Russian filmmaker Tatyana Lioznova dies at 87

Russian filmmaker Tatyana Lioznova, who helmed a Soviet-era TV series featuring a patriotic spy with James Bond-like characteristics, died Sep. 29 in Moscow at 87.

Lioznova’s series, "Seventeen Moments of Spring,” featured Soviet spy Maxim Isayev – alias Stirlitz, “a deep cover agent providing vital intelligence against the Gestapo at the end of the Second World War…who struggle(d) to thwart a last-ditch alliance between Nazi Germany and America.”

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The London Telegraph obituary of Lioznova said the character had and retains “a unique and venerated place in Russian popular culture,” in part because placing him in the World War II era “short-circuited any political sensitivities – all Soviets identified with the struggle against the Nazis.” Some critics have compared the cool-under-fire Stirlitz to James Bond, Ian Fleming’s British spy, who also was conceived during the Cold War, but others said the tone and feel of Lioznova’s shows were more akin to the understated style of literary thriller writer John LeCarre.

"During Soviet times, Lioznova tried to show war from a point of view that was different from the Soviet understanding," Culture Minister Alexander Avdeyev said. "She was able to make real, eye-catching cinema," he said.

Chief, perhaps, among Lioznova’s and Stirlitz’s fans was former KGB agent and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who called Lioznova’s passing "a great loss for Russian culture, for all of us" and said “this brilliant and extraordinary woman, truly creative, will remain always in our memories.”

Lioznova was born to a Jewish family in Moscow, news organizations reported, and attended the State Institute for Cinematography. Her 1958 directorial debut was “The Memory of the Heart,” and starred the glamorous and politically safe Tamara Makarova.  Her next big hit was the mid-Sixties romance, “Three Poplars at Plyushchikha.”

She was a perfectionist who worked long and hard on each film, completing only six features, and was named a People’s Artist of the USSR in 1984, an era in which she also was apparently affiliated with the notoriously anti-Semitic, Anti-Zionist Committee of The Soviet Public. YIVO characterized the group as “part of a broader program intended to diminish the motivation of Soviet Jews to apply for emigration.”

She made only a few films after the TV series.

The Eulogizer highlights the life accomplishments of famous and not-so-famous Jews who have passed away recently. Write to the Eulogizer at eulogizer@jta.org.

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