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There is no sense of the pernicious effect of NKVD activities in the rear.

The bitter anti-Stalinist note comes only in the epilogue, when we learn that the ‘Star’ unit was for many years regarded as missing in action, and only in 1964 were all its members posthumously awarded medals.

(2004), also about a Red Army elite unit operating behind German lines, causing confusion among the enemy and thinking nothing of risking their own lives for the sake of Mother Russia.

What distinguishes (2004), by far the best and most honest Russian treatment to date of the Great Patriotic War either on screen or TV.

The one concession to modern, post-glasnost’ sensibilities is the criticism of the baneful influence of Stalin’s secret police, the NKVD, on military operations, and their insistence on results at any cost, no matter how many lives are lost.

(2002) is the second screen version of a 1947 story by the respected war writer Emmanuil Kazakevich (1913-62).

All arguments to the effect that such a dénouement destroys the authorial design, reduces artistic quality and subverts characterization, came to naught. Ivanov tried to reconcile both conclusions, leaving an open-ended finale that allowed the viewer to decide the fate of the soldiers himself.

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Although undoubtedly exciting, with a gripping and explosive final gunfight, the film maintains the old ideological certainties: Nazis are bad, but even worse are those Soviet citizens who betray their country and work for them.

Kazakevich’s story hints that the soldiers prefer to die rather than return to base and face possible recriminations from the ever-vigilant NKVD, recriminations that could lead to accusations of desertion and cowardice, but this political dimension is missing in Lebedev’s film.

Lebedev’s film is standard fare about handsome, patriotic and bright-eyed Russian boys dying for their Motherland, the pathos of death and the anguish of the sweetheart Katia back at base foregrounded by rising orchestral music.

This paper examines the war theme in Russian film since the collapse of the Soviet Union, with special reference to the ongoing conflict in the Caucasus.

It will explore the tension and seeming contradiction between the military machine as faceless bureaucracy, and the ordinary soldier, seen as the honest and true face of Mother Russia.

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