Joseph Kobzon

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Iosif Kobzon
Kobzon with mic.JPG
Kobzon at a recent social event
Born Iosif Davidovich Kobzon
(1937-09-11) September 11, 1937 (age 84)
Chasiv Yar, Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine, USSR
Occupation Singer, Deputy of the Russian State Duma
Years active 1958-present
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Iosif (Joseph) Davydovich Kobzon (Russian: Иосиф Давыдович Кобзон; born September 11, 1937) is a Russian singer,[1] known for his crooner style.

Early life

Kobzon was born to Jewish parents in the mining town of Chasiv Yar, in the Donbass region of Ukraine.[2]

As a boy he demonstrated a talent for singing, winning numerous regional singing contests. He reached the national finals on two separate occasions, appearing in concerts dedicated to Joseph Stalin - a significant honour at the time.

Despite his talent for singing, Kobzon went on to technical school to study geology and mining in Dnipropetrovsk,[2] as this was considered a lucrative vocation in the Soviet Union following the Second World War. However, in 1959, following his 1956-1959 contact with professional music instructors in the Soviet Army where he was a member of the armies song and dance ensemble, he decided that music would be his preferred vocation.[2]

Stage career

In 1958, Kobzon officially started his singing career in Moscow, and enrolled to study at the Gnessin Institute.[2] In the next few years he made valuable contacts in Moscow's entertainment world, and was eventually given a chance by composer Arkady Ostrovski (Арка́дий (Авраа́м) Ильи́ч Остро́вский) to perform some of his music. Initially, he performed in a duet with the tenor Viktor Kokhno, but was eventually offered a solo repertoire by many of the outstanding composers of the time such as Mark Fradkin, Alexander Dolukhanian (Алекса́ндр Па́влович Долуханя́н) and Yan Frenkel.

In 1962, he recorded his first LP which included songs written by Aleksandra Pakhmutova.

In 1964, he triumphed at the International Song Contest in Sopot, Poland, and in the following year he took part in the "Friendship" contest held across six nations, winning first prize in Warsaw, Berlin and Budapest.

His popularity rose quickly, and demand for his singing saw him frequently performing two to three concerts a day. His most popular hit song at the time was titled "A u nas vo dvore".

During Leonid Brezhnev's time in office (1964–82), there was hardly an official concert where Kobzon did not take part, and in 1980 he was awarded the honour of People's Artist of the USSR.

His best-known song is "Instants" from the legendary Soviet TV series Seventeen Instants of Spring (1973).

In 1983, Kobzon was expelled from the Communist Party and reprimanded for "political short sightedness," after he performed Jewish songs during an international friendship concert, which resulted in the Arab delegations leaving in protest.[3] However, the following year, (1984) his reputation was restored, as he was honored with the USSR State Prize.

Joseph Kobzon has performed in solo concerts in most cities of the former USSR. He was also bestowed the rare honour of performing international concerts tours as a representative of USSR in United States, Panama, Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Uruguay, Costa Rica, Argentina, Israel, Republic of the Congo, Zaire, Angola, Nigeria, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Germany, Greece, and Finland. Throughout his career, he has shared the stage with many Western superstars, including the likes of Liza Minnelli and Julio Iglesias.

Although he officially ended his international touring career in 1997, he continues to appear in regular concerts before audiences around the world, and is frequently seen on Russian television to date.

Family life

Kobzon was married three times. In 1965, he married the singer, Veronika Kruglova (Верони́ка Петро́вна Кругло́ва); then in 1969 Kobzon married Lyudmila Gurchenko, one of the best known comic actresses of the Soviet cinema. In 1971, he married his current wife Ninel Drizina with whom he has two children.

Public life

File:Памятник Кобзону 001.jpg
Joseph Kobzon monument in Donetsk

On many occasions, Kobzon performed in disaster areas and military hot-spots such as Afghanistan during the Soviet-Afghan War, and Chechnya during the Chechen War.[4]

In 1986, Kobzon was the first celebrity to visit and perform in the town of Chernobyl to cheer the nuclear reactor rescuers. Two years later, Kobzon was the first celebrity to visit and perform for victims of the 1988 Armenian earthquake.[4]

Kobzon has been active in Russian politics since 1989. He is an experienced Russian MP, and enjoyed landslide election victories.[5]

His first major political achievement (1989–1991) transpired when his promotion of Jewish culture in the USSR aided the establishment of diplomatic ties between USSR and Israel.[4]

For many years, Kobzon has presided over numerous charitable organisations. Since 1989, he has been Chairman of The Movement for Honour and Dignity of Russian Citizens. He is also the president of the Humanitarian Initiatives Fund, and the president of a charitable fund known as ‘Shield and Lira” which is devoted to helping families of those killed and injured in action while on law enforcement duties.[4]

He is Chairman of the Public Council of Moscow’s Police Department, and leader of his political party "The Russian Party for Peace".[6]

Since early 1990s, Kobzon has personally funded numerous orphanages around the country.[7]

In 2002, he risked his life as key negotiator in the Moscow theater hostage crisis. His involvement resulted in the release of a mother with three children and a British citizen.[8]

Kobzon's innumerable contributions to culture, music, humanitarian and political life across the Commonwealth of Independent States saw a monument depicting Kobzon erected near his birthplace, in Donetsk, Ukraine in 2003.

Between 2005 and 2007, he was the head of the State Duma's culture committee.

In 2007, his name was entered into the Guinness Book of Records (Russian Edition) as the most decorated artist in the country's history.[9]

In 2009, Kobzon became the 24th individual to be named Honorary Citizen of Moscow.[10]

Honours and awards


Order Country / Org Year
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Jubilee Medal "In Commemoration of the 100th Anniversary since the Birth of Vladimir Il'ich Lenin"  USSR
1500KievRibbon.jpg Medal "In Commemoration of the 1500th Anniversary of Kiev"  USSR
Medal "Veteran of Labour"  USSR
Outstanding achievements labor.png Medal "For Labour Valour"  USSR 1970
Ribbon 300 years to russian fleet.png Jubilee Medal "300 Years of the Russian Navy"  Russia
Ribbon Medal 850 Mosow.png Medal "In Commemoration of the 850th Anniversary of Moscow"  Russia
60 victory rib.png Jubilee Medal "60 Years of Victory in the Great Patriotic War 1941–1945"  Russia
80px Jubilee Medal "Great Russian writer Nobel Mikhail Sholokhov 1905–2005"  Russia
80px Medal "For Strengthening Military Cooperation"  Russia
80px Medal "200 Years of the Ministry of Internal Affairs"  Russia 2008
80px Medal "200 Years of the Ministry of Defence"  Russia
80px Medal "For Services to the Stavropol Territory"  Russia 2008
Medal "Glory of Adygea"  Russia 2008
Medal of Merit for the Chechen Republic  Russia
80px Medal "Astana"  Kazakhstan
80px Medal "50 Years of Celine"  Kazakhstan
Preceded by
Alla Pugacheva
Living Legend Award
Joseph Kobzon
Succeeded by
Edita Piekha

Kobzon was awarded honorary citizenship of 28 cities: Anapa, Saratov (1998), Donetsk (2007), Bishkek, Dnepropetrovsk (deprived of the honor on the 3rd of September 2014),[12] Kramatorsk, Noginsk, Poltava (deprived of the honor on the 25th of November 2014),[13] Slavic (1999), Chasiv Yar, Cherkessk, Artemovsk, Horlivka and others. He is also an honorary citizen of the Saratov Oblast, Ust-Orda Buryat Autonomous Okrug (abolished 1 January 2008) and the Transbaikal Oblast (23 September 2010).

On 31 March 2009, Kobzon was awarded the title of Honorary Citizen of Moscow - "for his services and contribution to the organization and development of national culture, long-term activities designed to meet the challenges of the patriotic and cultural education of the Russian people, as well as charitable activity in the city of Moscow and other Russian regions".

  • USSR State Prize (1984) - for concert programs 1980-1983
  • Lenin Komsomol Prize (1976) - for concert programs 1974-1975, active propaganda Soviet Komsomol songs
  • Russian Federal Security Service Award "for creative contribution to the patriotic education of Russian citizens" (2009)
Other honours

A comprehensive list of all 300+ honours awarded to Joseph Kobzon can be viewed at (in Russian).


Refer to *Official site of Iosif Kobzon

'Russia's Frank Sinatra'

Considering Kobzon's career, personality, spirit and singing style, many say that he is Russia's answer to the U.S. crooner Frank Sinatra.[14][15] Besides their singing careers, both Sinatra and Kobzon used their popularity towards an active involvement in politics.[15] The parallels between the two became the focus of media articles, books and novels claiming to have detailed knowledge of Russia's gangster world based on inside information obtained from the CIA.[16] Kobzon has since sued numerous publications for propagating unsubstantiated rumours,[17] asserting his impeccable reputation and great honour among millions of Russian-speakers world-wide.

Stance on Ukraine

In March 2014, Kobzon was among 500 Russian artists who signed an open letter in support of Russia's annexation of Crimea.[18] The letter itself did not refer to an act of 'annexation' and Russia regards the "reunification"[19] with Crimea as being in compliance with international law,[20] however, many world leaders have labelled the act as an annexation.[21] As a result, in July 2014, Kobzon was included in a selected group of Russian artists banned from entering Latvia.[22]

In late October 2014, Kobzon visited Donbass on a humanitarian mission, providing medications to hospitals in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions[23] and giving a free concert in support of the people of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic.[24] As a result of the visit, Alexander Zakharchenko (current Prime Minister of the Donetsk People's Republic) bestowed on Kobzon the title of Russia's "honorary consul" to DPR.[21] However, the title has questionable meaning[25] as there are no reports of Russia formally sending Kobzon as an honorary consul to DPR nor ratifying this appointment.

On September 3, 2014 deputies of the Dnipropetrovsk City Council deprived Kobzon of the title of "Honorary citizen of Dnepropetrovsk", on November 25, 2014 Poltava City Council removed his title of "Honorary citizen of Poltava", and on January 28, 2015 Kramatorsk City Council removed his title of "Honorary citizen of Kramatorsk." In autumn 2014, Ukraine's national security service banned him from entering the country.[26] Kobzon responded by saying that he shouldn't need a visa to visit his own homeland and birthplace.[27] He stated that he welcomed any decision by Ukraine's authorities to strip him of honours, as he didn't want to be "an honorary citizen of a country that is run by a fascist regime".[28] He requested that Ukraine also strip him of his People's Artist of Ukraine award.[29] In February 2015, Kobzon was awarded Honorary Citizenship of Yenakiieve in Donetsk Oblast, and was later awarded the honour of 'People's Artist' by self-proclaimed Lugansk People's Republic.[30]

In February 2015, the European Union added Kobzon to its list of sanctioned individuals;[31] Kobzon responded that he was "very pleased and grateful".[21] He was "proud to be included in a list of people who are not indifferent to the fate of internally displaced Russian-speakers in Donbass and the fate of Russia."[32] Russian MPs spoke out in response to the EU sanctions, while Kobzon's fans launched a Twitter campaign in his support.[33] Russia's Foreign Ministry said that the new sanctions defy common sense, referring to the fact that the sanctions were imposed just one day after the Minsk II agreement came into force.[34] The agreement was reached between EU representatives (Germany and France), Ukraine and Russia, and was aimed at resolving the conflict in Donbass. Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov condemned Kobzon's inclusion on the sanctions list as "vile" and "cynical", questioning the purpose of sanctioning "a highly respected national artist" whose mission in Donbass was "fundamentally humanitarian."[35] A ruling party MP, Vyacheslav Nikonov, spoke in parliament to support Kobzon, stating "We are with you. If they're all Charlie, then we are all Kobzon", playing on the "Je Suis Charlie" slogan used in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo shooting.[33] In response to calls for retaliatory sanctions, Russia's culture minister Vladimir Medinsky said that Moscow could not impose equal sanctions on the EU, because "Europe simply lacks a star of the same standing as Kobzon."[33] Kobzon returned to Donbass one week following the EU's decision. This was his second humanitarian mission to the region delivering medications to hospitals in Lugansk, and giving another free concert to support local residents.[36]


  1. "Moscow newspaper lists top Melodia pop artists". Billboard. 26 December 1981. p. 76. Retrieved 16 February 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Red Stars:Personality and the Soviet Popular Song, 1955-1991 by David MacFadyen, McGill-Queen's University Press, 2001, ISBN 0773521062
  3. Kobzon, Joseph (December 16, 2001). "Not Enough of Her For All". Izvestia (Interview) (in Russian). Interviewed by Maria Podolskaya. Retrieved October 25, 2012. Unknown parameter |city= ignored (help)CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 [1] Archived June 2, 2010 at the Wayback Machine
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  7. "Activities". Retrieved 3 September 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. ru:Террористический акт на Дубровке#cite note-33
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  14. [2] Archived December 11, 2013 at the Wayback Machine
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  20. Лавров назвал оскорбительными заявления Запада об аннексии Крыма. (in Russian). 21 March 2014.CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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  32. "- 812". Retrieved 3 September 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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  36. "Кобзон приехал в Луганск с концертами и гумпомощью". ФЕДЕРАЛЬНОЕ АГЕНТСТВО НОВОСТЕЙ. Retrieved 3 September 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

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