Quite some time ago, I favourited a clip on YouTube because of the Cossack song – “Lyuba, bratsy, lyuba” – that it featured. The video itself was clearly taken from a Soviet-era film featuring Cossacks in a positive light…
It took me a while to get around to tracking down the movie itself; the title was in the comments section, so it didn’t take all that long once I started!
It’s a 1958 film titled Kochubey. I’ve been watching it in fits and starts as I get time, and haven’t reached the end yet. It’s essentially the story of a Cossack commander and his army fighting on the Bolshevik side during the Russian Civil War. Kotchubey is heroic, noble, and likeable, and the film combines stirring action sequences and broad humour, alongside political intrigue and revolutionary sermonising. I’m thoroughly enjoying it.
For anyone interested in Cossackry, it contains lots of detail, and throughly reinforces the conception of Cossacks as courageous, devil-may-care, impetuous warriors. There’s one sequence, in which Kochubey’s cossacks decide to investigate the contents of a certain railway wagon while he’s elsewhere, that made me laugh out loud…
Sigh. In its portrayal of the betrayal of spirited idealism by calculating managerialists, it’s reminiscent of Ken Loach’s Land and Freedom (still one of my favourite films) and its source, Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia.
The release date is significant, being well into the Khrushchev Thaw period of de-Stalinization, and increased freedom of expression in the USSR.
Image credit: Ленфильм – http://kino-teatr.ru/kino/movie/sov/3217/poster/62065/, Добросовестное использование, https://ru.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4973922