This year on May 18 our people commemorated the tragic date – the 62nd anniversary of the repressive deportation. 110 thousand of 240 deportees died in the first months of exile. 70 per cent of them were children. Those who survived had their lives deformed and destroyed. How many talents were destroyed! This assay tells the story of one of such lives.
“Documentary story of Kumysnikov H.L. tells about the hard and tragic destiny of Shafika Kutdusova the honored actress of Tatar Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic. This person had exceptionally bright talent, though was ousted from Tatar Opera and Ballet Theater only because of Crimean Tatar origin. These very blows of destiny broke off her life at the age of 46”.
This annotation to the book titled “Shafika Kutdusova” could become an epigraph to the description of all her life. Undoubtedly there will be lots of good books written about Shafika Kutdusova. However, when she was alive people were afraid to speak openly about her, because her talent grew in the depth of the disgraced people that the communist regime, which governed the country, forbade even mentioning at that time. As though, it never existed.
Though, the regime fell, people remained. Now it’s time to recall its bright representatives one of which was Shafika Kutdusova – a heaven-born actress who burned for the sake of art, self-sacrificing and… desperate.
Shafika was born on March 18, 1910 in Sevastopol in the family of Usuf Rakhimov a single mullah of the town. Shafika became the sixth, next to the last child of Usuf-efendy. Her name Shafika received in honor of the daughter of Rakhimov family’s friend Ismail Gasprinsky. The Rakhimov and Gasprinsky families became close right after Usuf-efendy’s coming to Crimea. Ismail-bey’s wife Zore originated from the same place as Usuf-khazryat and belonged to the famous Akchurins family – merchants, patrons of art, enlighteners. Being Rahimov’s compatriot she promoted friendship of these two families famous in Crimea. When Gasprinskies visited Sevastopol they invariably stayed at Rahimovs and vice versa. However, it wasn’t rather their erudition that united Rahimov and Gasprinsky families then to a greater extend their common views to their purpose in this life.
Thus, the family surrounding in which a little Shafika was growing from the very first days promoted setting her lofty moral and religious ideals. Being also very gifted from birth she like a sponge took in life in all its rich variety.
One should say that Rahimov’s children were very talented. However, not all of them managed to live through the revolution and the World War Two. Shafika’s elder brother Kamil Rahimov (1890-1978) – the famous composer, honored worker of art of Bashkiria Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic survived in the war by a miracle, and senior sister Huriya Rahimova – expert in literature and educator.
The girl showed craving for knowledge from the very childhood. At the age of five she already drew Arabic characters and asked her father at home speaking to her only in French that he spoke fluently. She started Russian speaking school straight from the third grade and studied easily without any efforts.
Rahimov’s family was very musical. Shafika’s elder brothers – Kamil, Fazyl and Nail’ played many musical instruments from guitar and mandolin to brasses and they used to arrange improvisation concerts with theatrical performances. As time went by Shafika drew into these games, but she dreamed of piano. She even asked her brother Nail’ – the future famous Moscow painter, to draw the piano keys on a peace of veneer for her. Playing this imaginary instrument she forgot all other children games.
Seeing that this passion was serious the parents decided after long considerations to buy their daughter the piano. The thing was that Usuf-efendy was the single person in the family who worked, but the family consisted of nine persons and the relatives who lived in the same yard without a basic bread-winner. Thus, as people say, it was the family of lower than moderate means, which lived without any luxuries. However, there were two principles the family piously kept to and for which it grudged no money – health food and education of their children. All children in the family received the best education that was available at that time.
It wasn’t easy to find the grand piano at once, as it was considered a great luxury at that time. One of the expropriating sailors evidently could get out of the manor house an old “Shreder” and sold it on reasonable price to Rahimov’s family. After this the question of the teacher of music aroused. The wind of revolution brought to Crimea a former maid of honor, graduate from the Institute for Noble Maidens Elena Frantsevna Stromenskaya (or Ostromenskaya). This lady instilled her favorite pupil the European and musical culture.
Shafika achieved the fascinating success after four years of training. She played almost all Chopin, many piano and vocal works of Schubert and Grin. Starting at the same time practicing vocal (from the age of 15) she performed the arias from Gruno opera, the works of other popular western composers. Seeing her exceptional talent and feeling that she couldn’t give her anything more her teacher advised Shafika going to Moscow and continue her study at the conservatoire.
Moscow made an indelible impression on young Shafika and she loved this city for all her life. After the Moscow professors auditioned her they gave her abilities the highest grade predicting her talent the great possibilities. Though… the entrance examination board refused taking in the gifted enrollee referring to her class belonging: Shafika naively wrote in her CV that her father was a Mullah. From Bolsheviks’ point of view who stood guard over the education, the daughter of “non-working element” couldn’t study together with the children of cooks and proletarians. After Shafika returned to Sevastopol she got absorbed in the creative work in order to heal the spiritual wounds. On Crimean Tatar population demand in the town was opened the club which was called “Tatar Club”. Its visitors became not only youth, but also the representatives of elderly generation who willingly visited the plays and concerts. Its repertoire was international.
In 1927 when Shafika was 17 a young 24 year – old man who was on a business trip in Sevastopol visited one of such shows. Having seen Shafika on stage he understood that his life would loose any sense if he will not became the husband of this young lady. Born in Simferopol and graduating there from gymnasia he, as a born leader, was the “terror” of his district. Affected by the revolution and the civil war, he first fought for greens then for reds: from his very childhood he had an innate enmity towards Russian tsarism. All his ancestors belonged to the highest Muslim clergy and were in incompatible opposition to tsarist regime. Though, his father Kuddus-efendy wasn’t killed by Tsar, but by Bolsheviks. It happened already after the violent events of the civil war. Abduraim Kuddusovich Kutdusov buried his father stealing him secretly from the condemned cell. By the time he met Shafika he was already known as a staunch communist whose father died a natural death in 1922. As far as the origin concerned, unlike Shafika in all official documents he hided skillfully his origin (considering that he was a lawyer).
Shafika was conquered by the fearless knight who surpassed all her admirers by his brilliant mind, decisiveness and persistence.
Hovever, Usuf Rakhimov refused approving the marriage reasonably considering that the marriage could ruin yet immature talent in which he strongly believed. Though, the woman nature took over all other emotions at that moment (because there wasn’t any free love at that time) and Shafika, “stolen” from the parents house, left not only Sevastopol, but also gave up the spiritual and creative life that brought her up, and got engrossed in the life unfamiliar and unknown to her yet. However, the domestic life with a baby, though didn’t bury her aspiration to the high art, but delayed for few years her development in this respect.
In Kerch when her son Javid grew a little and Shafika had more spare time she was invited to the radio in the capacity of a pianist – concertmaster where the professional chamber symphonic orchestra and chorus was created. When the orchestra was discharged she was talked to work as a ballroom pianist to dub the mute films. The work of a ballroom pianist was specific because one should play in the dark, in other words blindly. That is why this work requires technical skill. Shafika possessed this mastery and played by heart the ballads of Chopin, plays of Schubert, List and as a matter of fact made improvisations of the themes of popular modern tunes.
At the end of 1934 she gave birth to one more boy – Ernest (Erik). Before that Abduraim was excluded from the Party, fired from his work and intended to shot him. The reason was the hiding of one’s origin (“the enemy got into the ranks of Lenin supporters”). In order to survive Shafika with a baby had to work on two jobs: at day time as an economist at the plant, and as a ballroom pianist at the vodniks club in the evening. In four months Shafika’s mother Fat’ma came from Sevastopol to help her and took her grandson to Sevastopol. It was the first meeting of mother and daughter after the long parting. The thing was that being a communist he had no right to contact with “hostile elements” who turned to be Shafika’s parents. However, after he left the Party the ban naturally was declined because he became “class enemy” himself.
Though, at that time Abduraim was hiding in Moscow where he worked as a legal adviser at the Museum of Revolution. Shafika who acquired a certain extent of freedom – one son in Sevastopol, the husband in Moscow, started attending the drama theater society by the same vodniks club. The society appeared to be uncommonly talented for a country town and was headed by the professional director. Shafika became an indispensable star there. It wasn’t surprising considering her exceptional gift.
In 1936 Kutdusov family left Kerch forever. In fact this town appeared to be full of events. Some of them became deciding for the future life of Shafika. The mosque in Sevastopol was ravaged and Imam – Khatip was reduced to a watchman. Becoming the daughter of the representative of a working class Shafika finally was enrolled at the specialized educational institution – Simferopol Musical College. She studied on two departments – piano and vocal. At the same time Abduraim returned from Moscow and started working for the Simferopol Bar. Then fınally her elder son went to school.
Shafika was taught on piano department by a strong and respectable teacher Eva Pavlovna Seferova (Armenian) who took her to the second year at once. Many of her trainees continued their studies at Moscow and Leningrad Conservatoire. She decided to make a great pianist of Shafika. There weren’t good teachers at the vocal department so the director of the college Mr. Adatov started teaching Shafika for himself. Shafika possessed a beautiful timbre lyric-coloratura soprano. Being a pianist Shafika learned quickly the proposed repertoire. Her voice developed in the course of studying acquiring various timbre nuances that she mastered perfectly becoming soon an opera singer.
In 1939 Shafika finished her studying at the piano department of the college. She finally had time for her career. Right at this time the Crimean Tatars ensemble was created and Shafika started working there as a singer. At the same time she started working for the Crimean radio committee as a pianist-accompanist where she started performing her own concert programs as a singer (in 1940 she graduated from the musical college vocal department).
However, there wasn’t opera in the Republic of Crimea. At this period of her creation before 1941 Shafika broadened the sphere of one’s performance from national Tatar and Crimean Tatar songs to classic romances and opera arias.
On autumn 1940 a group of musical experts headed by the composer Jaydat Fayzi visited Crimea in order to choose on a competitive basis the opera vocalists for the coming decade of Tatar art in Moscow. The committee liked Shafika and she obtained the personal invitation. The decade was planed on June-July 1941.
Shafika with her junior son came to Kazan to start the rehearsals in Winter 1941 and settled in the hotel. There were seven vocalists claiming for the leading role in the opera “Altynchech” from all over the Soviet Union. However, only two of them had to be choused. It was Shafika and the wife of the Kazan opera director - Kabitrkaya. Since this moment Shafika Kutdusova became the leading soloist of Kazan opera. There she performed such parts as: Farida from “Farida” opera by M. Yudin, Su-Sylu (“Tulyak” by N. Zhyganov), Sarvara (“Cypripediums” by D. Fayzi), Dzhylda (“Rigoletto” by J. Verdi, Tosca (“Tosca” by J. Puccini), Violetta (“Traviatta” by J. Verdi), Rozina (“Seville Barber” by J. Rossini), Marfa (“Tsar’s Bride” by Rimsky-Korsakov) and many other leading parties. All in all more than twenty roles.
However, not everything in her life was so fine. The workers People's Commissariat of Internal Affairs were wide awake. After they proclaimed Crimean Tatars “state traitors” they started looking for some discreditable facts about Shafika considering the place from where she came to Kazan. They were looking for this for a long time because there wasn’t anything they could catch: she wasn’t in occupation, her husband died at the war as a hero, and she was the public’s favorite. Eventually, they found: she is an unreliable person, because she keeps in touch with “public enemies”, that is with her relatives being in disgrace. However, they didn’t dare openly accuse her of this. The head of the theatre and the new leading director were just “advised” dismissing her from work as… unsuitability for an occupation – one couldn’t find more absurd reason. When the theatre’s leading figures rebelled against the arbitrariness of the theatre’s new management writing the personal statements on disagreement with such decision, the head of the theatre was forced to let out that it was the directive from the “Black lake” (it was the name of the place in Kazan where People's Commissariat of Internal Affairs was located). The head of the theatre left soon his post for his talkativeness. Though, he did his black deed. It happened in 1950 when she was already the honored actress of TASSR. Shafika got sick and lost her voice for a long time because of such injustice.
However, the People's Commissariat of Internal Affairs appeared to be not almighty. People who knew and valued Shafika supported her regardless People's Commissariat of Internal Affairs efforts. Oleg Lundstrem who created his own jazz orchestra invited Shafika singing jazz. This creative union with a great musician lasted less than a year, because in 1951 Lundstrem’s Orchstra was scattered and jazz itself was prohibited in USSR. The communists started the severest terror against the freedom of creation, thus exceeding in their meaningless ardor the Spain inquisition of Ignatii Loiolae times.
Shafika was made to go to Moscow. She received an invitation to Gastrolburo of USSR and met the competition of 40 persons for 1 place.
For few years Shafika Kutdusova successfully toured the Soviet Union from Vladivostok to Baltic with constantly renovating concert program. In 1953 Shafika was invited to Kazan again: there was the record of “Altynchech” opera for more that one month. Shafika was the one who was entrusted to perform the party of “Altynchech”.
After she met the competition conducted by Mosconcert she won it leaving behind more than two hundred claimants. After she became the soloist of Mosconcert she worked with such famous theater acters as Ivan Kozlovsky, Zara Dolukhanova and others. Among them there was also Rashid Beybutov who performed with Shafika the duets from “Arshin Mal Alan” play.
At the height of her glory and creative maturity when the alluring prospects of return to the scene were waiting for her the unexpected thing occurred: the medical examination of a slight illness at the Hospital of Skliphosofsky detected that Shafika had stomach cancer and that she will not live for long. It was the result of war days and the stresses because of undeserved dismissal that like a poison burned her body and leaved no hope for recovery. She had only two months left to live. The last three days her junior sister Nuriya was constantly by her bed. She said: “During these days I hadn’t heard neither complaints, nor reproaching, not even any hint for that she knew about her soon death. It was the heroic person, who lived the short but bright and full of work and creation life. She wrote in her death note: “I’m happy because I didn’t live my life in vast. I served to my favorite act, gave birth and grew two fine sons. Loved and were loved. I don’t hold ill will against anybody. Farewell my dear and loved…”
- Literature journal “Miras” (“Heritage”) №№ 9, 10, 11, 12, 1993 and №1 on Tatar language, 1994.
- Khalit Kumysnikov “Shafika Kutdusova”. Publishing House “Kamaz”, 1995.
- Ernst Kudusov (Kutdusov). “Confrontation Goes On (Notes of Dissident)”, 1996.