After the Russian revolution ...
Misha and and his brother Iura at the Sumskoy Cadet School, around 1915. Yiuriy, on the right, was the younger of the two brothers. Misha was last seen in 1920 - after the evacuation of the White Russian Army
from the Crimea. He was presumed dead at the age of 22 - killed by the Reds.
Yuriy Vladimirovich was born on 24 June 1900 in Chernigov, Imperial
Russia, in his family estate called Bigach. He was the younger son of an
aristocratic Russian family, whose name can be traced to Tartar
nobility, to the Princes of the Golden Hoard - owners of the Nogay
region. In 1637, Peter Keikuatov had begun serving Mikhayl Fedorovich
Romanoff, the first Romanoff, and the Keikuatovs were granted the title
of Russian Princes. Notwithstanding his noble origin, Yuriy Vladimirovich
was a humble man who did not like to discuss his family background.
Already s a child, Yuriy spoke excellent native German and French - he
learned both languages at home from his governesses, before the
In 1917, Yiuriy finished the Sumskoy Cadet School, and because of the
Russian Civil War, as did other patriotic young Russian men of noble
origin, he joined the White Russian Volunteer Army to fight the Reds.
He then served in the cavalry, in the Drozdov Division - one that was
most feared by the Reds, under the command of General Ivan G. Barbovich.
Because he contracted typhoid, Yuriy was unable to board the vessels that were leaving Russia to
Galippoli, Turkey, and was unable to flee with the departing and
defeated White Russian Army, under the command of General Baron Peter
Wrangel. He remained in Crimea, in what soon after became the Soviet
Yura Keikuatov at the Kiev opera in the thirties.
Yuriy was captured by the Reds, but owing to a miracle of human
kindness, was left alive. He suffered intense hunger and cold, yet
somehow, through the force of his spirit, he arrived in Kiev, where he
found family friends and enrolled in the Kiev Conservatory. All this
time, he was hiding and moving to avoid arrest by the local Communist
authorities. Yuriy then chose an apolitical career in the theater -
and in so doing, was able to avoid arrest. He was tall, handsome - 6'
2" , and was a gifted artist and singer. In the mid 20's and 30's, he
sang for the Operetta in the Ukraine, and travelled extensively
throughout the Soviet Union, to some far away regions as Kazakhstan and
Siberia. He was pursued by the NKVD and was labeled in his passport -
»an enemy of the people«. In 1941, Yuriy was able to leave the Soviet
Union because he and his wife Yuliya, together with their theater group,
were performing in Brest Litovsk, which was soon after occupied by the
While in Germany in the 40's - Yuriy performed in the Blue Bird
(Sinyaya Ptitsa) - a Russian émigré theater in Munich. He also sang in
the Chernomorskiy Choir, traveling throughout Germany and Scandinavia,
under Boris M. Ledkovsky. Yuriy was also an artist - both during and
after WW II - he sold his paintings and portraits in Germany. He came
to the U.S. with his wife and son in 1951, and continued to perform and
sing professionally. As baritone soloist he sang in the Jaroff Choir, and also in the
General Platoff Choir.
Yuriy Keikuatov getting ready to leave New York City for Europe on the »Ile de France« with the Don Cossack Chorus Serge Jaroff, probably in the early sixties (photo collection Oleg and Katya Keikuatov, Vienna, Virginia, USA).
Yuriy was a man of unusual integrity and kindness. He never lost his
sense of humor and love for people, nature, and for beautiful things in
life, notwithstanding the fact that because of the Russian Civil War,
upon loosing everything, Yuriy was a witness to atrocities by the Reds
directed against his immediate family. Once in Chernigov in 1918 - he
saw how his uncle and cousins were bound by barbed wire and buried
alive. The Reds then sent horses to trample over the heads of
relatives, while Yuriy watched in horror, hiding in the crowd of
spectators. Also, when he was only five years old, the lovely chateau
in which he was born, which was designed by Rastrelli, was burned in the
Revolution of 1905 by the peasants. His mother, whose memory he honoured
throughout his life, died of hunger in Odessa in 1920, while trying to
flea from the Reds. Perhaps the most painful experience of his life,
was the loss his young son of five during the Stalin Hunger purges in
Yuriy helped those in need, and sent money to support many Russians in
the diaspora, even though this was difficult for him and his wife. He
was profoundly religious and had a deep reverence for the depth and
spirituality of the Russian Orthodox faith. He sang in professional
church choirs in Europe and the US. He loved and knew Russian church
music and its composers. He was also an avid lover of opera and
classical music, particularly Wagner, whom he especially enjoyed in his
Yuriy Vladimorivich Keikuatov passed away after two weeks of fighting a respiratory flu, in a
hospital in Patchogue, NY, on November 28, 1983, at the age of 83, the
day of the feast of Thanksgiving. He was going home happy, singing and
smiling - but he suddenly had a massive heart attack from which he did