Baker Street Wiki
Baker Street Wiki

Vasily Borisovich Livanov is a Soviet and Russian actor, screenwriter, author, and director, working in live action, animation, and theatre. He is one of the most well-known portrayers of Sherlock Holmes in his homeland of Russia, mainly due to his role in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson.


Vasily Livanov was born in the family of Boris Livanov, a known prominent actor of the Moscow Art Theatre. His grandfather, Nikolay Livanov (Izvolskiy) was also an actor.

Livanov graduated from the Vakhtangov Theatre school and started his film career in 1959 with a bit part in the movie A City on the Dawn. Shortly after, while doing his second movie, Letter Never Sent (1959), directed by Mikhail Kalatozov, he broke his voice because Kalatozov practised method acting and actors were forced to deliver their lines in a cruel winter even for dubbing. Ironically, the new voice became an immediately recognizable unique feature of Livanov's, with its rich timbre and a resonant tone.

After reaching Soviet stardom in 1963 after breakthrough role in The Colleagues he became less prominent in the movies (rumors say that his career was derailed by his bohemian lifestyle) and shifted to animation, where he voiced approximately 300 different roles including Russian cult staples: Gena the Crocodile, Karlsson-on-the-roof and Udav (the Python) in 38 Parrots. Occasionally he also wrote and directed animated movies.

Being a regular of director Igor Maslennikov he was the first choice for Sherlock Holmes in the pre-production stages (the second was Aleksandr Kaydanovskiy) of the famous series and was eventually cast. Not only the Sherlock Holmes series re-launched his career, it also made him much more popular and recognizable then he ever was before. Livanov became close friends with Vitaly Solomin and Rina Zelyonaya who portrayed Dr Watson and Mrs Hudson respectively which directly contributed to characters on-screen chemistry.[citation needed]

After the end of the series Sherlock Holmes character still helped and guided Livanov in his career – he and Solomin went to be directors of "Detective" theatre organized by famous Soviet mystery writer Yulian Semionov and they have also re-appeared as their most known characters in a series of TV commercials in the 90s, a very hard period for most of the Soviet actors, directors and Russian culture in general.

After Solomin's untimely death in 2002 Livanov continued to appear solely as Holmes in audioplays, commercials and other works. On 20 February, 2006 Livanov became an Honorary MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) "for service to the theatre and performing arts". In 2007 he visited London for the first time, filming a documentary on himself and a role of Sherlock Holmes.[1]

Livanov is married to animation artist, Elena Artemyevna Livanova, and they have three children together: Anastasya, who is a sculptor and a member of the Moscow union of artists, Boris, and Nikolay. Despite being in his late seventies Livanov still continues his acting career.

Recognition as Sherlock Holmes[]

Livanov's portrayal of Sherlock Holmes is largely considered one of the best in the world. Officially his portrayal is considered the best of non-English speaking ones. The daughter of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Jean Conan Doyle once commented that her father would approve Livanov as Holmes. Reportedly, many English-speaking and otherwise foreign to Russian culture viewers were astonished by Livanov's performance, including The Sherlock Holmes Society of London and The Cingular Society of the Baker Street Dozen fandom communities.[2]

Among other signs of recognition are:

  • A New Zealand set of silver dollar coins depicts Livanov as Holmes and other actors from the soviet adaptation.
  • A sculpture featuring Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson as portrayed by Vasily Livanov and Vitaly Solomin was opened on the Smolenskaya embankment alongside the Embassy of the United Kingdom in Moscow on April 27, 2007. It was sculpted by Andrey Orlov.
  • Sherlock Holmes Museum at Baker Street has a photograph of Livanov as Sherlock Holmes.
  • Livanov is the only Russian actor to ever receive an Honorary MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) and also the rare one to receive a membership of the Sherlock Holmes Society of London.[1]


  • Livanov performed many of his own stunts because it was one of the areas of acting that always interested him.[citation needed]


External links[]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Graham, Robert (2007-01-16). "London visit of Vasily Livanov". The Sherlock Holmes Society of London. Retrieved 2014-05-22.
  2. "Vasily Livanov and Vitaly Solomin: The Russian Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson". Baker Street Dozen.