In 1957, at the height of Khrushchev’s Thaw period, Tabakov joined together with other rebellious performers to establish the Studio of Young Actors. It later was transformed into the “Sovremennik,” one of Moscow’s most popular theaters. In 1977 he founded his own venue —”Oleg Tabakov’s Theater,” known simply as “Tabakerka” among Muscovites (a play on words, it literally means “snuffbox”).
In 1979, Tabakov played one of his most memorable roles, the title role in Nikita Mikhalkov’s brilliant “Oblomov,” based on the eponymous classic by Ivan Goncharov. Another role he is remembered for is Nikolai Rostov in classic adaptation of “War and Peace” directed by Sergei Bondarchuk, one of Soviet cinema’s patriarchs. Tabakov also played in one of the first Soviet TV series, “Seventeen Moments of Spring.”
Tabakov’s voiceover of Matroskin, a talking cat from the “Prostokvashino” animated series, made his voice known to virtually every Russian, old or young. A sculpture of Matroskin is even part of the monument to Tabakov in his hometown Saratov, erected several years ago to commemorate his birthday.
Russia’s preeminent film critic, Anton Dolin, commented in his piece for Meduza: “Once heard, Tabakov’s voice would be unerringly recognized right away. People were born to the sound of his voice, learned to walk and talk to it, laugh and cry.”
In 2000, Tabakov became artistic director of his alma mater, which by this time lost the “A” (for Academic) in its name and became MKhT or the Moscow Art Theater. He overhauled the conservative theater’s repertoire by inviting up-and-coming directors like Kirill Serebrennikov, Konstantin Bogomolov and Yury Butusov.