The Norilsk Polar Drama Theater named after poet Vladimir Mayakovsky and the photo information bureau (FIB) are of the same age. The photo laboratory under Arkady Sorokin’s leadership was organized at the Norilsk combine before the start of the war, in April, and the Second Zapolyarny theatre opened the curtain at the end of 1941. The initiator of the FIB’s creation was Avraamy Zavenyagin, and the theater appearing in the village-camp is associated with the plant head’s name Alexander Panyukov.
The Norilsk Drama Theater celebrated its first jubilee in 1951. By that time, the Second Zapolyarny had already been in the status of a drama and musical comedy theater, albeit for a very short time, but had not yet received the name of Mayakovsky. This will happen in ten years.
In 1951, exiled Georgy Zhzhenov – a rising People’s Artist of the USSR, the former actress of the Yermolova Theater and the former Princess Edda Urusova, worked in the theater. Another eventual People’s Artist Innokenty Smoktunovsky was preparing to leave.
In the photo of the anniversary troupe, you can recognize Georgy Zhzhenov. He stands on the right in the front row. Among those on the podium, at the plush table, there is Panyukov’s second right-hand successor as the combine’s head, Vladimir Zverev.
Memories of how those anniversary celebrations were conducted have not survived or just have not yet been found. Lowered heads strike the eye in the picture. One of them (circled) is Georgy Zhzhenov.
In the Second Zapolyarny theatre, the artist played a lot, up to 12 roles per season, which, according to him, served him well in the cinema. The last season for Zhzhenov in Norilsk was 1953/54. Those four years allowed Norilsk to consider Georgy a compatriot, and the city was given the right in 2015 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Russian cinema and theater’s legend on the stage of the Norilsk Zapolyarny one.
Read other materials of our photo project in the History spot section.
Text: Varvara Sosnovskaya, Photo: Olga Polyanskaya and the Nornickel Polar Division archive