Iosef Kobzon is a man with more than one big black furry cossack hat: he's not only one of Russia's most popular singers, he's also a Duma deputy, possible mafioso, businessman, and most recently - hostage negotiator.

Iosef Kobzon's fame as a state-sanctioned folk singer helped him to cement his landslide victory when he went up for a 1994 by-election State Duma seat in the Agin-Buryat autonomous okrug. He won 86% of the vote, easily outpacing his rivals. He has been accused of having ties to the mafia and the criminal underworld, but has also won lawsuits against those who say it in public. As a member of parliament, he benefits from immunity against any legal investigation or prosecution. Nevertheless, when he requested a visitor's entry visa to the United States in 1995 he was turned down cold, and has had to cool his heels in more than one international airport before gaining admission to other countries.

Kobzon is very popular with Chechens, which may have played a role in his selection as a hostage negotiator in the October 2002 Chechen separatists' takeover of a Russian theater showing a popular musical. Kobzon extracted a promise from the hostage-takers that citizens of countries "not at war with Chechnya" would be released. This promise was honored. Unfortunately, the situation would ultimately have to be resolved by a military assault on the theater. 64 hostages and all but two of the separatists were killed.

His most recent release is a CD of Ukranian duets with singer Taisiya Povaliy, titled Odna-Yedyna. Odna-Yednya is dedicated to the Independence Day of Ukraine. After listening to some of these tracks online, I can personally testify to the fact that Kobzon's voice is just like butter. Also, to the fact that he looks a lot like Sonny Bono (if Sonny Bono had been very fond of piroshki and sour cream and rich borscht washed down with large quantities of vodka several times a day).

Track List:

  1. Kyyeve Miy
  2. Pisnya Pro Rushnyk
  3. Chervona Ruta
  4. Misyats' Na Nebi
  5. Rozpryahayte, khloptsi koney!
  6. Chornobryvtsi
  7. Ivanko
  8. Cheremshyna
  9. Ochi Voloshkovi
  10. Dva Koliory
  11. Yaseny
  12. Pisnya Pro Matir
  13. Richka-Richenka
  14. Tysha Navkruhy
  15. Maky Chervoni
  16. Dushi Krynytsia
  17. Zeleny Hay
  18. Hey, Nalyvayte!
  19. Kyjivsky Vals
  20. Dumy Moji
  21. Odna-Yedyna (sound clips)