The Unknown War (documentary)

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The Unknown War
Written by Rod McKuen (script adaptation)
Directed by Isaac Kleinerman, Roman Karmen
Narrated by Burt Lancaster
Country of origin USSR, United Kingdom, United States
No. of episodes 20
Running time 1040 min
Picture format B/W & Color
Audio format mono
Original release 22 June 1978

The Unknown War (Russian: "Великая Отечественная" (The Great Patriotic War) or "Неизвестная война" (The Unknown War) is an American documentary television series. The 20-part series documents the World War II conflict between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. The show was produced and syndicated for international distribution by Air Time International, and the executive producer was Fred Weiner. Each episode is about 48 minutes long, similar in format to the film The World at War. The footage was edited from over 3.5 million feet of film taken by Soviet camera crews from the first day of the war during Operation Barbarossa on 22 June 1941 until the Soviet entry into Berlin during the Battle of Berlin in May 1945. Most of these films have never been seen outside this documentary series.

The series is hosted by Academy Award Winner Burt Lancaster, who spent three weeks in eight cities in the USSR for location filming. Film footage from Soviet archives comprises a major portion of the series, supplemented by film from both the United States and British archives. Appearing in exclusive interviews would be Russian Commanders like Georgi Zhukov and Vasily Chuikov. Other interviews shot for the series included Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev and Averell Harriman, who was U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union during World War II.

The series was produced with Soviet cooperation after the release of The World at War, which the Soviet government felt paid insufficient attention to their part in World War II. Released in 1978, The Unknown War is sympathetic to the Soviet struggle against Nazi Germany. It was quickly withdrawn from TV airings after it ran in 1978. Later it returned to airings on cable, including A&E, the History Channel and YouTube.


B. Lancaster and A. I. Pokryshkin during shooting the documentary television series "The Unknown War", episode 9 War in the Air.
  1. June 22, 1941
  2. The Battle for Moscow
  3. The Siege of Leningrad
  4. To the East
  5. The Defense of Stalingrad
  6. Survival at Stalingrad
  7. The World's Greatest Tank Battle
  8. War in the Arctic
  9. War in the Air
  10. The Partisans
  11. The Battle of the Seas
  12. The Battle of Caucasus
  13. Liberation of the Ukraine
  14. The Liberation of Belorussia
  15. The Balkans to Vienna
  16. The Liberation of Poland
  17. The Allies
  18. The Battle of Berlin
  19. The Last Battle of the Unknown War
  20. A Soldier of the Unknown War


The series has a recurrent theme song written by Rod McKuen and "Birch-tree's dreams" ("Берёзовые сны") by G. Fere (Г. Фере) and V. Geviksman (В. Гевиксман).

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