Koschei The Deathless Folklorette Marionette by Basil Milovsoroff

Koschei The Deathless Folklorette Marionette by Basil Milovsoroff

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Description (Brief)
This colorful painted wood puppet Koschei the Deathless, is one of a group of three marionettes based on a Russian folktale created by Basil Milovsoroff. Koschei is mythical figure from Russian folk tales, and is usually portrayed as a thin, bony man who is rich and wicked and possesses an egg which holds the secret of eternal life. Koschei is accompanied by Leyshi the magical villain and jokester, and Baba Yaga the Wicked Witch, along with a background panel called "The Hut on Chicken Legs". The puppets could be operated with either strings or a rod.
Milovsoroff was known for his strange but whimsical puppets which were based on characters from Russian folklore and fairy tales. Milovsoroff called these puppets "folklorettes" otherwise known as sprites, elves, goblins, or fairies who lived in an imaginary, forest-like kingdom.
Born in Siberia, Basil Milovsoroff (1906–1992) emigrated to the United States in 1927 and went on to receive a bachelors degree from Oberlin College in 1932, and completed his masters in 1934. From 1934-1957 he toured the United States producing puppet shows in museums and children's theaters featuring Russian folk tales.
Milovsoroff was a member of The Federal Theatre Project, which was one of many programs created by President Roosevelt for the New Deal in 1935. The project was developed during the Great Depression to employ jobless theater professionals and make the performing arts available to the vast number of citizens who had little money for entertainment. Puppets were an integral part of this project and marionette units presented an average of 1200 shows a week in 22 states. Between 1934-1937, the Federal Theater Project units produced over 2700 plays seen by about 30 million people, most of whom had ever seen a play.
In 1954 Milovsoroff taught Russian at Cornell University and was named the Chairman of the National Festival of the Puppeteers of America.
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
ca 1939
Milovsoroff, Basil
place made
United States: Vermont, Norwich
associated place
United States: Vermont
Physical Description
paint (overall material)
straw (overall material)
wood (overall material)
overall: 25 in x 5 in x 16 in; 63.5 cm x 12.7 cm x 40.64 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Gift of Basil and Georgia Taylor Milovsoroff
See more items in
Cultural and Community Life: Entertainment
1939 exhibit
Popular Entertainment
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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"Mr. Milovsovoff was a college friend of my father at Oberlin College. He visited our home when I was in my early teens and gave a puppet show for women's club. Later he sent one of his sculptures to my father which I have inherited. It is named, The Patrician. It is a wooden man thumbing his nose. One of its hands is as long as a leg with a huge naturally occurring appendage that could also be a foot. He put red and green eyes on the head for port and starboard. It is wrapped in a copper spiral adornment for clothing. I can provide pictures of this sculpture if you wish to have them. Thank you. Jon Griffith"

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