Elya Baskin is a Latvian actor who has ultimately become one of the most popular choices whenever a Russian is needed in a TV-episode or a major movie production due to his ancestry and accent, best known for his roles in the films Air Force One, October Sky and Thirteen Days


Baskin was born in Riga, the son of Frieda and Zalman Baskin. He is a graduate of Moscow's prestigious Theatre and Variety Arts College and won a Festival of Young Actors Award at the Moscow Comedy Theatre; Baskin was virtually assured of a successful career in the Soviet Union. About his choice of profession in the former USSR he said:

'In Russia, being an actor when it was still the Soviet Union was one of the most prestigious professions. It was like being a doctor here. You had to graduate from one of very few theatre schools, which were all four-year colleges. Without the degree, nobody would hire you. We worked very hard because we wanted to get through the four years and get the diploma, but after you graduate and go to the theatre, the actors don't work like actors work here.
That's what fascinated me more than anything else here, how professional people were, how hard they worked, and how much harder it was to get work. In Russia we were always taught that we had the best theatre schools, but when I came here and started to work, I saw how wrong we were. You really have to be the best to get the part here.'

Then he built a formidable reputation on the European stage. Baskin immigrated to the United States in 1976 when pre-perestroika emigration rules were relaxed in 1976 and he came to Hollywood, though he spoke no English. About the change from stage to screen work, he said:

'In Moscow, theatre was my passion, my love, and I did very little television and film. Once I came here, I thought that because of the language barrier -I didn't know that you don't loop the films like we do in Europe- I'll try to pursue TV and films. For some reason I lost interest in theatre. Film work became so much more fascinating, the whole building of the character, no continuity, the whole camera aspect. Those are the things that really fascinated me.
The language was the biggest challenge. Instead of concentrating on the development of the character, you're thinking about your mouth, about putting your tongue in the right position so people can understand you. I've worked for 20 years, and I will never be able to do a role in English like I would do it in my native tongue, and I know it. Of course, with the years it becomes easier, and more often than not I'm cast as a character with an accent.

Tall, instantly identifiable Eastern European actor Elya Baskin fit the bill in Hollywood for ethnic character portrayals, especially characters with a Slavic background and an amiable demeanor; he also frequently exhibited a slightly zany undercurrent that became something of a trademark. About his being stereotyped casted, he said:

'I feel that, of course, I'm stereotyped. But what can you do? I can't imagine that some director would cast me as a sheriff from Alabama. But you can do exactly what you said: With every character, they're different people, and it's up to you what you do with them. This is your challenge. It doesn't matter how limited your piece of the pie that you can use, you always try to do the best that you can. How can I be upset for not being cast as a Southern sheriff? That's what you call acting; you try to utilize whatever you can to be a different person every time.'

He achieved his international breakthrough, however, at the hands of Hollywood giant Paul Mazursky, who cast him opposite Robin Williams as the clownish Russian circus performer Anatoly in the masterful serio-comedy Moscow on the Hudson (1984) where the actor's birdlike arm-flapping became one of the film's most poignant and memorable images. An additional collaboration with Mazursky followed, the 1989 smash Enemies: A Love Story; in the meantime, Baskin began to rack up a litany of roles in additional A-list projects, including 2010: The Year We Make Contact (1984), Vice Versa (1988), and Love Affair (1994). The Pickle (1993) re-teamed Baskin and Mazursky for a third occasion; unfortunately, it failed to match the critical or commercial success of its predecessors.

Baskin remained in full flower through the end of the following decade, with a memorable comedic turn as Vladimir on the sitcom Mad About You and prominent roles in the big-screen projects Spider-Man 3 and The Dukes (both 2007). And, of course, he has continued playing guest roles in TV series like The West Wing, Alias, The Closer, Criminal Minds, Heroes and Cold Case. About being an actor, he said:

'This is the strangest, most dangerous, insecure, and wonderful life. I wouldn't choose anything else.'

On Criminal MindsEdit

Baskin portrayed Arzeny Lysowsky, a Russian crime boss that fights to remain true to the codes of the Russian mafia even against his own family, in the Season Two episode Honor Among Thieves.


  • Garbage (2010) - CAA Agent
  • Cold Case - Flashover (2010) TV episode - Dr. Goran Petrovic
  • Angels & Demons (2009) - Cardinal Petrov
  • Ulybka Boga, ili Chisto odesskaya istoriya (2008) - Lawyer
  • Heroes - Chapter Six 'The Line' (2007) TV episode - Ivan Spector
  • Say It in Russian (2007) - Victor
  • The Dukes (2007) - Murph
  • Spider-Man 3 (2007) - Mr. Ditkovitch
  • Criminal Minds - Honor Among Thieves (2007) TV episode - Arzeny Lysowsky
  • Color of the Cross (2006) - Caiphas
  • The Elder Son (2006) - Uncle Fedya
  • Confessions of a Pit Fighter (2005) - Nick
  • The Closer - The Big Picture (2005) TV episode - Priest
  • Alias - Nightingale (2005) TV episode - Dr. Josef Vlachko
  • The West Wing - The Wake Up Call (2005) TV episode - Mr. Zubatov
  • Spider-Man 2 (2004) - Mr. Ditkovich
  • 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover (2004) - Dr. Stepniak
  • SOCOM II: U.S. Navy SEALs (2003) (VG) (voice) - Additional Russian VO
  • The Agency - 4 episodes (2001-2002) TV episodes - Borovinsky
  • Wheelmen (2002) - Vladimir
  • Command & Conquer: Yuri's Revenge (2001) (VG) (voice)
  • The Invisible Man - The Three Phases of Claire (2001) TV episode - Dimitri Yevchenko
  • Heartbreakers (2001) - Vladimir, Kremlin Waiter
  • Uboynaya sila - Missiya Violnima: Chast Vtoraya and Missiya Violnima: Chast Tretya (2001) TV episodes - Makarov
  • Thirteen Days (2000) - Anotoly Dobrinyn
  • Early Edition - Blind Faith (2000) TV episode - Vadim
  • Becker - Scriptus Interruptus, Regarding Reggie and Old Yeller (2000) TV episodes - Alexi
  • Runaway Virus (2000) - Father Vadim
  • Running Red (1999) - Strelkin
  • October Sky (1999) - Ike Bykovsky
  • Felicity - Friends (1999) TV episode - Bela
  • Alright Already - Again with the White House (1998) TV episode - Yuri
  • Something So Right - Something About the 'Men' in Menstruation (1998) TV episode - Yuri
  • Murder, She Wrote: South by Southwest (1997) - Boris
  • Air Force One (1997) - Andrei Kolchak
  • Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997) - General Borschevsky
  • The Great War and the Shaping of the 20th Century (1996) TV series - Yakov Yurovski (unknown episodes)
  • Spy Hard (1996) - Professor Ukrinsky
  • Walker, Texas Ranger - One Riot, One Ranger (1993) - Misha and The Moscow Connection (1996) TV episodes - Corp. Yuri Petrovsky
  • Forest Warrior (1996) - Buster
  • Ellen - Horschak's Law (1996) TV episode - Sergei
  • The Larry Sanders Show - Arthur After Hours (1995) TV episode - Nicolae
  • Sisters - Remembrance of Sisters Past (1995) TV episode - Dr. Freud
  • VR.5 - Dr. Strangechild (1995) TV episode - Dr.Zoloft
  • Coach - The Kicker (1995) TV episode - Police Officer #1
  • Love Affair (1994) - Ship Captain
  • New York Skyride (1994)
  • The Pickle (1993) - Russian Cab Driver
  • Quantum Leap - Lee Harvey Oswald - Oct 5, 1957-Nov 22, 1963: Part 1 and Lee Harvey Oswald - Oct 5, 1957-Nov 22, 1963: Part 2 (1992) TV episodes - Major Yuri Kosenko
  • Northern Exposure - War and Peace (1991) TV episode - Nikolai Appolanov
  • True Blue - 12 episodes (1989-1990) TV episodes - Yuri
  • Enemies: A Love Story (1989) - Yasha Kobik
  • Roseanne - The Slice of Life (1989) TV episode - Foreign Man
  • DeepStar Six (1989) - Burciaga
  • True Blue (1989) - Yuri
  • Vice Versa (1988) - Prof. Kerschner
  • Zits (1988) - Timoshenko
  • CBS Summer Playhouse - Sawdust (1987) TV episode - Serge
  • MacGyver - A Prisoner of Conscience and Soft Touch (1987) TV episodes - Yuri Demetri
  • St. Elsewhere - Cold War and Russian Roulette (1987) TV episode - Dr. Peltrovich
  • Combat High (1986) - Interpreter
  • Streets of Gold (1986) - Klebanov
  • Der Name der Rose (1986) - Severinus
  • Comedy Factory - Moscow Bureau (1986) TV episode - Sasha Zhukov
  • My Town (1986) - Slovack
  • Embassy (1985) - Aelx Serov
  • 2010 (1984) - Maxim Brajlovsky
  • Moscow on the Hudson (1984) - Anatoly
  • Masquerade - Flashpoint (1984) TV episode - Clerk
  • American Pop (1981) (voice) - Tuba Player
  • Raise the Titanic (1980) - Marganin
  • Being There (1979) - Karpatov
  • Butch and Sundance: The Early Days (1979) - Bookkeeper
  • The World's Greatest Lover (1977) - Actor with Bad Breath
  • Bolshaya peremena (1972) TV mini-series
  • Telegramma (1971)



  • Ron Perlman and Elya Baskin met in 1986 on the set of director Jean-Jacques Annaud's The Name of the Rose. The two actors, both LA residents and cigar aficionados, have been friends ever since.

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