Famed Russian actor Yankovsky dies at 65
MOSCOW (AFP) — Oleg Yankovsky (February 23, 1944 – May 20, 2009) a popular Russian actor best known internationally for his work with dissident Soviet filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky, died of cancer Wednesday aged 65.
Yankovsky died early Wednesday morning after a long battle with the illness, said Yulia Kosereva, a spokeswoman for Moscow’s Lenkom theatre where the actor had worked since 1973.
"He had cancer. He had been fighting it for more than half a year," Kosereva told AFP.
The renowned stage and screen actor was born in 1944 in Kazakhstan after his family was exiled there under the brutal dictatorship of Joseph Stalin. His father died in a Gulag labour camp in the Central Asian republic.
Yankovsky left Kazakhstan in his youth and received a drama education in the southern Russian city of Saratov before being invited to join the troupe of Lenkom, one of Moscow’s top theatres.
Tall with an aristocratic manner, Yankovsky appeared in scores of films starting in the 1960s and was beloved by Soviet and Russian audiences.
Internationally, Yankovsky was perhaps best known for his roles in two films by art-house master Tarkovsky, "The Mirror" and "Nostalgia," the latter of which was filmed in Italy.
The actor died just as his last film — "Tsar," a historical epic about Russia’s infamous 16th-century ruler Ivan the Terrible — was on the programme at the Cannes Film Festival in France.
Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev said he and his family were "shaken" by Yankovsky’s death.
"For many years we were friends with him. We loved him as an actor — an actor who was undoubtedly extraordinary — and respected him very much as a person," Gorbachev was quoted as saying by Interfax news agency.
Yankovsky’s funeral was set to take place on Friday, said Lenkom spokeswoman Kosereva.
The actor is to be buried at Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow, one of the most prestigious graveyards in Russia and the final resting place of many other artists and authors including playwright Anton Chekhov.