Natalya Gundareva, one of Russia’s most popular actresses of the last three decades, died in Moscow May 15 of complications from a stroke four years earlier. She was 56.

She was voted Best Actress of the Year by readers of “Soviet Screen” magazine four times during her career.

After gaining acclaim for her early theater roles, she brought energy and emotional freshness to her role in the 1973 film “Hello and Goodbye,” followed by Andrei Smirnov’s “Autumn” two years later.

Recognition came fast after 1976’s “A Sweet Woman”: over the two years of 1977-78, Gundareva appeared in three films for Mosfilm, two at Lenfilm, one at Belarusfilm, as well as five television series. Later highlights included Georgy Daneliya’s “Autumn Marathon” from 1979, and “Once 20 Years On” two years later, where she played a a mother of more than 10 children) with a particular poignancy, as well as appearances in work from directors like Eldar Ryazanov (“Say a Word for Poor Cavalrymen,” 1980) and Karen Shakhnazarov (“Winter Evening in Gagry,” 1985). Gundareva continued to work in film — and more often television — throughout the 1990s.

Highlights from her theater work included the title role in “Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk.”

— Tom Birchenough