Victor Ivanovich Nikitin (Russian: Виктор Иванович Никитин), tenor soloist, born in Voronezh and died in Moscow. His dates or birth and death are unknown, but it is possible that he was born in or before 1918 and died around 1988. He was a machine engineer in 1938, and joined the Ensemble in the same year. He had possibly started recording by 1936. He was already known as “Mr Kalinka” before World War Two.
With the Alexandrov Ensemble from 1938 to 1952 he recorded Meeting With the Chief (music: A. Alexandrov; lyrics: P. Herman), Cold Waves Lapping (music: F. Bogoroditsky; lyrics: Ya Repninsky 1950), Samovary-Samopaly (or Military Samovars) duet with S. Tibaev (recorded 1941), Red Fleet Refugees (recorded 1943) (music A. Alexandrov; lyrics N. Labkovsky 1943), Smuglanka, duet with N. Ustinov (recorded 1945), Nightingales, Kalinka, Evening on the Waterfront solo and as duet with V.N.Katerinsky, Winter Evening (1951), Troika (1948), Down by Mother Volga. He recorded Song of my country in Prague 26 October 1952.
Apparently when he sang to entertain the Russian troops at the Eastern Front in World War II, the Germans on the other side stopped shooting to listen. The German appreciation of Nikitin did not end there. At the Alexandrov Ensemble August 1948 Peace Concert, he sang encores of Kalinka and received high praise for his singing. Before the concert he had bought a book of 10 German folk songs, and then persuaded Boris Alexandrov and the USSR commanders to let him sing some of them in German. This would be seen by the German audience as a great commitment to peace. In a photograph taken from the back of the choir at the time, you can see some of the 30,000-strong audience with the destroyed city as a backdrop. You can just see the flowers along the front of the stage, and to the left of the photo, standing in front of the balalaika players is a young soloist, perhaps waiting for Boris to indicate the start of his song. This is the scene which Nikitin, the choir and the orchestra saw on that day in 1948. A 1985 Radio DDR recording (named Auf gutem Weg Mit Guten Freunden) exists of part of this 1948 Berlin concert. Nikitin sang Im Schönsten Wiesengrunde clip (link), Ich Freue Mich Ihnen Mein Lied Zu Singen and Kalinka.
Listen to Victor Nikitin’s speech on a friendship record made in 1988 in East Berlin.
In 2007, Nikitin was still remembered by Leonid Maleev, director of the Ensemble, as the earliest “Mr Kalinka”. It has been rumoured that Nikitin was in disgrace after singing in German in 1948, and that this eventually ended his career in 1952; however it is now said that he simply returned to the Ensemble choir in 1952, by his own choice, due to a strained or tired voice. He continued to be popular with Stalin, who used to wave to him in a friendly manner at concerts. Nikitin could not have returned to the choir without Stalin’s approval; however many relevant source-documents from this era have been destroyed.
Nikitin’s Wikipedia page can be found here.