Interview with Russian Showman Sangadzhi Tarbaev

Sangadzhi Tarbaev was born on April 15th, 1982 in the city of Elista, Republic of Kalmykia,Russia. He has been part of KVN since his days at the “school desk”.

He has performed in a number of KVN teams such as “the Kalmykia school team”, “the Elista saigas”, “the Oriental express” and later in “the Children of Lumumba” and “the Samurai”. He reached the peak of his KVN “career” when he became the captain of the Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia (Moscow) KVN team. For its achievements, this team can be included in the list of the legendary ones and its captain can be called the most singing captain among the modern KVN teams.

Sangadzhi graduated from the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at the Department of Theory and History of International Relations of the People’s Friendship University of Russia. He is currently a graduate student. His professional activities include the production of television projects such as “You go, teens!”, “Toys”, Unpaid Vacation”, “Ural dumplings”, “Video battle”, “Traffic light”, “Random Ties”, “Unreal Story”, “Once at the police station”, “Alone for all”. He has hosted the program “The League of Nations” previously known as “The Color of the Nation” (co-host Stanislav Yarushin). He is also the CEO of the “YBW GROUP” which produces the “FIGHT NIGHTS” sports show.
We decided to talk to him about what KVN is from a member’s point of view and why it “catches” the hearts of young people so much.

Could you please tell me why it is impossible to imagine the Russian student community without KVN?

I think that each student community and youth educational process is always associated with something extracurricular. In different countries these activities vary. I know that American universities have singing choirs and football teams etc. In Russia, KVN is our traditional activity. It’s intellectual and funny at the same time.

What qualities should a student possess to become part of KVN and to prove oneself as a valuable member? Why are students who start participating in KVN considered to be part of a particular “caste”?

The main advantage of KVN is that any person, possessing different qualities, can be part of it. After all, this game has so many roles which should be covered, such as authors, actors and directors, and this, by far, isn’t a complete list. Anyone who wants to be part of this movement and to feel as one with these people can find something to do. In this case there are no restrictions. To prove oneself and to become one of the best KVN members one needs to dedicate a lot of time to this activity, to believe in it and to be a fan of this game.

Does KVN somehow help the educational process, or, on the contrary, does it interfere with it?

If we are talking about the academic educational process then KVN does interfere with it. However, if we are talking about ones education as a whole, ones personality and ones attitude towards the world, then, on the contrary, KVN develops and helps.

Please tell us, what forces young people to remain in KVN after their university graduation?

Over the years spent in KVN, people create such a circle of friends and such a climate of mutual relations, that, actually, they do not want to leave. This atmosphere is very nice and comfortable. If you have been able to achieve something in KVN, it means that you know how to do something very well and, therefore, many people just choose this lifestyle for themselves for a long time. From one side, this can be awesome and cool, but with age, KVN begins to be in conflict with real life. You start a family, have kids, things become more complicated and, of course, in this regard KVN can’t entirely be integrated into a normal life. I have known many KVN members who, because of this, don’t or can’t have a normal personal life. However, this is each person’s choice.

There is a belief that a professional actor can’t be a member of KVN. Is this true or false?

I think that a professional actor can cope with any challenge which is put in front of him as his profession is to be an actor. However, KVN has it own pace, its own rhythm, its own movement and all this must be felt and understood right from the beginning. This is very hard to do not only for a professional, but also for any other person who want to become part of KVN. As soon as you feel it, as soon as you stand on the KVN stage and understand the principles, then, I think that everything else will be easy. Actors have a very professional approach to this and, sometimes, even too serious and fundamental. Everything in KVN is a game, a game where there is more irony and satire, and it is an art only after that.

How is it possible to explain what KVN is to a foreigner?

It’s very difficult. We have attempted to explain it to a foreigner by saying: “It’s like a humor show; it’s like a TV comedy club”. However, this isn’t exactly it, it’s a bit different. To understand KVN, it should be experienced, in fact, not even experienced, but at least the person needs to understand the Russian language. There is a lot of Soviet mentality in KVN. Of course, certain acts and jokes can be translated, but it’s very difficult to explain to the capitalist mentality, let’s say, as in Europe or in America, why millions of young people spend their free time participating in KVN without getting anything in return.

Is KVN an opportunity to show oneself, to reveal hidden talents or to simply self-promote?

KVN is different for everyone. People come here for different reasons. It’s like in the fairy tale about Goodwin: some come for brains, some for bravery, some for courage and some for luck. Therefore, it’s difficult to answer clearly. For me personally, KVN has been a lifestyle which left a special imprint on my life and I still continue to look at the world from the perspective of KVN.

Your wishes to the beginners in KVN.

I wish to all KVN players, to grow to the point that you will be able to be interviewed in Prague.

Photo: From the Archive of Sangadzhi Tarbaev

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