Viktor Andreevich Afanasiev
BirthAktyubinsk [today, Aktobe] Kazakhstan (1917)
DeathKharkiv, Ukraine, 1987) (1987)
Ukrainian director, actor, and educator, People’s Artist of the Ukrainian Republic. For the Ukrainian puppet theatre, Viktor Afanasiev was as significant a figure as Sergei Obraztsov and Mikhail Korolev were for the Russian.
From 1952 to 1980, Afanasiev was the artistic director of the Kharkiv Puppet Theatre, turning this once impoverished touring company into a well-established professional one. An acclaimed manager and talented director, he gathered around himself the Kharkiv cultural elite, gradually re-directing his theatre from naturalism and imitation of actors’ theatre to its own unique puppet profile. This resulted in the production of Isidor Shtok’s The Devil’s Mill (1955), which was highly successful and contributed to the Kharkiv Puppet Theatre emerging as the preeminent company in the Ukraine. At the 1958 All-Union Puppet Festival held in Moscow, The Devil’s Mill and Zaporozhets za Dunaem (Zaporozhian Cossack Beyond the Danube), based on Semyon Hulak-Artemovsky’s opera, received the highest awards.
Viktor Afanasiev assisted in setting up puppet theatres abroad. He spent the years 1963 and 1964 in Egypt, where he helped create a national puppet theatre, the Cairo Puppet Theatre.
In 1968, the company moved into a new building, complete with a winter garden and puppet museum.
Under Viktor Afanasiev, a Puppetry Chair was established at the Kharkiv Arts Institute in 1969, which he held until 1980. Many of his graduate students have grown to become leading directors and actors in reputable puppet theatres.
In 1998, Viktor Afanasiev’s name was given to the theatre he established, now named the Kharkiv (State) Academic Puppet Theatre of V.A. Afanasiev, Харківський державний академічний театр ляльок імені В.А. Афанасьєва (Kharkivsʹkyy derzhavnyy akademichnyy teatr lyalʹok imeni V.A. Afanasʹyeva).