Bond’s top 12 Russian characters

Barbara Bach,  an Austrian-born American actress, played Russian KGB Major Anna Amasova in “The Spy Who Loved Me” (1977). Source: AFP / East-News

Barbara Bach, an Austrian-born American actress, played Russian KGB Major Anna Amasova in “The Spy Who Loved Me” (1977). Source: AFP / East-News

With the 50th anniversary of the spy movies about James Bond, RBTH introduces the most notorious Russian villains and heroes who opposed Agent 007 or fought on his side.

{***KGB major Anna Amasova and a member of the terrorist group, Rosa Klebb***}

The most famous spy series in world cinema is 50 years old.  The film “Dr. No” was released on  Oct. 4, 1962. Russia Beyond The Headlines introduces the most notorious Russian villains and heroes who opposed Agent 007 or fought on his side.

1. Anna Amasova

Name: Anna Amasova

Actress: Barbara Bach

Film: “The Spy Who Loved Me” (1977)

Barbara Bach, an Austrian-born American actress and a former Playboy model called Bond a “male chauvinist pig,” but when she played KGB Major Anya Amasova, she changed her mind a bit.

She was supposed to kill bond to avenge the death of her lover, but in the final scene of “The Spy Who Loved Me,” she pops into the air not Roger Moore, but a cork from a champagne bottle.

Unlike many other Bond companions, Amasova is more than just a sex object. Although she wants Bond dead, she works with him to track down a nuclear submarine, captured by a millionaire intent on destroying civilization.

Barbara Bach is the wife of Beatles drummer Ringo Starr, whom she married in 1981.

2. Rosa Klebb 

The Austrian singer and actress Lotte Lenya stars Rosa Klebb in  the movie - “From Russia with Love” (1963).

Name: Rosa Klebb

Actress: Lotte Lenya

Film: “From Russia with Love” (1963)

Even without the soundtrack, “From Russia With Love” could be a manual for those who have still not made up their minds which of the two opposing camps in the Cold War was better.

The “good guys” are very handsome, which makes the choice easier – and vice versa: Rosa Klebb, Bond’s antagonist, is a skinny, sadistic, bespectacled b***, whose sex appeal is about on a par with Leonid Brezhnev’s in old age. Ian Fleming, the creator of Bond, apparently thought that dedicated communists were all short-changed by nature.

The film cuts some of the sharp corners contained in the book, considering the tense situation in the world at the time: the main enemy is not the Soviet counterintelligence (SMERSH) but an imaginary terrorist group called “Spectrum.”

Rosa Klebb, whose name brings associations with the once popular motto of the working women’s movement, “Khleb I Rozy” (“Bread and Roses”) used to be a SMERSH official. Now she is working for the “Spectrum” group, trying to lure Bond into a deadly trap. In the end, Klebb falls victim to her own secret weapon: poisoned switchblades hidden in the toes of her shoes.

Rosa Klebb was played by the Austrian singer and actress Lotte Lenya who, together with her husband, composer Kurt Weill (“The Threepenny Opera”), emigrated to the United States in 1935. Lenya once said that, since the film was released, whenever she was introduced to strangers she first looked at their footgear.

{***Bond's girfriend Tatyana Romanova and computer programmer Natalya Smirnova***}

3. Tatyana Romanova

Italian actress Daniela Bianchi plays Soviet Intelligence offier Tatyana Romanova in the movie -

Name: Tatyana Romanova

Actress: Daniela Bianchi

Film: “From Russia with Love” (1963)

Tatyana Romanova, a talented young intelligence agent, thought she was serving her country by playing the role of bait for Bond but was actually being used by Spectrum.

Needless to say, she failed to seduce the irrepressible womanizer, Agent 007. Instead, Bond and the Soviet spy fell in love, a feeling that proved stronger than ideological borders.

Lieutenant Romanova was fighting on the wrong side simply because she was naïve. But how could someone who shares a name with one of the last tsar’s daughters harbor evil plans?

The Italian actress Daniela Bianchi, who played the part, had to look good opposite Sean Connery, and she was eminently qualified for that. She was previously a model and, in 1960, won the title of Ms. Rome and was runner-up in the Miss Universe contest. Bianchi appeared in just 10 films; her acting career came to an end in 1968.

4. Natalya Simonova

Actress Isabella Scorubko appeared in the

Name: Natalya Simonova

Actress: Isabella Scorupko

Film: “GoldenEye” (1995)

Plenty of strange things go on in Bond films, but something completely unpredictable took place between the release of the 16th and 17th installments in the series: the Berlin Wall fell, Eastern Europe ceased to be controlled from Moscow and the Soviet Union collapsed.

What would Bond do once the Iron Curtain came down? “GoldenEye” is set in the 1990s, which brought Bond new enemies and new allies: instead of fighting Soviet spies, he is helped by Natalya Simonova, a computer programmer.

Together they manage to neutralize the Soviet space weapon GoldenEye, which had fallen into the hands of criminals.

The first film featuring Pierce Brosnan as the principal character was the peak of the acting career of Polish-Swedish actress Isabella Scorubko, who was successful as a model and a pop singer.

{***General Arkady Ourumov and the Soviet Air Force test pilot Kseniya Onatopp***}

5. General Arkady Ourumov

German actor Gottfried John starring General Arkady Ourumov. Source: AFP / East-News
German actor Gottfried John starring General Arkady Ourumov. Source: AFP / East-News

Name: General Arkady Ourumov

Actor: Gottfried John

Film: “GoldenEye” (1995)

German actor Gottfried John has been described as having “a rumpled face, slit eyes and the forehead of a Neanderthal man.” Although he was reported unhappy with his looks, his distinctive visage has contributed to his success.

John was more than effective as Russian army officer Arkady Ourumov in “GoldenEye.” Ourumov is a high-ranking official in charge of space weapons at the Russian defense ministry, yet he is engaged in a complicated game.

Using the name of Alec Trevelyan, the supposedly murdered Agent 006, Ourumov carries out an assignment for a crime syndicate called Janus, penetrates a space station and destroys it. Ourumov wants to put the blame on “Siberian separatists” and cold-bloodedly shoots dead the defense minister when the latter begins to suspect who actually carried out the attack.

James Bond feels quite confident in post-Soviet Russia: seizing a T-55 tank, he engages in a dizzying chase through the streets of St Petersburg and eventually kills Ourumov.

6. Kseniya Onatopp

Actress Famke Janssen plays the Soviet Air Force test pilot Kseniya Onatopp in the "GoldenEye" movie. Source: AFP / East-News
Actress Famke Janssen plays the Soviet Air Force test pilot Kseniya Onatopp in the "GoldenEye" movie. Source: AFP / East-News

Name: Kseniya Onatopp

Actress: Famke Janssen

Film: “GoldenEye” (1995)

In the final scene of the film, Kseniya Onatopp’s body dangles on a safety rope from a tree somewhere in Cuba. “She always liked a strong embrace,” James Bond remarks casually.

In the film, Onatopp was born in Georgia and was a test pilot in the Soviet Air Force. She has a strange name, but her behavior is even stranger.

No wonder even James Bond, who would normally have gone for the beautiful girl, gives her a wide berth. She thinks nothing of killing someone because, in the process of killing, she has an orgasm. She tortures her victims to death between her strong thighs.

Her pathology went unnoticed at her former place of work but, since Onatopp (played by Dutch model and actress Famke Janssen) joined the secret organization Janus, she has left dead bodies in her wake. In the final showdown on Cuba, she growls in Bond’s face: “This time all the pleasure is mine.” She was right.

{***Former KGB agent Valentin Zhukovsky and mysterious General Orlov***}

7. Valentin Zhukovsky

Scottish actor Robbie Coltrane plays in former KGB agent Valentin Zhukovsky. Source: AFP / East-News
Scottish actor Robbie Coltrane plays in former KGB agent Valentin Zhukovsky. Source: AFP / East-News

Name: Valentin Zhukovsky

Actor: Robbie Coltrane

Film: “GoldEye” (1995), “The Whole World Is Not Enough” (1999)       

Robbie Coltrane was not always the giant Rubeus Hagrid from Harry Potter.

Before becoming a teacher at Hogwarts, the Scottish actor played former KGB agent Valentin Zhukovsky, who, after the breakup of the Soviet Union, became a criminal organizing an arms smuggling syndicate under the cover of a club in St Petersburg.

Because crime lords have a way of knowing one another, James Bond used Zhukovsky to track down Janus. The two men had met before, which is why the former Soviet spy has a limp: Bond had shot him in the knee. But a walking stick has its pluses: It can fire bullets.

Zhukovsky later goes straight, owning a casino and a caviar factory in Baku. It is attacked by Bond’s rival Electra King, who captures Bond. King shoots Zhukovsky, but before he dies, he releases 007.

8. General Orlov

British actor Steven Berkoff plays in General Orlov on the

Name: General Orlov

Actor: Steven Berkoff

Film: “Octopussy”(1983)

This film blends exotica and real politics. The action begins in Cuba, but continues in India, where the plot is interspersed with debates on the arms race and NATO.

The mysterious Octopussy, acting on directions from Prince Kamal Khan, organizes illegal transfer to the West of Russian treasures spirited out of the Soviet Union by General Orlov, played by British actor Steven Berkoff (“Rambo,” “Beverly Hills Cop”).

Orlov is a hawk who is planning an attack on West Germany but fails to win support even among his party members. Undeterred, he decides to go it alone. Unbeknownst to Octopussy, he replaces a Faberge egg hidden among the stage props of a circus bound for Germany with an atomic bomb. The bomb was to go off during the performance of the circus at a U.S. airbase.

In his twisted mind, Orlov believes that after the disaster West German anti-war activists will demand the withdrawal of American troops from their country, which would then become easy prey for the Soviet army.

Bond, however, cracks General Orlov’s mystery. He boards the train in order to neutralize the bomb. On the border between East and West Germany, Orlov jumps out of the train, and is shot by border guards, who take him for a defector.

{***Generals Gogol and Pushkin***}

9. General Anatoly Gogol

German actor Gotell played the role of KGB head Anatoly Gogol in six Bond films.

Name: General Anatoly Gogol

Actor: Walter Gotell

Films: “The Spy Who Loved Me” (1977), “The Moonraker” (1979), “For Your Eyes Only” (1981), Octopussy (1983), “License to Kill” (1985), “The Living Daylights” (1987).

In the 1970s and 1980s, German actor Gotell played the role of KGB head Anatoly Gogol in six Bond films. For film buffs, his bald head became a symbol of Bondiana.

Gogol directs the Soviet special services from his cavernous Kremlin office. His name is Anatoly, though he is called Alexei in some parts of the series.

The general has a certain noble-ness. He is an enemy but he never charges head-on. He never does anything that aggravates the conflict and he is ready to cooperate with the enemy in the fight against a common enemy.

On one occasion, General Gogol even comes to MI-6 London headquarters to present an Order of Lenin to Bond.

10. General Leonid Pushkin

Welshman John Rhys-Davis plays General Leonid Pushkin, Anatoly Gogol's successor.

Name: General Leonid Pushkin

Actor: John Rhys-Davies

Film: “The Living Daylights” (1987)

First Gogol, then Pushkin: the KGB headquarters seem to be swarming with the namesakes of great Russian writers. It may be a coincidence or perhaps a subtle hint that Soviet special services are headed by smart people.

When Anatoly Gogol is consigned to honorary retirement in an obscure post at the Foreign Ministry, Leonid Pushkin succeeds him. In the meantime, perestroika broke out in the country and, in the next James Bond film, there will be no KGB.

In this part, however, General Pushkin, played by Welshman John Rhys-Davis, has to foil the intrigues of a former fellow worker. Retired KGB General Georgi Koskov has been delivered to the West, where he tries to persuade Bond’s bosses that Pushkin has reanimated the SMERSH plan and has made a hit list of foreign agents.

By selling this lurid story, he wants to provoke a quarrel between the two great powers and, in the ensuing chaos, to smuggle opium and profit from the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Bond and Pushkin team up and eventually Koskov is arrested in Tangiers.

{***Camilla, a special agent from Bolivia***}

11. Camilla

Russian actress with Ukrainian origins Olga Kurilenko plays Camilla in the

Name: Camilla

Actress: Olga Kurilenko

Film: “Quantum of Solace” (2008)

Russians in Western films are played by anyone but Russians and the Bond films in particular are populated by phony Russians. A milestone occurred in 2008, when the female lead in the latest Bond film, “Quantum of Solace,” was played by a Russian, Olga Kurilenko.

Alas, Kurilenko plays not a Russian but a special agent from Bolivia seeking to avenge the death of her family. Legend has it that talent scouts from a modeling agency spotted 13-year-old Olga with her mother on an escalator in the Moscow metro.

{***Stierlitz, a Russian counterpart of James Bond***}

12. Russian Bond: Max Otto von Stierlitz

Vyacheslav Tikhonov plays a Russian Bond - Max Otto von Stierlitz - in the Soviet spy saga

Name: Max Otto von Stierlitz

Actor: Vyacheslav Tikhonov

Film: “Seventeen Moments of Spring” (1973)

This miniseries portrayed a “Russian Bond,” but this spy focuses more on the mind than the body.

When the film was first shown on television in 1973, between 50 and 80 million people watched it. The plot concerns a Soviet mole in the Main Security Office of the Third Reich. He is Maxim Isayev who goes by the name Max Otto von Stierlitz.

The time is early 1945 and he has to find out the background to the rumors that one of Hitler’s generals had been secretly holding peace talks with the Western allies. Stierlitz, an intellectual of few words, quickly establishes the identity of the general but his colleagues treat him with growing mistrust.

The series owes part of its phenomenal success to the fact that it shows virtually the entire top leadership of the Third Reich: Hitler, Goering, Himmler and many others. Surprisingly, the Germans are portrayed ordinary people and not caricatures.  

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