Ivan Vasilievich: Back to the Future

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Ivan Vasilievich Changes Profession
Ivan Vasilievich poster.jpg
Evseev-Zolotarevsky's film poster
Directed byLeonid Gaidai
Screenplay byVladlen Bakhnov
Leonid Gaidai
Based onIvan Vasilievich
by Mikhail Bulgakov
StarringYury Yakovlev
Leonid Kuravlyov
Aleksandr Demyanenko
Natalya Seleznyova
Natalya Krachkovskaya
Music byAleksandr Zatsepin
Release dates
  • June 1973 (1973-06) (U.S.)
  • 17 September 1973 (1973-09-17) (Soviet Union)
Running time
93 minutes
CountrySoviet Union

Ivan Vasilievich Changes Profession (Russian: Иван Васильевич меняет профессию, romanizedIvan Vasilyevich menyayet professiyu) is a Soviet comic science fiction film directed by Leonid Gaidai in June 1973. In the United States the film has sometimes been sold under the title Ivan Vasilievich: Back to the Future.[1] This film is based on the play Ivan Vasilievich by Mikhail Bulgakov and was one of the most attended movies in the Soviet Union in 1973 with more than 60 million tickets sold.[2]


The story begins in 1973 Moscow, where engineer Aleksandr "Shurik" Timofeyev (Aleksandr Demyanenko) is working on a time machine in his apartment. By accident, he sends Ivan Vasilievich Bunsha (Yury Yakovlev), superintendent of his apartment building, and George Miloslavsky (Leonid Kuravlyov), a burglar, back into the time of Ivan IV "The Terrible". The pair is forced to disguise themselves, with Bunsha dressing up as Ivan IV (tsar) and Miloslavsky as a knyaz (duke) of the same name. At the same time, the real Ivan IV (also played by Yury Yakovlev) is sent by the same machine into Shurik's apartment, he has to deal with modern-day life while Shurik tries to fix the machine so that everyone can be brought back to their proper place in time. Superintendent Bunsha and Tsar Ivan IV the Terrible are lookalikes but have completely different personalities, which results in funny situations of mistaken identity. As the police (tipped off by a neighbor who was burgled by Miloslavsky) close in on Shurik, who is frantically trying to repair the machine, the cover of Bunsha and Miloslavsky is blown and they have to fight off the Streltsy, who have figured out that Bunsha is an impostor. The movie ends with Bunsha, Miloslavsky, and Ivan IV all transported back to their proper places, although the entire episode is revealed to be a dream by Shurik... or was it?



The movie was an inspiration for the Indian movie Fun2shh... Dudes in the 10th Century, starring Paresh Rawal.

The beginning and ending scenes are in black-and-white, while the rest of the movie is in color. This was done to show the contrast between reality and dream (respectively).

In the scene where Bunsha meets with the Swedish ambassador, the first thing he says is "Hitler kaput!" This is one of the most recognizable phrases in German for many Russians.[citation needed] The original script had him say "Peace - friendship!", but the Soviet censors thought it inappropriate. The resulting change ended up being more humorous.[citation needed]

There are several events which could have had dire consequences to the timeline had the whole thing not turned out to be a dream:

  • Ivan IV sees a painting in Shurik's apartment - Ivan the Terrible killing his son by Ilya Repin, but the event itself is only supposed to happen later in his life. It is clear, though, that he does not recognize the person (himself) in the painting.
  • Before stealing the Swedish ambassador's medallion, Miloslavsky distracts him by giving him a novelty "floaty" ballpoint pen centuries before they are invented.
  • Ivan IV at one point is listening to a song by Vladimir Vysotsky on the tape-player (Поговори хоть ты со мной...) and later to the "Hare's Song", a song from Gaidai's earlier film The Diamond Arm.
  • Ivan IV finding out that Boris Godunov would succeed him by hearing about Pushkin's play.


Film locations[edit]

The modern Moscow location is New Arbat Avenue, formerly Kalinin Prospekt - then, and perhaps still now, a fairly prestigious location of Moscow, which is not too far from the Kremlin. The church depicted in the juxtaposed historical and current militia chases was the Church of St Simeon on the same street. At the time the church building was in use as a museum, as can be seen by the signs in the film, but it has since been restored and is once again in use as an active church.

Deviations from the original play[edit]

The original play was written by Bulgakov in 1935 (albeit not published until 1965) and, therefore, used a setting typical to the 1930s. The film, released in 1973, made changes to the setting to make it contemporary. For instance, Shpak's phonograph was replaced in the film with a tape recorder, and the time machine was envisioned as using more advanced technology such as transistors. In addition, inventor Timofeyev is inspired to travel to Ivan IV's era after seeing a film about it on television, as opposed to listening to the opera The Maid of Pskov on the radio.[3]

There were other deviations, not related to changes designed to modernize the setting. While the inventor's surname Timofeyev was retained, he was called Nikolai (nicknamed "Koka" by his wife Zinaida), while in the film, his name is Alexander (called "Shurik" informally). He is presumably an older version of the protagonist of two previous Leonid Gaidai films: Operation Y and Other Shurik's Adventures and Kidnapping, Caucasian Style, played by the same actor, Aleksandr Demyanenko; this connection, though, is not stated outright and neither of these earlier films are referenced.[3]

In addition, the reason for the time machine malfunction was changed. In the original play, Bunsha and Miloslavsky knowingly disable the machine to seal the gateway between the two time periods, but are dragged into the past, along with the key to the machine, forcing Timofeyev to make a replacement key. In the film, the time machine is accidentally damaged by a halberd, and Timofeyev has to search for some transistors to repair it.

Finally, while the "all just a dream" ending is present in both the play and the film, the play ends on a revelation that Shpak's apartment has been robbed in reality, not only in the dream. This twist is absent in the film.

In the play, Ivan Vasilievich Bunsha is the son of a nobleman, something which, as a conscientious Soviet bureaucrat, he tries to hide. This isn't mentioned in the film, and would have been an anachronism in 1973.

Bunsha's full surname in the play is Bunsha-Koretsky.[3]


  1. ^ For example as released on DVD by Image Entertainment in December 2002
  2. ^ Leaders of distribution Archived 10 May 2012 at the Wayback Machine (in Russian)
  3. ^ a b c Ядерный взрыв в «Бриллиантовой руке»

External links[edit]