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Les’ Kurbas

stage director

Les’ Kurbas, USSR Stage director.


Kurbas, Les’ was born on February 25, 1887 in the Galician city of Sambir, Western Ukraine.


Studied philosophy at the University of Vienna, then theatre art with the Austrian actor, Joseph Kainz.


One of the leading theatrical figures in the Ukraine in the 1920-1930s. In 1912, returned to Galicia and toured with the theatre group until the outbreak of World War I. When the Russian Army occupied Galicia in 1914, moved East, settling in Kiev in 1915. Became an actor in the Ukrainian Ethnographic Theatre, Berezil.

Staged productions reflecting the influence of expressionism. During the 1920-1930s, became an educator and the reformer of theatrical life in the Ukraine. Organiser of theatrical groups all over the Ukraine.

Also acted and directed. Lectured on music and drama in Kiev and Khar’kov. Edited the magazine Barricades of the Theatre.

In 1933, was stripped of the title People’s Artist of the Ukraine, and banned from working in theatres in the Ukraine. Accepted an invitation from the distinguished Jewish stage directorproducer Mikhoels to work in Moscow. Staged King Lear at the Moscow Jewish State Theatre.

Arrested and accused of nationalism, formalism and Ukrainian counterrevolution and deviation from Soviet reality. Sent to the concentration camp on the Solovetskii Islands. Shot there in 1938. Until 1961, his name was purged from all Soviet publications.

In February 1987, rehabilitated. The centennial of his birth was commemorated both in the Ukraine and in other parts of the USSR.