Solomon Mikhoels

Solomon (Shloyme) Mikhoels Yiddish: שלמה מיכאָעלס; Russian: Соломон Михайлович Михоэлс (Вовси) (16 March [O.S. 4 March] 1890 – January 12/13, 1948) was a Soviet Jewish actor and the artistic director of the Moscow State Jewish Theater. Mikhoels served as the chairman of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee during the Second World War. However, as Joseph Stalin pursued an increasingly anti-Semitic line after the War, Mikhoels' position as a leader of the Jewish community led to increasing persecution from the Soviet state. In 1948, Mikhoels was murdered on the orders of Stalin and his body was run over to create the impression of a traffic accident.[1]



Born Shloyme Vovsi in Dvinsk (now Daugavpils, Latvia), Mikhoels studied law in Saint Petersburg, but left school in 1918 to join Alexander Granovsky's Jewish Theater Workshop, which was attempting to create a national Jewish theater in Russia based on the Yiddish language. Two years later, in 1920, the workshop moved to Moscow, where it established the Moscow State Jewish Theater. This was in keeping with Vladimir Lenin's policy on nationalities, which encouraged them to pursue and develop their own cultures under the aegis of the Soviet state.

Theatrical career

Mikhoels, who showed outstanding talent, was the company's leading actor and, as of 1928, its director. He played in several memorable roles, including Tevye in an adaptation of Sholom Aleichem's comic short stories about Tevye the Milkman (which were adapted for an American audience as Fiddler on the Roof) as well as in many original works, such as Bar Kochba, and translations. Perhaps his most noted role was as King Lear in a Yiddish translation of the play by William Shakespeare. These plays were ostensibly supportive of the Soviet state; however, historian Jeffrey Veidlinger has argued that closer readings suggest they actually contained veiled critiques of Stalin's regime and assertions of Jewish national identity. It is now believed that the Ukrainian director Les Kurbas contributed to the original King Lear production after he was ousted from his Berezil theater in 1934. He seems to have had a lasting influence on Mikhoel's directing style.

Anti-fascist activities and assassination

By the mid-1930s, Mikhoels' career was threatened because of his association with other leading intelligentsia, who were victims of Stalin's purges. Mikhoels actively supported Stalin against Adolf Hitler, and in 1942, he was made chairman of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee. In this capacity, he travelled around the world, meeting with Jewish communities to encourage them to support the Soviet Union in its war against Nazi Germany.

While this was useful to Stalin during World War II, after the war, Stalin opposed contacts between Soviet Jews and Jewish communities in non-Communist countries, which he deemed as "bourgeoisie". The Jewish State Theater was closed and the members of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee were arrested – all except for two were eventually executed in the purges shortly before Stalin's death.

Mikhoels was the most visible of the intellectual Jewish leadership, and a show trial would have cast aspersions on Stalin's rule. Thus in January 1948, he was assassinated on Stalin's personal orders in Minsk.[2] His death was disguised as a hit-and-run car accident. Mikhoels received a state funeral and was buried at the Donskoy Monastery in Moscow. According to documents unearthed by the historian Gennady Kostyrchenko, the organizers of the assassination were L.M. Tsanava, S. Ogoltsov and Pavel Sudoplatov on the pretext that he was an "American spy", and the "direct" murderers were Lebedev, Kruglov and Shubnyakov.[3] Mikhoels was bludgeoned to death along with his non-Jewish colleague Golubov-Potapov and their bodies were dumped on a road-side in Minsk [4] and run over by a truck. He was eventually buried in the New Donskoy Cemetery in Moscow.


Mikhoels was married to Anastasia Pototskaya (Анастасия Павловна Потоцкая), a Russian of Polish descent. He had two daughters from his first marriage to Sara Kantor (Сара Львовна Кантор), Nina and Natalya Vovsi.

Mikhoels' cousin Miron Vovsi was Stalin's personal physician. He was arrested during the Doctors' plot affair but released after Stalin's death in 1953, as was his son-in-law, the composer Mieczyslaw Weinberg. In 1983, Mikhoel's daughter, Natalia Vovsi-Mikoels, wrote a biography of her father in Hebrew: My Father Shlomo Mikhoels: The Life and Death of a Jewish Actor.[1]


A large international cultural center in Moscow is named after him.[1]


External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Solomon Mikhoels — fue un actor y director en el teatro Yiddish. Era judío y nació en marzo de 1890 en Daugavpils y murió el 12 o 13 de enero de 1948 …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Solomon Mikhoels — | Monument commémoratif à Daugavpils, ville de naissance de Solomon Mikhoels Solomon (Shloyme) Mikhoels (en yiddish : שלמה מיכאָעלס, en russe : Соломон Михайлович Михоэлс, de son vrai nom : Vovsi ; 16 mars 1890 …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Solomon Mikhoels — Archivo:Mikhoels at JAC meeting.jpg Mikhoels en una reunión del Comité Antifascista. Solomon Mikhoels (16 de marzo de 1890 12 o 13 de enero de 1948) fue un actor y director de teatro yiddish en la Unión Soviética. De ascendencia judía, nació en… …   Wikipedia Español

  • Solomon Mikhoels — Solomon Michailowitsch Michoels Solomon Michailowitsch Michoels (russisch Соломон Михайлович Михоэлс, geboren als Schiloma Wowsi, * 4. März 1890 in Dwinsk, heute Daugavpils, Lettland; † 12. Januar/13. Januar 1948 in Minsk …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • MIKHOELS, SOLOMON — (stage and public name of Solomon Vovsi; 1890–1948), Yiddish actor; head of the Moscow State Jewish Theater; chairman of the jewish anti fascist committee . Born in Dvinsk (today Daugavpils, Latvia), Mikhoels studied law at St. Petersburg. In… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • Solomon Bregman — (in Russian, Соломон Брегман)(1895 mdash;1953) was a prominent member of the Jewish Anti Fascist Committee formed in the Soviet Union in April 1942. The committee was led by the famous Yiddish actor Solomon Mikhoels. Bregman was born in the town… …   Wikipedia

  • Mikhoels, Solomon Mikhailovich — (1890–1948)    The greatest Yiddish actor of his generation, Mikhoels was used by the Soviet regime to raise funds and popular support in the United States during World War II. Following the war, Mikhoels and his colleagues in the Jewish theater… …   Historical dictionary of Russian and Soviet Intelligence

  • Mikhoels, Solomon (Solomon Vovsi) — (1890–1948)    Russian Yiddish actor. Mikhoels was the leading actor and from 1928 director of the State Jewish Theatre in Moscow. Among his famous roles were SHALOM ALEICHEM’S Tevye the Dairyman, and King Lear in Yiddish. From 1941–3 he headed… …   Who’s Who in Jewish History after the period of the Old Testament

  • Mikhoels, Solomon — (1890 1948)    Russian Yiddish actor. He was born in Dvinsk. He became the chief actor in Alexander Granovsky s drama group, and later succeeded him to the directorship of the Jewish State Theatre in Moscow. During World War II he visited western …   Dictionary of Jewish Biography

  • Mikhoels, Solomon — (1890–1948)    See Jewish Anti Fascist Committee; Stalin, Joseph Vissarionovich …   Historical dictionary of the Holocaust

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