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1783

JULY 1

This day is considered the fonding date of The Mariinsky Opera and Ballet Theatre (called the Kirov Theatre in Soviet tunes), one of the best theatres in the world. Its history dates to 1783, when the Big (or Stone) Theatre, designed by Antonio Rinaldi, was opened in St. Petersburg's Theatre Square. The building was later handed over to the St. Petersburg Conservatory. The present Martinsky Theatre building, at the opposite side of Theatre Square, was constructed on the location of the former Circus, which burned down. The new building, designed by Alberto Cavos, was opened in 1860 and named the Martinsky after Emperor Alexander's II wife, Maria Fyodorovna. Since then, the building has been reconstructed many times.

1943

JULY 5

The Battle of Kursk started 60 years ago on this day. It was a turning point in WWII that reversed the previous pattern of successful German offensives. The battle began with the Ninth Army, under General Kluge attacking from the North and the Fourth Panzer Army, under Manstein attacking from the South. On July 12, the Russians launched a counteroffensive in the North against Orel and, by July 23, the Germans were thrown back. The battle is known as the greatest tank battle of the war and involved 2 million men, 6,000 tanks, and 4,000 aircraft.

1863

JULY 7

Vladimir Durov, animal trainer, clown, artist, writer, sculptor and scientist was born nit this day 140 years ago. Vladimir and his brother Anatoly started the country's greatest dynasty of animal trainers, kept alive today by Natalya Durova, who runs the Durov Animal Theatre. Durov loathed cruelty to animals and shunned traditional circus training methods, choosing to enhance his animals' natural behavior on stage and coax them to perform by handing out rewards, rather than punishments. Durov will be covered in more detail in a forthcoming Russian Life article on the history of the Russian circus.

1893

JULY 7

One of the 20th century's greatest poets and a founder of Russian Futurism, Vladimir Mayakovsky was born on this day. Today he is best-known for his lyrical poems (such as Cloud in Trousers, for example), but he also wrote plenty of propaganda for the Bolshevik regime, including verses, marches and children's poetry. He committed suicide (or was killed; the truth is still unknown) in Moscow on April 14, 1930.

1923 JULY 13

Mikhall Pugovkin (real name: Pugonkin), a gifted Russian actor who starred in more than 100 films, mostly comedies, turns 80 today. Among his best-known parts are those in Leonid Gaidai's Operation and Shurik's Other Adventures (1982) Ivan Vasiliyevich changes his Profession (1973) and Twelve Chairs (1971), a musical based on Ilya Ilf and Evgeny Petrov's celebrated novel of the same name.

1743 JULY 14

On this day Gavrill Derzhavin, one of the most notable poets of the 18th century (widely regarded as second in the pantheon of Russian poets, after Pushkin), as well as an influential statesman, was born, lie wrote wonderful poems about death and the fragility of being, and it is odes praising Catherine II are also well-known. But he was more titan just a court poet. In 1802, lie was appointed Catherine's Minister of Justice.

1903 JULY 15

Today is the centenary of actor Nikolal Cherkasov, one of the most prominent figures in the history of Soviet cinema and theatre. Handsome and charismatic Cherkasov starred in such epic films as Sergei Eisenstein's Alexander Nevsky (1938) and Ivan the Terrible (1944-1946) and Vladimir Petrov's Peter the First (1937-1938), Among his most famous theatrical roles are Dun Quixote, Maxim Gorky and Ivan the Terrible.

1853 JULY 15

150 years ago, actress Maria Yermolova, who became famous immediately after her first performance, was born. Yermolova played such differing roles as Laurentia in Lope de Vega's "Fuente Ovejuna" (1876), Ophelia (1878), Mary, Queen of Scots (1886) and Joan of Arc. …

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