Pravda Editorial, The Whole Country is Watching Chapaev. November 21, 1934
Original Source: Pravda, 21 November 1934, p. 1.
It is not merely our children but also many of our younger brothers and sisters who are unfamiliar with those faraway times that are forever past, the times of whips and gallows. Some have no experience, others have no recollection of the policeman or the sergeant, the landowner or the boss, the officer with his epaulettes or the gendarme with his aiguillettes. By no means all young people who are now 25 to 27 years old can find in the hazy memories of childhood traces of the heroic struggles waged by their fathers that opened the way for the proletariat towards a classless society.
In the meantime young people, educated by seventeen years of Revolution, have already become mature builders of socialism. We see worker and kolkhoz youths at their machines, among the ranks of engineers and technicians, on theatre stages and newspaper editorial boards, at the controls of combine harvesters and at the wheels of tractors, in the lecture rooms of higher education colleges and in the laboratories of all sorts of scientific institutes, in the gondola of a stratospheric balloon and on board ice-breakers conquering the Arctic.
The young revolutionary country has opened up limitless opportunities for youthful energy.
Hence the younger generation’s ardent love for its motherland. Hence its passionate devotion to the Party of Lenin and Stalin. Hence its faith in the triumph of socialist construction. Hence its unflinching and courageous readiness for battle to defend all its fathers’ and its own achievements.
The power of the influence of the transformed motherland is very great. But it can be magnified many more times. Our love for our Soviet country can be reinforced by our hatred for the tsarist landowning order. The younger generation does not know enough about our country’s past and this is an enormous gap in its class education. The past can be a yardstick for the present. It is useful to know the past in order to evaluate the present better and more fully.
It is precisely this role – that of the crystallized artistic reproduction of our country’s past – that Soviet art is called upon to fulfill alongside its other tasks.
We are indebted to the mastery of the Vasiliev brothers and the whole collective of artists employed on the film Chapaev for a magical return to those heroic days when the Revolution had only just won the chance to build a new life on earth. The literary legacy of the unforgettable commissar Furmanov helped the Vasiliev brothers to produce a film that deservedly occupies an eminent place in our cinema.
The lights go down in the cinema, a blue beam floods out of the projecting booth, the equipment makes a noise behind the audience’s back and suddenly the dim swarm of shadows on the screen gives way to an animated story, the stern and proud story of our battle and our victories. The film captivates the audience from the very first moments, it enthralls and moves them with each last shot, it infects them with love and hate, ecstasy and fear, joy and rage from scene to scene.
Mikhailov, one of Chapaev’s men, has seen this film and he writes: ‘What is important to us about this film? It is the excitement I felt while watching it, the enthusiasm that is infectious, the political change that it produces.’
Orlov, a worker, has seen the film and he writes: ‘It shows our comrades. And how! Such simple men, courageous and firm in their belief in socialism … ‘
The film director Roshal has seen the film and he thinks that it is packed with really great ideas not just about the Civil War but also about the present day, about the remarkable events that are taking place in our country.
Cinema – that most mass art of all – allows an audience of millions and tens of millions to sense the revolutionary heroism of the past and to be profoundly inspired by it. Anyone who sees how the older generation fought for the victory of the Revolution in the past will realize how necessary it is to fight now for its ultimate triumph.
Chapaev is a great event in the history of Soviet art. Chapaev invisibly and powerfully multiplies the links between the Party and the
mass. Chapaev, a work of art of great quality, demonstrates convincingly and eloquently the organizing role of the Party and shows how the Party subdues the elements and moves them along the road of Revolution and victory.
We have trained and promoted dozens of excellent directors and a large number of remarkable cinema artists and technicians. Chapaev is not a fortuitous success, not a matter of chance good luck. Films that profoundly move Soviet audiences are appearing more and more frequently on our screens. Chapaev is merely the most passionate and brilliant work from among their number. We have no doubt that Chapaev will be followed by new, important and talented films. But that is not the point. The film Chapaev develops into a political phenomenon. The mass reaction of the audience bears witness to the close unity between the workers and the whole Party.
The rapturous audience reactions published in yesterday’s Pravda testify to more than just the fact that Soviet film directors and artistes have managed to create a remarkable work. It is by no means a matter merely of the applause, the tumultuous praise or the loud expressions of enthusiasm for the authors.
At one moment Chapaev, in his cloak, rushes furiously ahead of his division, waving his sable. At another moment, at a drum-like pace, crack officer units move on to a ‘psychological attack’ and a woman with a machine-gun waits for the right moment to meet them with a hail of bullets …
Every scene makes the audience catch its breath. Battle, victory, defeat and again victory, created on the screen, stir the passions in the darkened auditorium. Old warriors are moved by their memories. The young, holding their breath, follow the unfolding of events and applaud furiously every time the partisans of the celebrated division regain their military success.
The Party has been given a new and powerful means of educating the class consciousness of the young. The young stare the enemy in the face and hate him more strongly. Hatred for the enemy, combined with a rapturous admiration for the heroic memory of the warriors who fell for the Revolution, acquires the same strength as a passionate love for the socialist motherland.
The whole country is watching Chapaev. It is being reproduced in hundreds of copies for the sound screen. Silent versions will also be made so that Chapaev will be shown in every corner of our immense country: in the towns and villages, the collective farms and settlements, in barracks, clubs and squares.
The old warriors recall the past with justified pride. Through magnificent and moving images of the past the old warriors tell the younger generation: ‘That is how we fought. We were poor. We were shabby. We lacked culture, cartridges, shells and rifles. Despite that we won because our hatred for our enemies was great, our devotion to the Revolution was great and the wisdom of the Party that has led us from victory to victory was great as well.’
The old warriors recalling the past help us to evaluate the present more clearly and more fully. ‘We created a new world. Now we are rich and powerful. Our strength and our organization have grown immeasurably. We have our great Red Army, ready to defend the world of great socialist construction. If at some stage the enemy tries to poke its nose in, our socialist motherland has at its disposal an abundance both of material resources and the highest moral strength to rout and wipe out the enemy.’
Source: Richard Taylor and Ian Christie, eds., The Film Factory: Russian and Soviet Cinema in Documents (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1988), pp. 334-335.