Featured: Russia. 70 years in 3 Minutes

Below is a three-minute video essay made by “mybsfilms” depicting 70 years of Russian history in three minutes. We will present the video first, spoilers and analysis below. Click on the video to view, or go to the maker’s mybsfilms YouTube channel for full functionality and further content.

Review

The video opens in May 1945. A young soldier has returned from the war.

The war has been won. He has survived.

He is listening to the announcement that Nazi Germany has been defeated being broadcast across the land. Patriotic music fills the air. He is filled with pride.

He hears a female voice calling and looks about.

All around his comrades and neighbours are outside sharing emotional hugs with their families and loved ones. He looks up and identifies the voice calling. It’s his girl. She’s waving to him from the upper floor of an apartment building. A building, we are soon to learn, that represents Russia.

Suddenly he remembers what peace is really all about. He drops his military kit bag and he runs towards the building to hug a loved one of his own. Not forgetting his manners, he grabs a nearby bunch of flowers as he enters to ensure he will not be greeting her without bearing a gift.

It is a typical Soviet apartment block of the era, and not unlike the council housing blocks built in the UK in the post-war period.

The viewpoint now switches to the veteran’s eyes as he climbs the stairs.

He is accompanied by the musical score and each floor represents a decade in post-War Russian history.

On the first floor it’s the 1950s, everybody, women included, are hard at work re-building and redecorating the building.

On the next floor it’s the sixties. Children are playing with toy rockets and there’s a poster of Yuri Gagarin on the stairwell wall.

Onto the Seventies, third floor, and we are into the stagnation of the Brezhnev era. Children are now playing with toy weapons, replica long-range Soviet heavy nuclear bombers, emblematic of the Cold War. The repairs of the fifties are themselves starting to look old and worn, the building has become dishevelled

Onwards and upwards, we’re into Eigthies. Gorby has arrived. Things are getting a little more colourful, and as we reach the bend to the next floor we encounter a more relaxed, hippy-style culture. People are free, they’re having fun, yet the building has deteriorated and nobody is repairing anything.

As we round the corner into the nineties the lamp is broken, the light blinking and swinging giving an eerie film noir atmosphere fit to suit the hard, pipe-hitting mafioso shoving his way through the shadows. People’s apartments are sealed off behind steel security doors.

Our man stoops to pick up some of the trash from the dingy stairwell and toss it into the can, and as we get to the next floor the light floods in, people are happy again, smartly dressed, on their way to do things, parties, and life has returned to the building in full bloom.

Spolier

We leave the first-person view as the man reaches his destination. It’s a modern apartment now. As he rings the doorbell the music fades out leaving just the sound of his pumping heart.

It has been a long and weary journey, and as the camera pans out we see our veteran is now an old man. But as he smiles we see he is a happy old man. His smile broadening all the while, we see he is very happy to be here.

The door opens and it’s his girl from 1945. She’s just as pleased to see him. His smile broadens into one of delight, because now she’s his grand-daughter with her new baby and she calls her own family that grandfather is here to visit.

He reaches out and hands her the flowers. Which we see through her eyes.

Propaganda

Powerful imagery.

It helps to understand the essay if you know a little about Russian post-war history. Real history, as opposed to the make-believe Hollywood version.

Propaganda is what it will be dismissed as in the West, usually within a second or two of learning that it’s Russian, let alone the full three minutes.

I’m not going to watch that Kremlin Putler propaganda“, the critical-thinking Westerner will cry, BCC’ing his tweets to that effect to the NSA and GCHQ just to keep himself on the safe side, a nagging doubt as to what his browser history might reveal.

Technically it could be classed as propaganda, but if so it is propaganda of the true variety. Its persuasiveness lies not in its attempt to deceive, but it in the manner in which it presents truth. As seen through the eyes of someone who experienced it, and fought for it.

The message is that it may have taken the old soldier a lifetime to climb those stairs, and it may not have been easy all the way. But it was worth the climb.

It’s a little bit more sophisticated than the childishly simplistic “they hate us for our freedoms” we know. But if that’s your thing, you’re probably on the wrong website.

Counterpoint for Westerners

We would suggest Roger Waters, The Post War Dream. It might express a little of the anger about what has been taken away from us here in the West, and what little remains to be taken.

Notes
It might be considered rude to make a social call in Russia without bringing a gift. Flowers are the most popular choice, and an odd number of flowers should be given.

He did not use the elevator because he was only going up a few floors and wasn’t hauling a Western-style 300lb ass behind him. Besides, if he had taken the elevator there would have been no story. It is belief that is under suspension here, not his means of locomotion. If you’re asking about the elevator you need to be questioning how you perceive your own role in the viewer-video relationship.

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