Shtokolov was trained as a pilot, but according to an oft-told story, Soviet Field Marshall Georgy Zhukov arranged for him to leave the military and study at a conservatory after hearing him sing. His roles at the Mariinsky included Mephistopheles in Gounod's Faust, the title role of Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov, and Gremin in Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin.
According to the Times, Shtokolov was nicknamed "the Soviet Shaliapin," in a nod to Feodor Shaliapin, the great pre-revolutionary Russian bass.
Shtokolov died of complications from peritonitis. He was buried at St. Petersburg's Volkovskoye on January 11 after a memorial at the Mariinsky.