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Third Time’s the Charm for Patriotic Russian War Film

T-34 breaks box office records, while a black comedy about civilians starving in besieged Leningrad is available only on YouTube.

11 January 2019

The third Russian movie in recent years devoted to the heroics of tank soldiers in the Great Patriotic War is the hit of the winter season.


“T-34” has earned more than 1 billion rubles ($15 million) since opening on 1 January, RFE/RL reports, putting its predecessors “White Tiger” (2012) and “Tanks” (2018) in the shade.


Named after the legendary Soviet fighting vehicle, “T-34” had the best opening weekend of any Russian-made movie ever, clearing 713 million rubles, according to AFP.



The story of Red Army Lieutenant Nikolai Ivushkin’s daring bid to escape a German prisoner-of-war camp in a T-34 tank was made “in a way that attracts young people and does not provoke objections from those who still remember the Great Patriotic War,” its director, Aleksei Sidorov, is quoted as saying in a statement released by the Culture Ministry.


Anton Dolin of Meduza, a foreign-based site generally skeptical of the official version of history, described the film as “a high-budget war blockbuster practically clear of propagandistic and ideological motives."


Dolin praised the film for not trying to be anything but a genre piece designed to entertain.


Enjoying extensive coverage on Russian state TV, the film is the latest in a series of history films funded by the Culture Ministry, which also has the authority to reject or delay the permit all films must have before going on commercial release, AFP notes.


In contrast to “T-34,” young director Aleksei Krasovsky’s black comedy about the Nazi siege of Leningrad, “Holiday,” is unlikely to be screened in cinemas. It premiered exclusively on YouTube after a crowdfunding campaign, and had notched up more than 860,000 views as of today.


Krasovsky gave up seeking a screening permit, according to Dolin, in the face of backlash, with one federal lawmaker denouncing the film as “a mockery of the history of our people." A director of the Russian Military Historical Society, Mikhail Myagkov, called it “a blasphemy and a desecration of our history.”



  • The Culture Ministry distributes funding based on a list of  approved priority themes. No. 2 on this year’s list are films “about the high model of serving one’s duty and the Fatherland,” followed in fourth spot by “Crimean military victories.”



  • The ministry delayed release of “Hunter Killer,” a Hollywood thriller featuring a weak Russian president, late last year for unclear reasons. The film also ran into the opposite sort of problem in Ukraine, reportedly under a law banning films depicting "the military power of Russia.”

Compiled by Rose Joy Smith

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