Lidiya Andreyevna Ruslanova (October 27, 1900, near Saratov ? September 21, 1973, Moscow) - the Queen of Russian Folklore - the title undoubtedly suits no one but her, who revived old folk songs with her immense inner power and marvelous vocal. It is in her performance that most folk songs are remembered by the audience of today. A strong, straightforward and stately woman, she was the symbol of Motherland for her compatriots, when her voice encouraged soldiers during the Great patriotic war and later, when she withstood the pressures of Soviet authorities and terrors of Stalinist reprisals.
During World War II she ceaselessly toured from one front to another, helping to boost the soldiers` courage with her patriotic songs. Her signature songs were "Valenk"i and "Katyusha", written specially for her. During the Battle of Berlin she performed on the doorsteps of the smouldering Reichstag.
Ruslanova was reputedly the richest woman in Soviet Russia and even financed the construction of two Katyusha batteries, which she presented to the Red Army in 1942. The same year she was granted with the title of the Honoured Artist of the Russian Soviet Federative Republic. Her rough manners and racy language appealed to the soldiers to such a point that she came to be regarded as a potential threat to the Soviet authorities.
1948 brought about a new wave of Stalinist reprisals. Ruslanova`s husband (commander of a cavalry corps General Vladimir Kruchkov whom she had met at the front) and then she herself were arrested. As it turned out later, the reason was her husband`s friendship with Admiral Zhukov, a war hero who was persecuted by the envious and fearful Stalin and his accomplices. Ruslanova was pressed to sign a forged accusation of treason against her husband, but refused and spent five years in prison on the allegations of anti-Soviet talk and anecdotes.
In 1953 after the death of Joseph Stalin she was released and returned to the stage.
Ruslanova went on singing till her death in 1973.