played Ophelia and Gertrude. Inna Churikova successfully played in a number of non-repertory productions. For over 10 years now, the stage plays “Sorry” and “Lamb” by Gleb Panfilov have packed theatres in both Russia and abroad.

“What is life? It is a history, which you write by yourself, it is like nothing on Earth. Every actor should be able to fall into a character, that’s why it is always interesting to read and to know the stories of other people.”-  Churikova.

Along with working in the theatre, the actress continued performing in a variety of films under different directors. The most remarkable of them are “That Munchhausen”, a 1979 classic written by Grigory Gorin (the famous Russian writer) and directed by Mark Zakharov, “War-Time Romance” in 1983 by Pyotr Todorovsky, and “Ryaba My Chicken” in 1994 by Andrey Konchalovsky. It was nominated for a Golden Palm at the 1994 Cannes film festival.  “War-Time Romance” revolved around the post-war traumatic encounter between a former front-line officer, now happily married, and a former field nurse who was forced to face the harsh realities of life. The film was nominated for an Oscar for best foreign film. In 1984 Churikova won the Silver Bear for Best Actress at the Berlin Film Festival for the leading role as

В спектакле  Аквитанская львица  в роли Алиеноры Аквитанской,
королевы, жены Генриха II (Photo from CHurikova as Eleanor of Aquitaine, Henry II's wife in The Lion in Winter play (Photo from

Vera in “War-Time Romance”. The actress, along with her husband and son, wrote the script for the historical feature “The Romanovs: An Imperial Family” in 2000. For the first time she does not appear on screen, but dubs the English actress Linda Bellingham, starring as the tsarina Aleksandra Fyodorovna.

Churikova was designated the Peoples Artist of the USSR 1991 and the People's Artist of Russia. She also received the State Prize from Russia in 1985 and the Stanislavsky Prize for her contribution to theatre and film. She currently resides in Moscow with her husband.

Written by Tatiana Klevantseva for RT

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