The Magic of the Children’s Films from the Soviet Union

One characteristic of the Soviet films that I hold dear, is that they are humane, moral (often without being moralising), centre on the characters, rather than action and events. The films for grown-ups, be it a war-time film or a film about a mundane everyday life, would always have several layers of meaning – good film makers knew how to convey what they wanted to say to the audience without raising the alarms of censorship. All that resulted in films that would have depth, satire, criticism, thoughtfulness in them.

But here I want to write about children films. The films that formed our, my, world view, that taught us about fairness, compassion, friendship, the pitfalls of negative relations. They were a joy to watch, and they left a trace in your heart, a moral compass that no religion can give you, as morality was based on your own desire to do good, rather than fearing a punishment from the holder of the scriptures if you do wrong.

One such outstanding film is “Visitor from the Future”, released in 1985 and filmed at the Central Studio of Children and Youth Films named after M. Gorky in Moscow. And the bright star of that film is its title song, “The Beautiful Faraway”. In 1985 nothing was outwardly speaking of the time of troubles that lay ahead, in just short 7 years, the Wild 90’s and the Desolation of Yeltsin. But in retrospect, this song turned out to be prophetic, and at the same time it was a testament, an oath of how to conduct oneself in the difficult times ahead, how to stay strong. The song does not promise paradise lands, but rather trials and only asks to not be treated too cruelly along the way to the unknown future, walking the untrodden path towards the future of 2084.

Staring into the eyes of the girl who looks at me from the screen, I see a reflection of me, of my childhood, and the promise that I made to myself in my early youth – to never forget my childhood and the values that I learnt back then, no matter what life throws at me. And I know that many of my generation were influenced by this film in the same way, something that allowed us to stay strong in the chaos that came shortly after.

Listen to it (the English translation is below), as sung in its original form. The video presents cuts of main character of the film, played by Natasha Guseva, an actress, who, when she grew up, continued to live by the moral code of the film through the Wild 90’s and till this day…

Слышу голос из прекрасного далёка,
Голос утренний в серебряной росе,
Слышу голос, и манящая дорога
Кружит голову, как в детстве карусель.

Прекрасное далёко, не будь ко мне жестоко,
Не будь ко мне жестоко, жестоко не будь.
От чистого истока в прекрасное далёко,
В прекрасное далёко я начинаю путь.

Слышу голос из прекрасного далёка,
Он зовёт меня не в райские края,
Слышу голос, голос спрашивает строго —
А сегодня что для завтра сделал я.

Прекрасное далёко, не будь ко мне жестоко,
Не будь ко мне жестоко, жестоко не будь.
От чистого истока в прекрасное далёко,
В прекрасное далёко я начинаю путь.

Я клянусь, что стану чище и добрее,
И в беде не брошу друга никогда,
Слышу голос, и спешу на зов скорее
По дороге, на которой нет следа.

Прекрасное далёко, не будь ко мне жестоко,
Не будь ко мне жестоко, жестоко не будь.
От чистого истока в прекрасное далёко,
В прекрасное далёко я начинаю путь.

Прекрасное далёко, не будь ко мне жестоко,
Не будь ко мне жестоко, жестоко не будь.
От чистого истока в прекрасное далёко,
В прекрасное далёко я начинаю путь.

I hear the voice from the beautiful faraway,
A morning voice in a silvery dew,
I hear the voice, and the tempting road
Spins my head, as a carousel of my childhood.

Beautiful faraway, don’t be cruel to me,
Don’t be cruel to me, don’t be.
From the clear beginnings into the beautiful faraway,
Into the beautiful faraway I start my journey.

I hear the voice from the beautiful faraway,
It calls me not to the paradise lands,
I hear the voice, and the voice is asking sternly –
What have I done today for the sake of tomorrow.

Beautiful faraway, don’t be cruel to me,
Don’t be cruel to me, don’t be.
From the clear beginnings into the beautiful faraway,
Into the beautiful faraway I start my journey.

I swear that I’ll become purer and kinder,
And will never abandon a friend in need,
I hear the voice, and hasten to the call
Along the untrodden road with no trail.

Beautiful faraway, don’t be cruel to me,
Don’t be cruel to me, don’t be.
From the clear beginnings into the beautiful faraway,
Into the beautiful faraway I start my journey.

Beautiful faraway, don’t be cruel to me,
Don’t be cruel to me, don’t be.
From the clear beginnings into the beautiful faraway,
Into the beautiful faraway I start my journey.

Here are all 5 episodes with English subtitles of this marvellous and thoughtful, funny and sad film:

Episode 1:

Episode 2:

Episode 3:

Episode 4:

Episode 5:


Reading viewer’s comments on YouTube to this and the other films that I reference below, one will find a wide range of testimonials, both from those, who, like me, were born in the USSR and grew up together with these films, and those born at the end of the century, expressing regret of not having been able to witness what it was like to be a kid in the USSR.

There were literally dozens more of such pivotal children’s films that formed the moral and the world view of my generation, that taught us to see right from wrong. Here are a few other films from different years and studios.

“The Adventures of Electronic” is from 1979, filmed at Odessa Film Studio (present-day Ukraine, where the studio is all but in shatters, tragically just like the rest of the country, and where this film, along with the other Soviet heritage is forbidden by law). It has a theme song that too became symbolic for my generation: “Winged Swings”

В юном месяце апреле
В старом парке тает снег,
И весёлые качели
Начинают свой разбег.

Позабыто всё на свете,
Сердце замерло в груди,
Только небо, только ветер,
Только радость впереди.
Только небо, только ветер,
Только радость впереди.

Взмывая выше ели,
Не ведая преград,
Крылатые качели
Летят, летят, летят.
Крылатые качели
Летят, летят, летят.

Детство кончится когда-то,
Ведь оно не навсегда,
Станут взрослыми ребята,
Разлетятся кто куда.

А пока мы только дети,
Нам расти ещё расти,
Только небо, только ветер,
Только радость впереди.
Только небо, только ветер,
Только радость впереди.

Взмывая выше ели,
Не ведая преград,
Крылатые качели
Летят, летят, летят.
Крылатые качели
Летят, летят, летят.

Шар земной быстрей кружится
От весенней кутерьмы,
И поют над нами птицы,
И поём, как птицы, мы.
Позабыто всё на свете,
Сердце замерло в груди,
Только небо, только ветер,
Только радость впереди.
Только небо, только ветер,
Только радость впереди.

Взмывая выше ели,
Не ведая преград,
Крылатые качели
Летят, летят, летят.
Крылатые качели
Летят, летят, летят.

In the young month of April
The snow is melting in the old park,
And the merry swings
Are staring their take-off

Everything in the world is forgotten,
The heart has stopped in the chest,
Only the sky, only the wind,
Only happiness is ahead.
Only the sky, only the wind,
Only happiness is ahead.

Soaring above the fir-tree,
Not knowing any limits,
The winged swings
Are flying, flying, flying.
The winged swings
Are flying, flying, flying.

Childhood will end at one point,
After all, it’s not forever,
The kids will grow up,
And will fly off in all directions.

But now we are just children,
We are yet to grow and grow
Only the sky, only the wind,
Only happiness is ahead.
Only the sky, only the wind,
Only happiness is ahead.

Soaring above the fir-tree,
Not knowing any limits,
The winged swings
Are flying, flying, flying.
The winged swings
Are flying, flying, flying.

The Earth is spinning ever faster
From the spring commotion,
And the birds are singing above us,
And like birds we wing.
Everything in the world is forgotten,
The heart has stopped in the chest,
Only the sky, only the wind,
Only happiness is ahead.
Only the sky, only the wind,
Only happiness is ahead.

Soaring above the fir-tree,
Not knowing any limits,
The winged swings
Are flying, flying, flying.
The winged swings
Are flying, flying, flying.

Those who did not grow up in the USSR, will, probably not know what kind of swing this song is about. It’s a standing kind, which can be made to soar high up, and even make loops if one dared. I found a video of the now, sadly, defunct and abandoned small version of such swings:


Exploration of Space tingled the imagination of the kids of my age, and the two films from 1973 and 1974 – “Moscow-Cassiopea” and “Moscow-Cassiopea – Teens in the Universe” were special to us with that regard. I remember many hours of discussions with my coevals at a Pioneer camp about how such travels could be made possible, what kind of technology would be needed… And it seems to be able to capture the imagination of the contemporary Western viewers too, to which one comment bears witness: “This is one of the best sci-fi films I have seen! I like this better than Star Wars and Star Trek. This is just amazing! So philosophical, fresh, unique, artistic, creative, special, and original!” Philosophical is what can be said about most Soviet films – films were not just an entertainment, they had to make a viewer think.

This film has a philosophical and quiet song to it, that we all loved: “The Night Has Passed”. It is one such song that I start crying, when I listen to it, and when I sing along. And that song carries that promise of which I wrote above: to never forget, so as to be accepted by the stars…

Ночь прошла, будто прошла боль,
Спит земля, пусть отдохнет, пусть.
У Земли, как и у нас с тобой,
Там впереди, долгий, как жизнь, путь.

Я возьму этот большой мир,
Каждый день, каждый его час,
Если что-то я забуду,
Вряд ли звезды примут нас.
Если что-то я забуду,
Вряд ли звезды примут нас.

Я возьму память земных верст,
Буду плыть в спелом, густом льне.
Там вдали, там, возле синих звезд,
Солнце Земли, будет светить мне.

Я возьму этот большой мир,
Каждый день, каждый его час,
Если что-то я забуду,
Вряд ли звезды примут нас.
Если что-то я забуду,
Вряд ли звезды примут нас.

Я возьму щебет земных птиц,
Я возьму добрых ручьев плеск,
Я возьму свет грозовых зарниц,
Шепот ветров, зимний густой лес…

Night has passed, as if the pain passed,
The Earth is asleep, let is rest, let it.
The Earth, just like we,
There ahead, has a lifetime long road.

I shall take this big world,
Every day, every its hour,
If I forget something,
The stars are unlikely to accepts us.
If I forget something,
The stars are unlikely to accepts us.

I shall take the memory of the earthly miles,
I shall sail in the ripe, thick flax.
There far away, there, near the blue stars,
the Sun of the Earth shall lit my path.

I shall take this big world,
Every day, every its hour,
If I forget something,
The stars are unlikely to accepts us.
If I forget something,
The stars are unlikely to accepts us.

I shall take the chirping of the earthly birds,
I shall take the splashing of the kind creeks,
I shall take the light of the thunderstorms,
The whispering of the winds, the thick winter forests…

The last passage in italics is not in the film version of the song.

Here are both films with English subtitles:


Having started this post with “Visitor from the Future”, I will round off with another film, screened to Kir Bulychov’s book, where Natasha Guseva also plays the lead role. She only ever played in these two films, refusing other offers later on, and leaving her image associated with the beloved character of Alice.

Film “Purple Ball” appeared in 1987, filmed at the Yalta (Crimea) filial of the Central Studio of Children and Youth Films named after M. Gorky. The time of trouble was neigh, and the uncertainties were mounting. And that, along with the hope for the future, is reflected in this space adventure, and its title song, “If Only We Could Take One Look”:

Чего только нету, чего только нет
На этом на белом на свете,
Нам выпал счастливый, но трудный билет –
Мы века двадцатого дети.

Небесная высь, океанское дно
Раскроют секреты однажды,
Нам жить интересно и весело, но…
Но всё-таки хочется, хочется страшно.

Хоть глазочком заглянуть бы,
Заглянуть в грядущий век,
И узнать бы, что за судьбы,
И узнать бы, что за судьбы
Ждут тебя, ждут тебя, человек?

Чего только нету, чего только нет
На этом на белом на свете,
Повсюду минувшего времени след,
А мы за сегодня в ответе.

С тобою нам дом возвести суждено,
В дне завтрашнем вспомнят вчерашний,
Нам жить интересно и весело, но…
Но всё-таки хочется, хочется страшно.

Хоть глазочком заглянуть бы,
Заглянуть в грядущий век,
И узнать бы, что за судьбы,
И узнать бы, что за судьбы
Ждут тебя, ждут тебя, человек?

Хоть глазочком заглянуть бы,
Заглянуть в грядущий век,
И узнать бы, что за судьбы,
И узнать бы, что за судьбы
Ждут тебя, ждут тебя, человек?

So many things, so many things
There are in this wide world,
We drew a lucky, yet difficult lot –
We are the children of the 20th century.

The height of the skies, and the depth of the seas
Will once reveal their secrets,
It’s interesting and joyful for us to live, but…
It’s terribly, terribly tempting.

If only we could take one look,
Take a look into the coming century,
To learn what kind of fates,
To learn what kind of fates,
Are awaiting you, are awaiting you, man?

So many things, so many things
There are in this wide world,
Everywhere are the traces of the times past,
While we are responsible for today.

Together we are fated to build a common home,
In tomorrow’s day, yesterday will be remembered,
It’s interesting and joyful for us to live, but…
It’s terribly, terribly tempting.

If only we could take one look,
Take a look into the coming century,
To learn what kind of fates,
To learn what kind of fates,
Are awaiting you, are awaiting you, man?

If only we could take one look,
Take a look into the coming century,
To learn what kind of fates,
To learn what kind of fates,
Are awaiting you, are awaiting you, man?

We’ve taken a peek into the 21st century… And what we saw is horrifying, terrible, devastating… For the purple ball – the time bomb containing the virus of hostility – was not neutralised in our timeline. Not yet? Can we go back? Please?

Here is the complete film The Purple Ball with English subtitles:


Here are more English-subtitled Soviet must-see children’s classics. Mosfilm and Lenfilm studios are uploading many of the Soviet-era films into public domain, making them the part of the world heritage of humanity.

Some of the Mosfilm films cannot be embedded, so I add them as links to YouTube.

1947, Cinderella (colourised), Lenfilm

1976, Rusalochka. Cooperation product of Gorky Film Studio, Moscow and “Za igralni filmi”, Sophia. This Soviet rendition from 1976 of the Little Mermaid by H.C. Andersen is one of the closest to the original book. Haunting and deep and tragic. When shown in the cinemas in USSR, it was rated for 16+ audience.

1939, The Beautiful Vasilisa. SojuzDetFilm.

1939, The Golden Key (Buratino), Mosfilm. The sound in this film is from 1959.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MuurQgbg6Vc

1956, Ilja Muromec. Mosfilm. The film is known for the largest in the history of cinematography number of extras: 106000 soldiers and 11000 horses.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hooaKxdXbfM

1982, The Donkey’s Hide. Lenfilm. A deeply touching fairytale.

1952, Sadko. Mosfilm.

1976, Stepan’s Reminder. Lenfilm

1966, Aladdin’s Lamp. Gorky Film

1944, Kaschei the Deathless (without subtitles). This children’s folk Russian fairy tale was filmed at the time of the Great Patriotic War, and the parallels with the invading hordes were striking.

1972, Ruslan and Ludmila, Mosfilm. 2 parts

1946, The Stone Flower, Mosfilm
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k6QNtZRtsjM

1961, Scarlet Sails, Mosfilm
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5YzwW4hxrx4

The Simple Miracle, Mosfilm, 2 parts:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gZiKrWSzNBo
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mzpJq23cuKc

1968, The Snow Maiden, Lenfilm

1966, Snow Queen, Lenfilm. The real, gritty fairytale, not the sugary Disney “Frozen”.

1968, The Old Old Tale, Lenfilm


As I won’t be able to showcase all the wonderful Soviet films, I want to round off on this joyful piece. 1975 saw the excellent film “Buratino” (“Pinnochio”), filmed at Belarusfilm studio. Here is its memorable, joyful closing song:

RVISION’s YouTube channel holds a lot Russian and Soviet films with English subtitles.


Russian texts of the Soviet film songs can be found at http://pesnifilm.ru/.