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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

A Journalist at the Peak of His Powers

Vladislav Listyev was one of the most popular figures on Russian television. And he was certainly one of the most versatile.

Listyev was part of a team of young journalists who started the controversial and hard-hitting "Vzglyad" (View) program, one of the smash hits of perestroika. Throughout his career, he combined high professional standards with the flair of a born entertainer.

As host of the popular "Pole Chudes" (Field of Dreams), he introduced the game show to Russian audiences in 1990. His perceptive interviewing style, together with his Larry King suspenders, made his "Chas Pik" (Prime Time) one of the most successful talk shows on television.

"He could reinvent himself completely," said Anatoly Lysenko, general director of RTR, or Russian Television, in an interview with Russian Radio. "He had a very strong character, one that could not be broken. And he was brought down just as he was soaring."

Listyev was only 38 at the time of his murder, and about to assume the directorship of a newly privatized company, Russian Public Television, which was to replace the state-controlled Ostankino.

He graduated in 1982 from the department of journalism at Moscow State University with a concentration in international reporting. He spoke three foreign languages: French, Spanish and Hungarian.

After receiving his diploma, he went to work for state radio where he spent five years.

In 1987, he began his television career with "Vzglyad" and in 1990 assumed control of the ViD television company, the first independent television studio inside Ostankino.

Listyev continued to produce and host shows, including "Pole Chudes" and "Tema" (Theme), a studio talk show centering on social issues.

He had a rather tempestuous personal life and was in his third marriage at the time of his death. He has two children, a son by his second wife, and a daughter.

Listyev's death has stunned the nation. All regular programming except for news was suspended on all television channels Thursday between noon and 7 p.m., with most stations displaying a portrait of Listyev against a black background.

"Let the black symbolize this black time," said RTR's Lysenko.

Hundreds of mourners gathered at Listyev's home, the site of his murder. Others flocked to Ostankino, where they milled around outside the gates with flowers and pictures of the murdered journalist.

At 7 p.m., Ostankino began a program devoted to Listyev, gathering prominent Russians from all walks o life to pay tribute to the fallen journalist, while expressing outrage at the manner of his death. Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev was in the audience, appealing to all not to panic and desert democracy.

"That would be a betrayal of all that Vlad Listyev fought for," he said.

The murder has sparked rage and fear in journalistic circles.

"If they can kill Listyev, they can kill anybody," said Igor Podzigun, director of the advertising and commercial department at Ostankino."Now at Ostankino, the question 'Who is next?' has acquired real significance," he added.

Lysenko said that he had received a fax from Vladimir Posner, a veteran television commentator who divides his time between Russia and America.

"Posner said, 'Do not be silent,'" said Lysenko. "He said that it is an illusion to think that this murder does not touch on each and every one of us."

The greatest source of anger seems to be the general conviction that Listyev's murderers will never be caught. The Oct. 17 killing of reporter Dmitry Kholodov remains unsolved, as do the murders of several members of parliament.

"What would happen if an American senator were killed?" fumed Podzigun. "The whole country would be in an uproar. And what if they killed Larry King?"