People's Artist of the USSR (Russian : Наро́дный арти́ст СССР, translit. Naródnyj artíst SSSR), also sometimes translated as National Artist of the USSR, was an honorary title granted to artists of the Soviet Union.
The term is confusingly used to translate two Russian language titles: Народный артист СССР (fem. Народная артистка СССР), awarded in performing arts and Народный художник СССР, granted in some visual arts.
Each Soviet Republic, as well as the Autonomous Republics (ASSRs), had a similar award held previously by virtually every receiver of the higher title of People's Artist of the USSR.
|Republic||performing arts||visual arts|
|Russian SFSR||народный артист РСФСР||народный художник РСФСР|
|Ukrainian SSR||народний артист Української РСР||народний художник Української РСР|
|Byelorussian SSR||народны артыст Беларускай ССР||народны мастак Беларускай ССР|
|Uzbek SSR||Ўзбекистон ССР халқ артисти||Ўзбекистон ССР халқ рассоми|
|Kazakh SSR||Қазақ КСР-ң халық әртісі||Қазақ КСР-ң халық суретшісі|
|Georgian SSR||საქართველოს სსრ სახალხო არტისტი|
|Azerbaijan SSR||Азәрбајҹан ССР халг артисти||Азәрбајҹан ССР халг рәссамы|
|Lithuanian SSR||Lietuvos TSR liaudies artistas||Lietuvos TSR liaudies dailininkas|
|Moldavian SSR||артист ал попорулуй дин РСС Молдовеняскэ||артист пластик ал попорулуй дин РСС Молдовеняскэ|
|Latvian SSR||Latvijas PSR tautas skatuves mākslinieks||Latvijas PSR tautas mākslinieks|
|Kyrgyz SSR||Кыргыз ССР эл артисти|
|Tajik SSR||Артисти халқии РСС Тоҷикистон|
|Armenian SSR||Հայաստանի ՍՍՀ ժողովրդական արտիստ|
|Turkmen SSR||Түркмен ССР-иң халк артисти||Түркмен ССР-иң халк художниги|
|Estonian SSR||Eesti NSV rahvakunstnik|
As this title was granted by the government, honorees were afforded certain privileges and would often receive commissions from the Minister of Culture of the Soviet Union. Accordingly, artists and authors who expressed criticism of the Communist Party were seldom granted such recognition, if not outright censored.
The title was bestowed for exceptional achievements in the performing arts in the Soviet Union. Its recipients included many of the most-acclaimed composers, dancers, singers, film and theatre directors and actors of every Soviet republic. In all, there were 1010 recipients of the award.
The title was introduced in 1936, replacing the earlier title of "People's Artist of the Republic". The first recipients of the title (6 September 1936) were Konstantin Stanislavski, Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko, Ivan Moskvin, Antonina Nezhdanova, Boris Shchukin, Kulyash Baiseitova and some other actors. The last persons to be honoured with the title were Sofia Pilyavskaya and Oleg Yankovsky (21 December 1991).
Originally, the title was bestowed on theatre actors, ballet dancers, and opera singers only. Gradually, it came to be bestowed upon film actors (e.g., Lyubov Orlova), composers (e.g., Arno Babajanian, Dmitri Shostakovich), violinist (e.g. David Oistrakh), pop singers (e.g., Leonid Utyosov), comedians (e.g., Arkady Raikin), and even circus performers such as Natalya Durova and Oleg Popov.
Normally, a person was named the People's Artist of the USSR after 40 years of age. Exceptions were made for dancers, e.g., Nadezhda Pavlova, a ballet artist, received the title at the age of 28, and Malika Kalantarova, a famous Bukharian Jewish folk dancer from Tajikistan, received the title at the age of 34.
The youngest female persons to receive this title were Kazakh opera singers Kulyash Baiseitova (1936) and Halima Nasyrova (1937) (at the age of 24). The youngest male person was the Azerbaijani baritone operatic and pop singer Muslim Magomayev (1973) (at the age of 31). Among the actors, the youngest recipient was Sergey Bondarchuk (age 32). The youngest actress to receive the title was Yuri Andropov's daughter-in-law,Lyudmila Chursina, at age 40.
Sofia Rotaru, for example, was named Merited Artist of the Ukrainian SSR in 1973, People's Artist of the Ukrainian SSR in 1976, People's Artist of the Moldavian SSR in 1983, an attained cumulation of People's Artist titles,and finally People's Artist of the Soviet Union in 1988, the first female pop-singer to be honored with this award and the only one with three People's Artists.
As of 2018, the earliest living recipient is Ukrainian opera singer Bela Rudenko (1960).
The title of People's Painter of the Soviet Union (Народный художник СССР) was awarded for exceptional achievements in certain visual arts: painting, sculpture, drawing, and photography. The lesser title of Meritorious Painter of the Soviet Union (Заслуженный художник СССР) was also awarded for achievement in these fields.