Arkady Raikin - biography
Arkady Isaakovich Raikin (Latvian: Arkādijs Raikins; Russian: Аркадий Исаакович Райкин) (October 24 [O.S. October 10] 1911, Riga, Latvia, Russian Empire – December 17, 1987, Moscow, USSR) was a Soviet stand up comedian. He led the school of Soviet and Russian humorists for about half a century.
Raikin was born into a Jewish family in Riga (today's Latvia), then part of Russian Empire. He graduated from the Leningrad Theatrical Technicum in 1935 and worked in both state theatres and variety shows. In 1939, he founded his own theatre in Leningrad where he used skits and impersonations to ridicule the inefficiency of Communist bureaucracy and the Soviet way of life. In the Stalinist police state this was prone to danger, as it was not uncommon to get purged not only for telling a casual joke, but even for not reporting it to the authorities.
Raikin was the creator of a whole array of unforgettable satirical characters, and a living legend of his time and his country. Some of the brilliant satirical and lyrical images created by Raikin acquired their second life in the serial TV film People and Mannequins.
His fame in the Soviet Union, and throughout Central and Eastern Europe, was such that he was invited to participate in the opening night of BBC Two television in 1964, although the broadcast had to be postponed for one day due to a power failure. He also appeared in several comedies during and after World War II. His trip to London for the BBC broadcast—during which he was reunited with his British cousin, distinguished pianist Bruno Raikin—marked the first of only two times when the Soviet government permitted him to perform in the West.
Three years before his death, Raikin finally moved to Moscow, where he opened the Satyricon Theatre, now run by his son Konstantin Raikin, also an acclaimed actor. His wife, Roma, played a major role in guiding his career, and his daughter, Ekaterina, also had a successful career as a Moscow actress. For a month during the summer before his death, Raikin hosted his American cousin, Washington D.C. attorney Steven Raikin, as a guest at his family's Moscow flat. Shortly thereafter, the Soviet Ministry of Culture finally permitted Raikin to visit the United States, where, with his son and daughter, he gave emotional farewell performances in several cities to adoring audiences of Russian emigres.
Raikin was awarded the title of People's Artist of the USSR in 1968, the Lenin Prize in 1980, and the Hero of Socialist Labour award in 1981.