The famous Soviet theater and movie actor Vladimir Etush was born into a Jewish family in Moscow in 1922. In the context of the general economic situation in the country of those years, the family was well off. During the liberal economy policy of the 1920s, Vladimir's father Abram was the owner of a haberdashery shop. He was arrested, but released after a year and a half in prison. According to the common practice in those years, several other families were settled to live in their large apartment, along with the Etush family. Subsequently, when private commercial activity was banned, both of Vladimir's parents worked as cashiers in a Moscow photography store.
After graduation, Etush tried to enroll in the State Institute of Theater Arts, in the directing department, but he did not pass the examinations. Consequently, he decided to be an auditor at the Boris Shchukin Theater Institute. When the Soviet-German war began in June 1941, Vladimir had finished the first year of the theater institute and was working as an actor at Evgeni Vakhtangov's theater-studio. When he saw that only thirteen spectators attended a performance, Vladimir realized that at that time people were not likely to go to the theater. In October 1941, Vladimir volunteered for the Red Army, despite having an exemption as an actor. Since Etush knew German, he was sent to a four-month course, in Stavropol-on-Volga in the Samara region, for military translators. Subsequently, Etush was assigned to an infantry regiment with the rank of lieutenant. He fought in the mountains of Kabardia and Ossetia and took part in the liberation of Rostov-on-Don and Zaporozhie. In 1943, Vladimir was very seriously wounded and sent to hospital. After that, he was transferred to the reserves after being classified as having a second-degree disability.
In his memoir Etush wrote: "In general, many years have passed but I still remember one main distressing feeling from the war -- the insufferable, leaden, constant tiredness. We never had enough to eat or enough sleep. Sometimes everyone, both commanders and soldiers, simply fell off our feet from exhaustion." 
The common wartime feeling that anyone could be killed at any moment was conveyed by Etush in his account of how he was awarded the Order of the Red Star. During combat in the Zaporozhie area, on the run, the commander of his regiment handed to Vladimir a box containing his award, saying, "Etush, take your order. The devil knows you may be killed [now] or I may be killed!..." 
After being treated in hospital for his wounds, Etush returned to Moscow and resumed studying at the Shchukin Theater Institute in 1944. In 1945, he began working as an actor at Vakhtangov's theater.
Although he is well known for having a special character of his own, he has portrayed many different characters in Soviet and post-Soviet films and theater.
Vladimir Etush died in Moscow in 2019.