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Don Cossack Chorus Serge Jaroff

Yuriy Vladimirovich Keikuatov

"Yuriy Vladimirovich Keikuatov was truly a unique man, who is loved and remembered by friends, colleagues and his family; especially, his son, daughter in law, and grand daughters Svetlana Rjedkin and Natalya Lopoukhine.
Oleg and Katya Keikuatov, 18. 5. 2000
Baritone soloist Yuriy Keikuatov (1900 - 1983) 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 Germans (photos collection Oleg and Katya Keikuatov).
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 Revolution.

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 Union.

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 Germans.

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 the Ukraine.

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 later years.

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 not recover.

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