The Soviet Story

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The Soviet Story
SovietStory.gif
Directed by Edvīns Šnore
Produced by Kristaps Valdnieks
Written by Edvīns Šnore
Narrated by Jon Strickland
Cinematography Edgars Daugavvanags
Uvis Brujāns
Edited by Nic Gotham
Release dates
  • May 5, 2008 (2008-05-05)
Running time
85 minutes
Country Latvia
Language English/Russian

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 survivors of Soviet terror.

Using these interviews together with historical footage and documents 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. The documentary goes on to argue that the successor states to Nazi Germany and the USSR differ in the sense that postwar Germany condemns the actions of Nazi Germany while the opinion in contemporary Russia is summarized by the quote of Vladimir Putin: "One needs to acknowledge, that the collapse of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century".

Reception[edit]

The film has attracted praise and criticism from academic historians[citation needed] 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]

The New York Times in its review of the documentary stated that "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."[2]

Various Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) who were interviewed for the film, [3] 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."[4]

Both Vaidere and Kristovskis represent the UEN group which actively supported the production of the film.[5]

After watching the film, Finnish MEP Ari Vatanen opined that "it is a powerful message. Thank you for telling the truth. It will awaken people."[6] ... We cannot build a humanity if we close our eyes to this kind of massacres. Our possibility is to serve justice to those people.[7] British MEP Christopher Beazley commented that "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."[8]

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."[9]

Likewise, Latvia's Minister of Justice, Gaidis Bērziņš (For Fatherland and Freedom/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.[10]

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,[11] regards the film as a "propagandistic odd job, which is given out to be "a new word in history".[12] 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.[12] 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".[12]

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.[13]

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!")[14] in front of the Embassy of Latvia in Moscow. An effigy representing Edvīns Šnore was burnt during the protest.[15]

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, liberal and former political activist George G. Watson that Friedrich Engels is "the ancestor of the modern political genocide".[16] Ījabs says: "To present Karl Marx as the "progenitor of modern genocide is simply to lie". Ījabs admits, however, the use of the term Völkerabfälle in Marx's newspaper to describe several small European ethnic groups.[17] Although sometimes translated as "racial trash", other translations include "residual nations" or "refuse of nations", that is, those left behind (discarded) by the dominant civilizations. Watson views have been also criticized by reviewer Robert Grant as ideologically biased and for citing evidence that "seems dubious", arguing that "what Marx and Engels are calling for is [...] at the very least a kind of cultural genocide; but it is not obvious, at least from Watson's citations, that actual mass killing, rather than (to use their phraseology) mere 'absorption' or 'assimilation', is in question."[18]

In Finland the film was shown in events organized by the irredentist group ProKarelia.[19][20][20][21] A criminal complaint by Johan Bäckman, member of the Finnish Anti-Fascist Committee[22] against ProKarelia has led to a criminal investigation on suspicion of showing violent scenes to minors, incitement to ethnic or racial hatred and propaganda of violence.[23][24][25] The Finnish Film inspector authority, however, did not find the film's content offensive and authorized its showing in Finland.[26] 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".[27]

A number of critics condemned the film even before its premiere.[28] 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.[28]

Film festivals and awards[edit]

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.[29]

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.[30]

Criticism[edit]

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.[citation needed]

Alexander Dyukov, a former member of the Russian ARMS-TASS Agency of Military and Technical Information, has been the most vocal critic of the documentary. He said that "After watching two thirds of the film, I had only one wish: to kill its director and to burn down the Latvian Embassy."[31] As a result of Dyukov's statements a criminal investigation was initiated against him in Latvia.[32] Asked to comment on the case, Latvian Foreign Minister Māris Riekstiņš commented that Alexander Dyukov might be a "mentally unstable personality".[33] Prime Minister of Estonia Mart Laar called Dyukov "an officer of FSB".[34]

Alexander Dyukov expressed his opinion that the film is a propaganda piece which makes false claims and uses distorted quotes and statistics.[35] Dyukov later published a book "The Soviet Story: The Mechanism of lies", which made a detailed critical analysis of the alleged falsifications contained in the film". [36]

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.[37] Izvestia (former official newspaper of the Soviet government) reported[38] 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,[39] which Dyukov maintains is not trustworthy.[40] 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.[38]

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.[41] The German language DVD edition produced by the licensee Kopp Verlag does not show the two starving boys.

Irina Yarovaya, Russian MP, member of the General Council of Vladimir Putin's and ruling Russian party “United Russia”, declared that The Soviet Story film “glorifies Estonian Nazi collaborators, those who killed people in Khatyn and in Pskov region”.[42][43]

In response to Yarovaya's statement which apparently confuses Katyn with Khatyn, 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 committed in Khatyn is not mentioned in the film at all... This gives the impression that Yarovaya, actually, has not seen the film."[44]

No part of the film talks or even mentions Estonian Nazi collaborators.[45] 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."[46]

Russian government's state news agency RIA Novosti claimed: "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 Lviv."[47] This accusation was reproduced by such news outlets as Vzglyad.[48]

See also[edit]

Bibliography[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Telling the Soviet story". The Economist. 2008-05-22. Retrieved 2008-06-03. 
  2. ^ Genzlinger, Neil (24 October 2008). "Atrocities Magnified". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-09-07. 
  3. ^ "The Soviet Story : About the film". The Soviet Story official website. Retrieved 2009-09-19. 
  4. ^ Vaidere, Inese; Kristovskis, Ģirts Valdis (2008-04-15). "Warning from the past". Parliament Magazine. Retrieved 2008-06-12. 
  5. ^ "The Soviet Story: Sponsors". The Soviet Story official website. Archived from the original on 2008-04-07. Retrieved 2008-06-12. 
  6. ^ Sprūde, Viesturs (2008-04-14). "Aplausi "Padomju stāstam"". Latvijas Avīze (in Latvian). 
  7. ^ 21 april 2008 (2008-04-21). "Ari Vatanen about "The Soviet Story"". YouTube. Retrieved 2009-12-30. 
  8. ^ 21 april 2008 (2008-04-21). "Christopher Beazley about "The Soviet Story"". YouTube. Retrieved 2009-12-30. 
  9. ^ Līcītis, Egils (2008-05-03). "Edvīns Šnore sakārto pagātni". Latvijas Avīze (in Latvian). 
  10. ^ "Tieslietu ministrs: filma "Padomju stāsts" jārāda visās skolās" (in Latvian). apollo.lv. 2008-05-08. Retrieved 2008-06-12. 
  11. ^ Jamestown Foundation 23 May 2004: Zhdanoka Candidacy Polarizes Latvian Election by Vladimir Socor
  12. ^ 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. Retrieved 2008-06-09. 
  13. ^ "Telling the unofficial, but true, Soviet story". European Voice. 2008-05-29. 
  14. ^ Акция "России молодой" "Не дадим переписать историю!" (in Russian). 2008-05-14. Retrieved 2008-06-06. 
  15. ^ "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. Archived from the original on 2008-06-09. Retrieved 2008-06-06. 
  16. ^ minute 16:37 Film "The Soviet Story"
  17. ^ Ījabs, Ivars (2008-05-23). "Cienīga atbilde: Soviet Story". Latvijas Vēstnesis (in Latvian). Retrieved 2008-06-15. 
  18. ^ Grant, Robert (Nov 1999). "Review: The Lost Literature of Socialism". The Review of English Studies (New Series) 50 (200): 557–559. doi:10.1093/res/50.200.557. 
  19. ^ "Soviet story tampereen technopoliksessa 20.04.09 klo 18" (in Finnish). 17 April 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-07. 
  20. ^ a b Jukka Harju (20 April 2009). "Neuvostodokumentin näyttö nostatti äläkän Tampereella". Helsingin Sanomat (in Finnish). Retrieved 2009-05-08. 
  21. ^ Johanna Vehkoo (20 April 2009). "Islamilainen puoluekin saapui Tampereelle vastustamaan kohuelokuvaa". Aamulehti (in Finnish). Retrieved 2009-05-07. [dead link]
  22. ^ "Tutkintapyyntö Tampereen poliisille — ProKarelia ja Soviet Story". Suomen Antifasistinen Komitea (Safka) (in Finnish). Finnish Anti-Fascist Committee. 25 April 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-07. 
  23. ^ ""Antifašists" Bekmans dusmojas". Latvijas Avīze (in Latvian). 9 May 2009. 
  24. ^ "Bäckman kaebas lätlaste "Soviet Story" politseisse". Delfi (in Estonian). 7 May 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-07. 
  25. ^ "Soviet Story -elokuvan levittäminen poliisitutkintaan". Iltalehti (in Finnish). STT. 7 May 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-07. 
  26. ^ "Somijas antifašisti iesnieguši tiesā prasību pret filmas "Padomju stāsts" demonstrētājiem". NRA (in Latvian). 2008-05-23. 
  27. ^ "Полиция Эстонии не считает, что фильм "The Soviet Story" разжигает межнациональную рознь" (in Russian). 
  28. ^ a b ""Советскую историю" оценят в Брюсселе". Chas. 9 April 2008. Retrieved 2009-09-07. 
  29. ^ "Paziņo Lielā Kristapa nominācijas". Diena (in Latvian). 2008-08-29. 
  30. ^ "Bearers of decorations". Official site of the President of the Republic of Estonia. 
  31. ^ "a_dyukov. The Soviet Story: первый просмотр - Новые Хроники". Novchronic.ru. Retrieved 2009-12-30. 
  32. ^ Полиция Латвии проверяет заявление о задержании российского историка // RIA Novosti, 2008-08-20
  33. ^ Глава МИДа: российский историк — психически неуравновешен mixnews.lv, 10.06.2008
  34. ^ Ваше имя. "В подтверждение "теории оккупации" в Эстонии сняли фильм на английском языке". Baltinfo.ru. Retrieved 2009-12-30. 
  35. ^ Dyukov (2008), pp. 109
  36. ^ "Историки на тропе войны". Mgimo.ru. Retrieved 2009-12-30. 
  37. ^ Латышские наследники доктора Геббельса (in Russian). Archived from the original on 2008-06-15. Retrieved 2008-06-16. 
  38. ^ a b "Евродепутатам показали сталинский ужастик (A Stalin horror film was shown to members of the European Parliament)". Izvestia. 2008-04-09. Retrieved 2008-06-09. 
  39. ^ Melnikoff, Sergey. Обвинение СССР в опытах над людьми (in Russian). Retrieved 2008-06-06. 
  40. ^ Дюков, Александр. Реальность информационной войны (in Russian). Retrieved 2008-06-06. 
  41. ^ Dyukov (2008), pp.31-33
  42. ^ "Yarovaya: Neo-fascists in Europe fuel ethic hatred". Official site of Party United Russia. 
  43. ^ "Irina Yarovaya: Seminar in Helsinki was directed towards restoration of Nazism and Fascism". Государственно-патриотический клуб. 
  44. ^ "Laar tunnustas Imbi Paju ja Sofi Oksaneni algatust". Postimees. 
  45. ^ "Official web site of The Soviet Story". Retrieved 2008-09-04. 
  46. ^ "The Soviet Story and Its Critics". ProKarelia. 
  47. ^ "Эстонское телевидение покажет документальный фильм The Soviet Story". РИА Новости. 
  48. ^ Фильм-фальсификацию о СССР покажут в Эстонии (in Russian). ВЗГЛЯД. [dead link]

External links[edit]