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The Soviet Story

trailer video
Directed by Edvīns Šnore
Produced by Kristaps Valdnieks
Written by Edvīns Šnore
Narrated by Jon Strickland
Cinematography Edgars Daugavvanags
Uvis Brujāns
Editing by Nic Gotham
Release date(s) May 5, 2008
Running time 85 minutes
Country Latvia
Language English

The Soviet Story is a 2008 documentary film about Soviet Communism and Soviet-German collaboration before 1941 written and directed by Edvīns Šnore and sponsored by the UEN Group in the European Parliament.

The film features interviews with western and Russian historians such as Norman Davies and Boris Sokolov, Russian writer Viktor Suvorov, Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovsky, members of the European Parliament and the participants, as well as the victims of Soviet terror.

The film argues that there were close philosophical, political and organizational connections between the Nazi and Soviet systems before and during the early stages of World War II.[1] It highlights the Great Purge as well as the Great Famine, Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, Katyn massacre, Gestapo-NKVD collaboration, Soviet mass deportations and medical experiments in the GULAG.

Contents

Reception

The film has attracted praise and criticism from academic historians and political commentators.

The Economist review of The Soviet Story praises the film by saying

"Soviet Story" is the most powerful antidote yet to the sanitisation of the past. The film is gripping, audacious and uncompromising. [...] The main aim of the film is to show the close connections—philosophical, political and organisational—between the Nazi and Soviet systems.[1]

It concludes its review by calling the documentary "a sharply provocative work".[1]

Various Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) who were interviewed for the film, [2] have expressed views in favour of it. According to the Latvian MEPs Inese Vaidere and Ģirts Valdis Kristovskis writing in Parliament Magazine:

The Soviet Story makes a significant contribution to the establishment of a common understanding of history and brings us closer to the truth about the tragic events of the 20th century. A common understanding of history among the member states is crucial for the future of the whole EU.[3]

Both Vaidere and Kristovskis represent the UEN group which actively supported the production of the film.[4]

After watching the film, Finnish MEP Ari Vatanen gave the following comment:

It is a powerful message. Thank you for telling the truth. It will awaken people.[5] ... We cannot build a humanity if we close our eyes to this kind of massacres. Our possibility is to serve justice to those people.[6]

British MEP Christopher Beazley commented:

This film is very important. It's a very powerful representation of what took place in Poland, in Latvia and the other Central European countries.[7]

Also Vytautas Landsbergis, MEP and the former Head of the Lithuanian Seimas (Parliament), assessed The Soviet Story as

a world class film, which should be shown to the world[8]

Likewise, Latvia's Minister of Justice, Gaidis Bērziņš (TB/LNNK), has said that, because of its important historical message, he would encourage the Ministry of Education to have the film shown in all schools in Latvia.[9]

MEP from Latvia Tatjana Ždanoka, who opposed Latvia's independence from the Soviet Union and ran as a candidate of the largest Russian political bloc in Latvia,[10] regards the film as a "propagandistic odd job, which is given out to be "a new word in history".[11] She also thought that "the second part of the film is pure political PR": while the first part of the film pictures the point of view of some historians, contemporary politicians criticize modern Russia in the end of the film.[11] Ždanoka also noted that "a lot of attention was devoted to the partnership of the German and Russian military. This is followed by a jump forward in time to the 1940s, with a mass-meeting of Vlasovites is shown against a background of swastika".[11]

Nazi SS and Soviet officers salute each other, 1940. (screenshot from the film)

The film prompted negative reactions from Russian organizations, press, and politicians. According to the "European Voice" newspaper, Russians are infuriated by the film which reveals the extent of Nazi and Soviet collaboration[12]

On May 17, 2008 the Russian pro-governmental youth organization Young Russia (Russian: Россия Молодая) organized the protest "Let's not allow the rewriting of history!" (Russian: "Не дадим переписать историю!")[13] in front of the Embassy of Latvia in Moscow. An effigy representing Edvīns Šnore was burnt during the protest.[14]

Latvian political scientist and cultural commentator Ivars Ījabs offers a mixed review of The Soviet Story. On one hand, it is a well-made and "effective piece of cinematic propaganda in the good sense of this word", whose message is clearly presented to the audience. On the other hand, Ījabs does not agree with a number of historical interpretations in the film, asserting that it contains errors. For example, Ījabs states that, "In late 1930s Hitler did not yet plan a systematic genocide against the Jews", as it is suggested in the film; "Everybody knows that this decision was made in 1942 at the Wannsee Conference in Berlin." Furthermore, Ījabs comments on the notion in the film voiced by the British literary historian George Watson of Cambridge University that Karl Marx is "the ancestor of the modern political genocide".[15] Ījabs says: "To present Karl Marx as the "progenitor of modern genocide is simply to lie". Ījabs admits, however, Marx using the term "racial trash" (Völkerabfälle) in relation to a number of small European nations.[16]

In Finland the film was shown in events organized by the irredentist group ProKarelia.[17][18][18][19] A criminal complaint by Johan Bäckman, member of the Finnish Anti-Fascist Committee[20] against ProKarelia has lead to a criminal investigation on suspicion of showing violent scenes to minors, incitement to ethnic or racial hatred and propaganda of violence.[21][22][23] The Finnish Film inspector authority, however, did not find the film's content offensive and authorized its showing in Finland.[24] Johan Bäckman also protested against the screening of The Soviet Story on the Estonian National TV. He asked the Estonian police to start a criminal investiagion. The Police, however, turned down Bäckman's request and refused to initiate a criminal investigation "due to the lack of crime".[25]

The New York Times in its review of the documentary stated

The film is not dispassionate scholarship; Mr. Snore, who is Latvian, and his backers (including some members of the European Parliament) obviously have an agenda, though to the casual American viewer it may not be clear what it is.[26]

A number of critics condemned the film even before its premiere.[27] Boris Tsilevich, a Latvian member of parliament representing Harmony Centre, stated that it was a "typical propaganda" and its release was timed to coincide with the 2009 Latvian elections for the European Parliament.[27]

Criticism

This photo of starving children during the famine in Russia in 1922 according to Alexander Dyukov was presented in The Soviet Story as being one of victims of the 1932-1933 famine in Ukraine.

A Russian historian with alleged FSB affiliation,[28][29] Alexander Dyukov has been the most vocal critic of the documentary. His first reaction on the film was this: "After watching two thirds of the film, I had only one wish: to kill its director and to burn down the Latvian Embassy."[30] As a result of Dyukov's statements a criminal investigation has been initiated against him in Latvia.[31] Asked to comment on the case, Latvian Foreign Minister Maris Riekstins commented that Alexander Dyukov might be a "mentally unstable personality".[32]

Alexander Dyukov expressed his opinion that the film is a propaganda piece which makes false claims and utilises distorted quotes and statistics.[33]

Moscow State institute of International relations' website admitted that Dyukov's activities regarding the film "are of provocative character".[34] Since Alexander Dyukov publicly criticized the film on TV and in the Russian newspapers even before seeing the actual film, some of his statements about the film proved to be not true. He alleged, for example, that Arseny Roginsky, head of the "Memorial" society took part in the film.[35] In fact, according to the official website of the film, Arseny Roginsky did not take part in the film.[36 ] Roginsky himself, however, neither confirmed nor denied his participation, claiming he sees too many journalists each day to remember if Latvian team coming to Memorial was talking to him that day. He also added that "no historian, if he's not completely out of his mind, would pronounce the rubbish authors speak about in their film", calling the idea of NKVD-Gestapo accord a "delirium that can only be accepted by a very badly educated person".[37]

Dyukov alleges inconsistencies in the film and questions the credibility of some of the film sequences and conclusions of some of the Russian and Western historians interviewed in the film.[38] Izvestia reported[39] that the part of the film pertaining to medical experiments in the GULAG used Sergey Melnikoff's web-site "GULAG: With a camera among the camps" as a source,[40] which Dyukov maintains is not trustworthy.[41] Dyukov also alleges in the same report that the document supporting the Gestapo-NKVD partnership hypothesis presented in the film, the secret Gestapo-NKVD agreement of November 11, 1938, is a fake.[39]

RIA Novosti alleges[42] that the film shows a photograph of corpses piled in stacks and covered with logs, from Klooga concentration camp (such as the image above). In fact, according to the official film website the film does not show any images from Klooga.[36 ]

On the basis of Dyukov's statements, Russian daily Izvestia alleged that the Nazi-Soviet collaboration document (1938) shown in the film was a fake because its text contained mistakes. It was alleged that the document mistakenly mentioned Reinhard Heydrich as Reichsführer-SS and Heinrich Müller as Brigadeführer.[43]

In fact, as it is clearly seen 49 minutes into the "Soviet Story" DVD, the above-mentioned document referred to Reinhard Heydrich as SS-Gruppenführer and Heinrich Müller as Standartenführer, which he was in 1938.[36 ]

Dyukov also criticized the film for showing a famous photo which was widely published in Europe by the Nansen committee in 1922 and which bears the name "Brothers in misfortune" (Russian: Братья по несчастью). The photo which shows a starving boy feeding another starving boy was taken during famine in Russia in 1922, however in The Soviet Story, according to Dyukov, the boys are presented as victims of the famine in Ukraine.[44]

Irina Yarovaya, Russian MP, member of the General Council of the ruling “United Russia” party, declared that “The Soviet Story” film “glorifies Estonian Nazi collaborators, those who killed people in Khatyn and in Pskov region”.[45][46]

In response to Yarovaya's statement, Mart Laar wrote: "It is indeed impressive how much wrong can be put into one sentence. First, Estonians did not kill anyone in Khatyn and, secondly, the specific crime commited in Khatyn is not mentioned in the film at all... This gives the impression that Yarovaya, actually, has not seen the film."[47]

It must be added that no part of the film talks or even mentions Estonian Nazi collaborators.[36 ] Moreover, the film's director has clearly stated: "The Soviet Story condemns Fascism/Nazism.[...] The Soviet Story also reflects a point of view which is not shared by the Kremlin. As a result, the film is labeled as Fascist propaganda, even if the film describes Hitler and Nazism as criminal."[48]

Russian State News Agency, RIA Novosti reported: "The film shows the alleged victims of Stalinist repression: the corpses piled in stacks and covered with logs. In fact these photographs were taken by the Soviets in 1944 and represent the victims of the Nazi atrocities in Klooga concentration camp in Estonia and in Yanovskaya camp near Lvov."[42] This accusation was reproduced by such news outlets as Vzglyad[49] and Vesti.kz.[50][51]

The alleged scene from the Klooga concentration camp showing corpses piled in stacks for burning does not appear in the film.[36 ]

Film Festivals and Awards

The film has been screened in the following film festivals:

In 2009 the film has been nominated for the biannual Latvian National Film Award Lielais Kristaps in the "Best Documentary" category.[52]

In 2008 the President of Latvia, Valdis Zatlers awarded the director of the film, Edvins Snore with the Order of the Three Stars.

In 2009 Edvins Snore for creating the film "The Soviet Story" received the Estonian Order of the Cross of Terra Mariana.[53]

Bibliography

References

  1. ^ a b c "Telling the Soviet story". The Economist. 2008-05-22. http://www.economist.com/world/europe/displaystory.cfm?story_id=11401983. Retrieved 2008-06-03.  
  2. ^ "The Soviet Story : About the film". The Soviet Story official website. http://www.sovietstory.com/about-the-film/. Retrieved 2009-09-19.  
  3. ^ Vaidere, Inese; Kristovskis, Ģirts Valdis (2008-04-15). "Warning from the past". Parliament Magazine. http://www.theparliament.com/news-analysis/news-analysis-article/newsarticle/warning-from-the-past/412/. Retrieved 2008-06-12.  
  4. ^ "The Soviet Story: Sponsors". The Soviet Story official website. http://www.sovietstory.com/about-the-film/sponsors/. Retrieved 2008-06-12.  
  5. ^ Sprūde, Viesturs (2008-04-14). "Aplausi «Padomju stāstam»" (in Latvian). Latvijas Avīze. http://www.tvnet.lv/zinas/latvija/article.php?id=541712.  
  6. ^ 21 april 2008 (2008-04-21). "Ari Vatanen about "The Soviet Story"". YouTube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BlWq4D0QAbQ&feature=related. Retrieved 2009-12-30.  
  7. ^ 21 april 2008 (2008-04-21). "Christopher Beazley about "The Soviet Story"". YouTube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qZoaSaN-aZY. Retrieved 2009-12-30.  
  8. ^ Līcītis, Egils (2008-05-03). "Edvīns Šnore sakārto pagātni" (in Latvian). Latvijas Avīze. http://www.delfi.lv/news/comment/comment/article.php?id=20873643.  
  9. ^ "Tieslietu ministrs: filma «Padomju stāsts» jārāda visās skolās" (in Latvian). apollo.lv. 2008-05-08. http://forums.apollo.lv/portal/news/articles/127043. Retrieved 2008-06-12.  
  10. ^ Jamestown Foundation 23 May 2004: Zhdanoka Candidacy Polarizes Latvian Election by Vladimir Socor
  11. ^ a b c "Жданок: фильм "The Soviet Story" — пропагандистская поделка (Ždanoka: film "The Soviet Story" - propagandistic odd job)" (in Russian). Delfi.lv. 2008-04-11. http://rus.delfi.lv/news/daily/politics/article.php?id=20714429. Retrieved 2008-06-09.  
  12. ^ "Telling the unofficial, but true, Soviet story". European Voice. 2008-05-29. http://www.europeanvoice.com/article/imported/telling-the-unofficial-but-true-soviet-story/60941.aspx.  
  13. ^ "Акция «России молодой» «Не дадим переписать историю!»" (in Russian). 2008-05-14. http://rumol.ru/news/3603.html. Retrieved 2008-06-06.  
  14. ^ "Prokremliskie jaunieši pie Latvijas vēstniecības protestē pret "vēstures pārrakstīšanu" (Pro-Kremlin youth protest against the "rewriting of history" in front of the Latvian Embassy)" (in Latvian). TVNET.lv. 2008-05-20. http://www.tvnet.lv/zinas/arzemes/krievija/article.php?id=546107. Retrieved 2008-06-06.  
  15. ^ minute 16:37 Film "The Soviet Story"
  16. ^ Ījabs, Ivars (2008-05-23). "Cienīga atbilde: Soviet Story" (in Latvian). Latvijas Vēstnesis. http://www.lv.lv/?menu=exblogi&sub=&type=full&id=44. Retrieved 2008-06-15.  
  17. ^ "Soviet story tampereen technopoliksessa 20.04.09 klo 18" (in Finnish). 17 April 2009. http://www.prokarelia.net/fi/?x=artikkeli&article_id=1777&author=10. Retrieved 2009-05-07.  
  18. ^ a b Jukka Harju (20 April 2009). "Neuvostodokumentin näyttö nostatti äläkän Tampereella" (in Finnish). Helsingin Sanomat. http://www.hs.fi/kotimaa/artikkeli/Neuvostodokumentin+n%C3%A4ytt%C3%B6+nostatti+%C3%A4l%C3%A4k%C3%A4n+Tampereella/1135245322413. Retrieved 2009-05-08.  
  19. ^ Johanna Vehkoo (20 April 2009). "Islamilainen puoluekin saapui Tampereelle vastustamaan kohuelokuvaa" (in Finnish). Aamulehti. http://www.aamulehti.fi/uutiset/kotimaa/140508.shtml. Retrieved 2009-05-07.  
  20. ^ "Tutkintapyyntö Tampereen poliisille — ProKarelia ja Soviet Story" (in Finnish). Suomen Antifasistinen Komitea (Safka). Finnish Anti-Fascist Committee. 25 April 2009. http://antifasistit.blogspot.com/2009/04/tutkintapyynto-tampereen-poliisille.html. Retrieved 2009-05-07.  
  21. ^ "«Antifašists» Bekmans dusmojas" (in Latvian). Latvijas Avīze. 9 May 2009. http://www2.la.lv/lat/latvijas_avize/jaunakaja_numura/latvijas.zinas/?doc=53700.  
  22. ^ "Bäckman kaebas lätlaste "Soviet Story" politseisse" (in Estonian). Delfi. 7 May 2009. http://www.delfi.ee/news/paevauudised/eesti/article.php?id=23241087. Retrieved 2009-05-07.  
  23. ^ "Soviet Story -elokuvan levittäminen poliisitutkintaan" (in Finnish). Iltalehti. STT. 7 May 2009. http://www.iltalehti.fi/tampere/200905079547967_te.shtml. Retrieved 2009-05-07.  
  24. ^ "Somijas antifašisti iesnieguši tiesā prasību pret filmas "Padomju stāsts" demonstrētājiem" (in Latvian). NRA. 2008-05-23. http://www.nra.lv/zinas/22215-somijas-antifasisti-iesniegusi-tiesa-prasibu-pret-filmas-padomju-stasts-demonstretajiem.htm.  
  25. ^ "Полиция Эстонии не считает, что фильм «The Soviet Story» разжигает межнациональную рознь" (in Russian). http://www.historyfoundation.ru/news_item.php?id=654.  
  26. ^ Genzlinger, Neil (24 October 2008). "Atrocities Magnified". The New York Times. http://movies.nytimes.com/2008/10/24/movies/24sovi.html. Retrieved 2009-09-07.  
  27. ^ a b "«Советскую историю» оценят в Брюсселе". Chas. 9 April 2008. http://www.chas-daily.com/win/2008/04/09/l_007.html. Retrieved 2009-09-07.  
  28. ^ "Kaitsepolitseiamet Aastaraamat 2008". http://www.kapo.ee/KAPO_aastaraamat_EST_mai09.swf. Retrieved 2009-12-30.  
  29. ^ Ваше имя. "В подтверждение «теории оккупации» в Эстонии сняли фильм на английском языке". Baltinfo.ru. http://www.baltinfo.ru/news/V-podtverzhdenie-teorii-okkupatcii-v-Estonii-snyali-film-na-angliiskom-yazyke-101070. Retrieved 2009-12-30.  
  30. ^ "a_dyukov. The Soviet Story: первый просмотр - Новые Хроники". Novchronic.ru. http://novchronic.ru/1393.htm. Retrieved 2009-12-30.  
  31. ^ Полиция Латвии проверяет заявление о задержании российского историка // RIA Novosti, 2008-08-20
  32. ^ Глава МИДа: российский историк — психически неуравновешен mixnews.lv, 10.06.2008
  33. ^ Dyukov (2008), pp.109
  34. ^ "Историки на тропе войны". Mgimo.ru. http://www.mgimo.ru/news/press/document119157.phtml. Retrieved 2009-12-30.  
  35. ^ "Латыши покажут в Европарламенте лживую антироссийскую агитку". Правда. http://www.pravda.ru/world/262871-0/.  
  36. ^ a b c d e "Official web site of The Soviet Story". http://www.sovietstory.com/about-the-film/news/. Retrieved 2008-09-04.  
  37. ^ "Латыши покажут в Европарламенте лживую антироссийскую агитку - Мир - Правда.Ру". Pravda.ru. http://www.pravda.ru/world/262871-1/. Retrieved 2009-12-30.  
  38. ^ "Латышские наследники доктора Геббельса" (in Russian). http://www.russ.ru/stat_i/latyshskie_nasledniki_doktora_gebbel_sa. Retrieved 2008-06-16.  
  39. ^ a b "Евродепутатам показали сталинский ужастик (A Stalin horror film was shown to members of the European Parliament)". Izvestia. 2008-04-09. http://www.izvestia.ru/politic/article3115028/. Retrieved 2008-06-09.  
  40. ^ Melnikoff, Sergey. "Обвинение СССР в опытах над людьми" (in Russian). http://www.gulag.ipvnews.org/article20060901_01.php. Retrieved 2008-06-06.  
  41. ^ Дюков, Александр. "Реальность информационной войны" (in Russian). http://www.left.ru/2006/14/dyukov148.phtml. Retrieved 2008-06-06.  
  42. ^ a b "Эстонское телевидение покажет документальный фильм The Soviet Story". РИА Новости. http://www.rian.ru/society/20090830/182971694.html.  
  43. ^ "Евродепутатам показали сталинский ужастик". ИЗВЕСТИЯ. http://www.izvestia.ru/politic/article3115028/index.html.  
  44. ^ Dyukov (2008), pp.31-33
  45. ^ "Yarovaya: Neo-fascists in Europe fuel ethic hatred". Official site of Party United Russia. http://www.edinros.ru/text.shtml?6/8797.  
  46. ^ "Irina Yarovaya: Seminar in Helsinki was directed towards restoration of Nazism and Fascism". Государственно-патриотический клуб. http://www.gpclub.ru/news/0x24x48x1776_p.html.  
  47. ^ "Laar tunnustas Imbi Paju ja Sofi Oksaneni algatust". Postimees. http://www.postimees.ee/?id=94499.  
  48. ^ "The Soviet Story and Its Critics". ProKarelia. http://www.prokarelia.net/en/?x=artikkeli&article_id=1781&author=109.  
  49. ^ "Фильм-фальсификацию о СССР покажут в Эстонии". ВЗГЛЯД. http://photo.vz.ru/news/2009/8/30/322584.html.  
  50. ^ "Эстонское телевидение покажет скандальный фильм The Soviet Story". Vesti.kz. http://vesti.kz/europe/23858/.  
  51. ^ "Эстония решила не заводить дело о показе русофобского фильма". Vesti.kz. http://vesti.kz/ru_polit/24025/.  
  52. ^ "Paziņo Lielā Kristapa nominācijas" (in Latvian). Diena. 2008-08-29. http://www.diena.lv/lat/izklaide/filmas/filmu_zinas/pazino-nacionala-filmu-festivala-lielais-kristaps-2009-nominacijas.  
  53. ^ "Bearers of decorations". Official site of the President of the Republic of Estonia. http://www.president.ee/en/estonia/decorations/bearers.php?id=17630.  

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