Yuri Nikulin

Yuri Nikulin, one of Russia’s most popular actors with major roles in many leading Soviet comedies and melodramas of the 1960s and ’70s, died in Moscow Aug. 21. He was 76.

Nikulin underwent major surgery Aug. 5 and never fully regained consciousness.

The actor’s popularity stems from a series of comic roles he played, working most often with director Leonid Gaydai.

In roles such as Gorbunkov in “Diamond Hand” (1969) or Tikhon in “12 Stools” (1971), Nikulin added a psychological depth which surpassed the comic roles he had previously played in films like “The Y Operation” (1965) and “Lady Prisoner of the Caucasus” (1967).

It was in “The Y Operation” that Nikulin first performed with Gregory Vitsin and Yevgeny Morgunov. As a comic trio, they became famous in a number of other TV and radio roles.

Nikulin was a figure who became, by virtue of his comic genius, a part of Soviet legend. His name was known in almost every home across the country, and one musical number, from “Diamond Hand,” remains an esteemed part of Soviet (and Russian) popular culture.

His more dramatic roles include a supporting part in Tarkovsky’s “Andre Rublyev” and a powerful cameo in Roland Bykov’s 1984 perestroika precursor, “Scarecrow.”

Perhaps his greatest dramatic role, however, was as the newspaper correspondent Lopatkin in Alexei German’s “Twenty Days Without War” (1976). He starred opposite Lyudmila Gurchenko as lovers who meet briefly during a strange interlude of World War II.

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