Is Osip Glebnikov a Real Russian Officer?

Image Credit: Ben Blackall/Paramount+ With Showtime

The political climate of Russia takes a turn in Showtime’s ‘A Gentleman in Moscow,’ and the aristocracy finds itself at the mercy of the Bolsheviks. The show follows the story of Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov, who lands in front of the Bolshevik tribunal and narrowly misses a death sentence. Instead, he is placed under house arrest, the terms of which require him to spend the rest of his days in the Metropol Hotel. The tribunal also plans to make his stay as uncomfortable and devoid of pleasure as possible.

Officer Osip Glebnikov is put on the task of keeping an eye on the Count to catch the first wrong move he makes and use it as the opportunity to execute him. The show uses its historical setting to underline the danger that the Count is in, and Glebnikov’s standing in the Red Army makes him quite a formidable figure, which might also make one wonder if he is based on a real Red Army officer. SPOILERS AHEAD

Osip Glebnikov is a Fictional Colonel of the Red Army

Image Credit: Ben Blackall/Paramount+ With Showtime

Played by ‘This is England’ actor Johnny Harris, the character of Osip Glebnikov in ‘A Gentleman in Moscow’ is not based on a real person. He is a fictional character created by Amor Towles for his novel on which the Showtime series is based. The author set the story in post-Bolshevik Revolution Russia because it felt like the apt time when the house arrest of an aristocrat would be believable for the audience. Moreover, it would also allow him to add characters like Osip into the story and, through them, see the political changes in Russia through a closer lens.

Towles revealed that while he did lean into Russia’s then-political landscape and used certain historical events to mark the development of the story, he didn’t look toward history to find characters for his story. Even before he started to write ‘A Gentleman in Moscow,’ he knew he wanted to play with the line between fact and fiction, which is why he refrained from pulling a real-life historical figure into his fictional story.

To keep things as close to reality as possible, the author delved into some research and used some markers of the military figures in Russia at the time to create an outline of Osip Glebnikov’s character. However, when it came to filling the colors in his character, he chose to go his own way. He wanted to make Glebnikov a character that remains unexpected to the audience at all turns, much like he is to the Count.

At the beginning of the story, Glebnikov is someone that the Count, as well as the audience, is scared of because they know he is out to get the aristocrats, and the first mistake the Count makes would be his last. However, over time, the dynamics between the two change, especially as Glebnikov realizes that the Count is not so useless after all. This change in their equation eventually has a significant impact on both of their stories, making Osip Glebnikov an incredibly important character.

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