The watershed moment of The Great Patriotic War, and of WWII, when it became clear that the Soviet Union would not fall, when the German Fascists can be defeated. The Battle of Moscow. But preceding it was an event of the utmost importance for the morale of the whole country – the Parade on the Red Square on the 7th of November 1941, as Stalin’s unifying and encouraging speech at the parade.
The documentary that I just translated tells the story of filming of the Oscar-winning documentary “Rout of the German Troops Near Moscow” from 1941. But it is much more. It de-crowns several myths – some benign, and some used by the present-day rewriters of WWII history. It tells about the heroism of the front-line cameramen, who filmed and died so that this history would not be forgotten. And it delves into a little-known side of the American-Soviet relations during the war.
The Oscar-winning documentary that the film tells about can be viewed in two versions.
The American release was somewhat shortened and its music score rerecorded. It was release under the title “Moscow Strikes Back”
The original Russian version, “Rout of the German Troops Near Moscow” is here:
The “Oscar” award.
Everyone who did cinema must have dreamt of being awarded it.
How many of our films got an “Oscar”?
If a cinema quiz was held now, most would have answered: 3.
Sergej Bondarchuk’s “War and Peace”
Nikita Mihalkov’s “Burnt by the Sun”
Vladimir Menshov’s “Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears”
The experts would have probably also remembered “Dersu Uzala”.
And they would have all been wrong.
Because we have another, fifth, “Oscar”.
Or, indeed, the first.
This film was called “Rout of the German Troops Near Moscow”
It was filmed in 1941.
When the film was shown in theatres, the military people began saying:
“We got a new type of weapon.”
The Red Square Parade of 1941
The participants were passing in battalion rank and file past Lenin’s Mausoleum.
How it often happens with masterpieces, everything started with a complete disaster.
The work on the film started on the 7th of November 1941 with the filming of the parade at the Red Square.
Cameraman Mark Trojanonskij was heading the filming.
Before that he filmed “Cheljuskency” and their first Soviet expedition to the North Pole.
On the 7th of November 1941 Trojanovskij left his house at exactly 7:30 in the morning.
He was sure that everything was under control.
The parade was scheduled to start at 10:00.
All equipment was prepared beforehand.
There is still plenty of time to fetch it from the studio and reach the Red Square.
Trojanovskij headed to his garage at a leisurely pace.
These garages were built in 1938, for the cinema workers.
This was my father’s garage.
[Aleksej Trojanovskij, the son of cameraman Mark Trojanovskij]
During the war, in 1941, he kept here his Buick,
which was in the same red colour.
When the time for filming of the parade came, he left on this Buick.
He had to take a detour as the city centre was closed down,
and he heard on the car radio that the parade is already on!
The main divisions of the armed workers,
who are ready to fight till the last drop of blood for their home city.
Having heard on the radio that the parade is already on,
Mark Trojanovskij lets go of the steering wheel… How can this be?
He’s brought back to reality by the screeching of the brakes of an incoming car.
Only a second to think.
Trojanovskij pushes gas pedal to the floor and recklessly drives into an alley, where the studio is located.
Almost without stopping, his assistants jump into the car. Another studio car follows after him.
Paying no heed to the whistles of the traffic controllers, the film crew is rushing to the Red Square.
The crew arrived at the Red Square when almost all battalions had already marched over it.
69 battalions of the infantry, 140 artillery pieces, 160 tanks.
28.500 people took part in the parade in all.
But the cameramen only managed to film the very tail of the ranks.
This was a complete disaster.
The crew failed to film the passage of the major part of the troops, but worst of all…
Worst of all, they did not record Stalin’s speech at the Red Square.
The Old Square, number 4.
This building once housed the Central Committee of VKP(b) [The All-Union Communist Party (of the Bolsheviks)]
It was here that the film crew was brought in for a hearing.
Alexander Sherbakov, the Secretary responsible for the cinema branch, utterly thrashed the film crew.
The two core Russian questions were on the agenda: “who is to blame?”, and “what to do?”.
The first question was answered quickly: the secrecy was to blame.
The Intelligence Office advanced the start of the parade by two hours.
And simply forgot to warn the film crew about it.
The parade was prepared under the shroud of complete secrecy.
It was to pass as quickly as possible to reduce the risks.
Not more than 30 minutes for everything.
The plan was simple: The troops line up at the square,
the passage of Budjonnyj, who customarily takes the parade,
Stalin’s speech, the passage of the infantry, tanks and artillery across the square.
We were lined up with our back to the Historical Museum
[Mark Ivanihin, veteran taking part in the 1941 parade in Moscow. Archive footage from 2016.]
Budjonnyj came to us – he was taking the parade.
Budjonnyj greeted us and went on with the round.
The whole square was already lined up with the parade ranks and files.
Then Budjonnyj rode up to the tribune of the Mausoleum,
and reported to Stalin that the detachments are ready for the parade.
Stalin held his speech.
Budjonnyj gave the order, and the passage before the Mausoleum commenced.
And, naturally, everything was to be filmed from the very beginning.
The parade is a symbol. Everyone should know about it.
Those who were to attend at the guest tribunes were notified by couriers during the night.
No phone calls or orders sent to the detachments.
By the morning the security measure were tightened even further.
On the morning of the 7th of November the telephone system was disabled in Moscow.
[Sergej Devjatov. Historian.]
Only the special, direct, connections remained operational.
The level of secrecy was at its maximum.
Most of the participants of the parade learned about the parade 1 hour before the troops moved to the Red Square.
On the 7th of November we were woken up at 6 in the morning and lined up.
Our commander, head of the school, Colonel Bozhanov Jurij Pavlovich,
announced that “you will be taking part in a parade on the Red Square”.
“Do not break ranks in case of an air raid,
march over the Red Square with pride.”
The detachments were notified that the parade was rescheduled shortly before,
while the film crew was simply forgotten.
I think that with such a large planning, a glitch in coordination simply happened.
the second question remained: what to do next?
Sherbakov was screaming, “Think of something, we must save the situation!”
But what can be suggested, only one thing that horrified Sherbakov:
Stalin’s speech at the Red Square must be re-filmed.
“On behalf of the Soviet government and our Bolshevik party
I greet and congratulate you
on the 24th anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution.”
This footage, which everyone knows so well, was not filmed on the 7th of November,
but three weeks later.
And Stalin repeated his speech not on the Red Square, but indoors, inside the Kremlin.
Yes, what you see here, is not a real tribune of the Mausoleum, but a decoration.
It as an unnecessary risk to let the Commander-in-Chief appear on the Red Square once more.
Moscow was constantly bombed back then.
The filming took place in the Sverdlov Hall of the Workers and Peasant Government Building.
This hall is also called the White Hall or Catherine’s Hall,
A tribune imitating the Mausoleum was built from plywood.
This building is right here, behind me.
This is the so-called 1st building of the Moscow Kremlin.
Leonid Varlamov was appointed as the director of the filming.
Filming was entrusted to the same cameraman, as the one who filmed the parade – Mark Trojanovskij.
Everything was prepared, the scene was built.
In the busy schedule of the Commander-in-Chief time was set aside especially for the filming.
The equipment is installed and checked.
It was cold during the parade and everyone’s breath was steaming,
so the windows were opened in the Hall to make it realistic.
It seemed that the cinematographers accounted for all eventualities.
Stalin started his speech, but suddenly… stop!
Film gets jammed in the camera.
The cinematographers were afraid to look up.
In complete silence the assistant were trying to reset the film.
But it did not work – their hands were shaking.
Leonid Varlamov decided to somehow discharge the situation,
to start some small talk with Stalin.
“What frosts. The Germans are freezing.”
To which Stalin gloomily replied: “Ours are also feeling the cold.”
The film was reset, it only took a couple of minutes,
but it felt like an eternity to the film crew.
He said, “You are all inventing Machiavelli here”.
…but when they asked him to start from the beginning…
He only spoke for a few seconds before that…
He must have been thinking about himself…
“You are all inventing Machiavelli here”.
In other word, making up a documentary film that is not documentary.
Just like Lenin, Stalin was convinced that cinema is the most important art form for us.
Therefore he took it completely in stride that he would have to repeat his speech.
He fully realised how important it was.
Especially since this was not the first time.
Stalin’s speech had to be re-filmed during the 18th Assembly of the Party in 1939.
Back then there was a glitch with lighting.
Back then the intelligence officers were also to blame.
He went to the stage, and they turned on the lights.
I was told that he reflectively rose up a hand covering his eyes.
And the officers immediately turned off all light.
He delivered his speech, but the sensitivity of the film was too low.
So during the break Trojanovskij went to Ordginikidze, who was organizing the Assembly,
saying that they don’t have the speech. “Let’s re-film it”.
“No, you yourself go with this suggestion to Him, I’m scared.”
“I can lead you to him”. And so he did.
Stalin immediately agreed.
During the break after the speech, everyone was asked to vacate the hall, and he repeated his speech.
he repeated it brilliantly, as an actor, taking pauses when there was “applause”,
nodded to somebody in the empty hall. He played his part.
Just as brilliantly Stalin played his part when they were re-filming his speech from the parade.
No one even noticed the substitution.
“…our entire country,”
“has organized itself into a single military camp”
“in order to carry out the defeat of the German invaders together with our Army and our Fleet.”
Notice that the soldiers marching across the square have snow on their shoulders, while those listening to Stalin’s speech don’t.
It’s because the troops before the Mausoleum had to be re-filmed as well after the recording of Stalin’s speech.
It was decided not to set up a scene – the soldiers were lined up on the Red Square
On the 7th of November it was overcast and it snowed heavily,
while during re-filming the skies were clear.
Later this footage was combined with what they managed to film during the parade.
Of course, it’s a terrible blunder for a documentary film,
but something completely different was important for the cinematographers.
This, however, did not escape the attention of the parade’s participants.
Yes, it snowed.
Yes it snowed, and steam should have been there.
Well. When it snows you can’t really show it sharply.
There was snow… You could barely see people…
Cavalry stood beside us, and we could barely see the horses.
[Ivan Proskurin, Veteran of WWII, 1941 Moscow parade participant]
The veterans noticed another detail: according to them Stalin didn’t wear the peaked cap at the parade.
That he had the ear-flapped hat (“ushanka”).
“We do not have any serious shortage of food, weapons, or uniforms.”
“Our entire country, all the peoples of our country, support our Army, our Navy, helping them to defeat the invading hordes of German fascists.”
I cannot understand why they dressed Stalin in the peaked cap?
He stood in the ear-flapped hat
Why change that?
Definitely. I know how he was.
He stood in the hat, flaps tied under the chin.
You can believe me or not, but
can you imagine a boy, who has seen the military parade,
and meeting Stalin, that memory remained for the whole life.
And no one can make my eyes see something else.
While here he stands with open ears, while it was minus 8 outside.
The strange thing is that the veterans are mistaken – the chronicles show the opposite.
One can see how Stalin was dressed in this footage, filmed on the 7th of November.
The leader is standing with the rest on the tribune, wearing a peaked cap, after all.
Human memories are extremely selective and extremely subjective.
In such an emotional state it is, of course, next to impossible to remember something clearly.
It becomes a kind of an image that either imprints itself or not.
“Can there be any doubt that we can and must defeat the German invaders?”
“The enemy is not as strong as some frightened intellectuals portray it.”
Human memory is, indeed, selective and subjective.
We are often thinking in stereotypes.
We are sure that our army was aided by General Frost.
That Siberian regiments marched during the parade.
That the troops went to the front straight from the Red Square.
In reality it wasn’t exactly like that.
We are accustomed to think that cold is our constant ally in the fight against the invaders.
Once Napoleon was freezing on our land, then the Hitlerite troops.
In reality that is a myth, which was actually created by the Germans themselves as an excuse.
It is somehow easier to write off own defeats to the cold.
It is incorrect to say that the Germans were stopped by “General Frost”.
[Aleksej Isaev, military historian]
Quite the contrary – it helped them.
During the time, when the Germans were advancing on Moscow, the weather was helping them.
There was mild frost that froze the ground and allowed tanks to move off the roads,
and to circumvent and flank the Soviet positions.
As opposed to the October mud, when such manoeuvres were complicated.
So when the German advancement stopped, it did not stop because of the frost.
Mud and frost don’t fight for someone in particular – everyone suffers from them.
Ours were also freezing.
There was even a joke in the Red Army:
If “General Mud” and “General Frost” fought on our side,
they would have been shot for treachery.
The mild frosts that stood in the beginning of November did indeed facilitate the passage of the German vehicles.
But in December and January the temperatures fell to -30C,
and here “General Frost” was in the way. And it interfered with both sides.
The “Siberian regiments” as most of us envisage them:
Troops that were preparing for a war in the Far East are transferred to Moscow.
Before the parade they arrive at a railway station, unload,
and from there they march to the Red Square, and then straight to the front.
I often watch these images,
and am still searching in them for the face of my husband, who
[Irina Grashenkova, art historian]
being a militiaman from VGIK (All-Union State Institute of Cinematography), participated in this parade.
He told me what left the biggest impression on them.
They where volunteer militiamen, bespectacled intellectuals, not in any way military,
though filled with a fighting spirit, heroism and courage.
The passage of the Siberian regiments made a great impression on all of them.
And when these people marched past as one,
fully ready to fight, they were in felt boots and sheepskin coats,
he said, they realised that this is the strength, and that we become more powerful ourselves from this strength.
In reality the Siberian regiments did not exist.
In any case, they did not arrive to Moscow before the parade.
This came, in reality, from the German literature, when they were saying, “The Siberians are coming”.
The “Siberians” were all, who were warmly-clad.
So if a person is clad according to the season in a fully normal clothing, then he automatically becomes a “Siberian”.
In reality, divisions formed in Moscow and surroundings were taking part in the parade.
There were also units formed in Kazakhstan and Urals,
as well as Siberia, from the Moscow military district, and the Central Russia in general.
And the regiments did not march directly to the front-line from the Red Square.
In general, this “marching across the Red Square and straight to the front” is a beautiful legend.
There was an accumulation of the troops, and in reality…
if not at the final stage, at the middle of the process there was an accumulation of the troops for a counter-offensive.
Therefore the parade was a harbinger of the coming strikes against the Germans, which drove them away from Moscow.
But before we started driving them from Moscow, our troops were only retreating and retreating.
Though fighting fiercely during the retreat.
Without exaggeration, we fought for every hight, for every village, for every bridge.
And the blood was not spilled in vain.
We shall never forget about it.
If Wehrmacht reached Mozhaisk line of defence in the same numbers and condition as when it stood at the borders…
It would have reached Moscow, but it wasn’t the same Wehrmacht.
Wehrmacht of October-November 1941 is not the same invasion army that crossed the border.
Therefore, for the defence and holding of Moscow we are indebted to all, who stood firm
at Kiev, Smolensk, at the Luga front-line, they all contributed…
and the Leningrad militia under Luga, and
those, who fought in the tank battles near Dubno,
they were all shaving off the power of the Germans.
Everyone understands it now, but back then, in the autumn of 1941,
the citizens of Moscow felt that there is no hope left.
We are losing the war.
Everything turned upside-down. Everything.
[Vladimir Etush, the People’s Artist of USSR, veteran of the Great Patriotic War]
First of all they started enlisting to the front.
At home, in Moscow, something different started.
The raids of the German aviation…
They happened before our eyes, like a kick in the head…
The reports from the front sounded like a home geography lesson.
Brjansk is abandoned by our troops on the 6th of October.
Kaluga – on the 13th.
Tver – on the 14th.
And that’s just 1,5 hour by car from Moscow.
Night on the 15th of October the Germans broke through our defences and started walking across Moscow province (oblast).
Panic ensued in the capital.
When the whole of Moscow was leaving,
[Vera Vasiljeva, People’s Actress of the USSR]
it was very frightening… all the lorries, loaded with something, were driving away…
All the time there was some kind of rumble,
a feeling that those lorries were clanking,
in other words, not silence, but some constant sound.
People were simply leaving, even with a baby stroller, and in it there would be not a child, but a washing basin,
or some household things, so as not to carry that in hands.
And there was a total feeling of some kind of horror.
Everyone leaves Moscow.
On the 15th of October Stalin signs the decree on the evacuation of the capital of the USSR, the city of Moscow.
The diplomatic missions leave Moscow on the same day.
The government convoys with the staff of the Central Committee of the Communist Party leave for Kujbyshev.
On the morning of the 16th of October people saw that the Metro is stopped.
Government buildings are closed. The military is setting up charges under the bridges.
I have it still before my eyes… windy… no snow on the Smolensk square,
[Oleg Anofriev, People’s Artist of Russia]
dust is being blown,
someone’s pedigree dog is running, looking for its owners.
And along Arbat lorry after lorry are driving off, taking in them
various secret papers.
So we were on the brink of a situation when the Germans could enter Moscow.
Mining of Metropolitan was being discussed in earnest.
Everything was ready for the evacuation of Stalin himself.
“(Comrade Stalin must be evacuated tomorrow or later, depending on the situation)”
It is said that he even walked up to the train that was to take him from Moscow,
but turned back on the platform.
And just three weeks later, on his orders, a parade was held on the Red Square,
commemorating the 24th anniversary of the October Revolution.
What did a common person living here in Moscow, feel and think during those terrible days?
Try to imagine:
The best army in the world, which proved that it is the best by vanquishing its old enemies, the French, in a matter of weeks,
the one, that was feeling itself at home within the borders of today’s European Union,
the army that did not know defeat,
which, despite fierce resistance from our soldiers, had already taken Minsk, Kiev, Smolensk,
and was standing at Moscow’s threshold – within a tram-ride distance.
And suddenly – a parade!
Parade is for the victors.
The loss of Moscow meant the defeat in the war.
And not because it is the capital.
After all, we already once abandoned Moscow – to Napoleon.
And it didn’t stop us from winning that Patriotic War.
But a lot changed since 1812.
Moscow was now not just the main city of the country, but its main railway hub.
And the Fascists understood it well.
If we lose Moscow with its railway stations, it leads to a collapse of the whole railway system of the USSR.
Therefore Moscow couldn’t be surrendered under any circumstance.
So when one of the generals asked the Commander-in-Chief if he could move his command centre,
He replied to him: “Do you have spades at the command centre?”
“We’ll find some”, general replied.
“then dig the trenches if the Germans are close, and defend the position.”
“Not a step back.”
And this permeated the whole of the defence.
This slogan, “Not a step back”, which became very real.
For Motherland, for Stalin!
Not only the historians, but also the common people understand:
the defeat of the Fascists under Moscow was a turning point in the war.
If we let the enemy enter the capital, plan “Barbarossa” could have well worked.
If plan “Barbarossa” worked out and the Germans reached the line Arhangelsk-Astrahan,
this would have lead to the loss of the major part of the industry,
the major part of the transport system of the Soviet Union,
of the vehicles and the ability to resist.
A severe regime would have been enacted on the occupied territory,
which aimed to exterminate the Slavs.
[Water only for the German soldiers. Russians taking water from here will be shot. Water for the Russians is on the other side.]
It was planned to push the Eastern-European Slavs onto the territory of the Soviet Union,
[The fight for your liberation started one year ago!]
to destroy most of the population until this Arhangelsk-Astrahan line,
[Fighting and working together with Germany,]
[you also create a happy future for yourself.]
to resettle here Lithuanians and Poles, whom they considered to be inferior,
to create a German resort in Crimea,
and finally the climatically-suitable parts of the Eastern Europe would have been settled by the Germans, this so-called “Lebensraum”.
Additionally, the Germans would have been able to fly their bombers all the way to Urals and burn the factories down to the ground.
Therefore Soviet Union would have been removed as an active participant of the war.
What would have happened next?
It’s highly questionable if the Western allies would have be able to storm fortress “Europe”.
Stalin’s calculation was justified.
The military parade in Moscow took everyone by surprise.
No one expected anything like this neither in our country, nor in Berlin, nor in the Western capitals.
The effect of a few divisions marching across the Red Square
was equivalent to a successful front-line operation.
The American papers wrote:
“Organisation of a parade at a time when battles are raging on the city’s outskirts
showed to the whole world that Moscow is standing and will continue to stand unconquered.
On the 27th of November 1941 Stalin’s speech was re-recorded.
And two days later the film crew was summoned to Lubjanka.
Sitting in a long corridor and nervously tapping their heels on the red carpet,
no one was in doubt that a punishment was in store for them for their late arrival to the parade.
The door opened: “Enter”.
The men proceeded to the office on wobbly legs.
“We have a new task for you,” the cinematographers were told.
Comrade Stalin entrusts you to make a film about the defeat of the Germans under Moscow.
The cinematographers all relaxed, as if command “at ease” was given to them.
Leonid Varlamov and Ilja Kopalin were appointed directors of the film.
The old Sheremetjevo airport is behind me.
It is hard to imagine, but it was here that the front-line passed in the autumn of 1941.
11 kilometres to Moscow.
34 kilometres to the Red Square, where the parade was held.
Imagine, think about it – German troops are all around here.
And here comes the task – to make a film about the defeat of these very troops.
What defeat were they talking about?
Were the directors to make some fantasy film?
But the fantastic event was that they actually managed to make such a film.
The groundwork for the film “Rout of the German Troops Near Moscow” was the footage of the November parade.
Including Stalin’s speech.
The rest the cameramen filmed on the battlefields around Moscow and in the capital itself.
Across the fields of the Great Borodino battle of 1812,
forth, to the West, the Red Army division are moving
in pursuit of the retreating enemy.
The future Oscar-winning film was filmed over three months.
At nights the directors discussed with the cameramen the tasks for the next day.
Cars took them each morning to the front-line, only to take them back in the evening with the filmed footage.
That’s how close the front-line was.
15 cameramen filmed the film about the battles near Moscow.
They went with the scouts,
they were deployed with the partisans behind enemy lines,
they filmed aerial battles sitting in the bomb compartments of the planes.
They filmed the war as it was, unadorned.
“When running away, the Germans locked families inside buildings and blew them up with mines.”
“There will be no mercy to you, murderers.”
Death… blood… war… shots… explosions…
And still poesy…
Still some kind of spiritual view on this material.
There were in all 258 cameramen working at the fronts of the Great Patriotic War.
Every 4th of them was killed.
And everyone without exception were wounded.
Once when we returned to the base after filming,
[Boris Sokolov, front-line cameraman]
so as to prepare the materials, I noticed that Mihail Poselskij’s
greatcoat had a bullet hole in the area of the knee.
So we must have been shot at at one point.
The attentive viewer will notice that many frames in the chronicles appear as if they were staged.
The same artillery shot filmed at two angles – a close-up and a wide-angle.
Did they set up another take for the cameramen during the battle?
Of course, not.
The thing is that the front-line cameramen worked in pairs.
This was a routine technique.
First, there was someone to help in case of wounding.
And if one of the cameramen died, the other could still deliver the footage back.
To preserve the filmed footage was of the paramount importance.
Even at the cost of your life.
First of all, it was more convenient in the artistic sense.
We agreed beforehand that one of us filmed a general view and the other – close-ups.
So for the future montage and usage of the materials,
it was artistically very convenient.
And then it was a matter of safety.
We backed each other up in all the difficult situations.
We had several cases, when our partners-cameramen,
would extract their wounded comrade from the battlefield, from the filming field.
Using this camera…
[Victor Dobronitskij, cameraman]
the front-line cameramen filmed their excellent pictures during the war
The handle is missing here. Let’s affix it.
This is how the filming was done.
The camera was wound up like this.
Then then they pushed the trigger.
These are the famous images of
the paratrooper skiers, sliding down the hills.
“The forces of the Western Front have broken through the enemy defences with a rapid blow.”
And it always seems to me that they are descending from Heaven.
That they are the angels of retribution, with their white camouflaging capes billowing behind them,
and they are flying forth in complete silence, as if the angels of retribution.
These are moving images, indeed.
But few gave it a thought, how difficult this filming was.
It was -30C outside!
Cameras froze up in the frost.
-10C was a critical point, after that the cameras would simply stop and not unwind.
[Victor Dobronitskij, cameraman.]
My father, Dobronitskij, invented a greasing with which he’d grease these machines,
He greased the cameras of his group with it and they worked like a clockwork up to -20C.
And then came the order to grease all the cameras of the studio
with this greasing, and all was right.
On the 6th of December 1941 our troops started a counter-offensive.
While on the 11th of December Jurij Levitan was already announcing the historical message from the Soviet Information Bureau
about the routing of the Hitlerite troops near Moscow.
“News of the hour! The failure of the German plan to surround and capture Moscow.”
“The German troops at Moscow’s gates have been defeated!”
“Wait for me and I’ll return, just await me strongly.”
“Rout of the German Troops Near Moscow”
The film “Rout of the German Troops Near Moscow” was montaged in record time.
It was almost ready by the end of December.
It only remained to record the sound and make copies to show the film across the whole country.
And already on the 23rd of February 1942, the film was released.
Huge queues formed in front of the cinemas to watch it.
After “Rout” was shown in the cinemas, the military started saying, “we got a new kind of weapon”.
It was for the first time they saw it in such a composed, full-feature format,
and they realised that this is a huge weapon, mobilising, directing, helping people to persevere.
“The Red Army will liberate all Soviet towns and villages.”
The film, which they at first didn’t even know how to produce, turned out to be a true triumph for the film crew.
“Rout of the German Troops Near Moscow” received Stalin’s Award – the highest cinematographic award in the country.
The film was specifically distributed among the allied countries through our diplomatic missions,
so as to show that vast and terrible war that we conducted against our common enemy.
Thus, in the beginning of 1943 the film reach the USA.
And it arrived there at a very opportune time.
When it came to the US, it was the time when America was entering the war,
And as usual the Americans prepare themselves well to that moment,
when they must explain their taxpayer that he must go somewhere and fight for the American interests.
But the American viewer lives on the other side of the globe.
The war is far away from him.
For him, Russia is a distant and incomprehensible country.
Our film was therefore thoroughly re-cut by the Americans,
so that the citizens of the USA would get a clear and understandable picture.
It wasn’t necessary to explain to a Russian who Stalin is, but you had to do it to an American.
You don’t need to explain where Moscow is to a Russian, but need to for an American, explain why they fight for that city.
There are many cities in the world, why fight for Moscow.
Big deal, there is Moscow in the USA, why fight for a Moscow on another continent.
And there are many such outward curiosities.
[Note the date on the screen: 1940, not 1941!]
The American version of the film couldn’t avoid some blunders.
The films start with the footage of the sporting parade on the Red Square in 1939.
The narrator tells about the multi-nationality of our country, but for some reason speaks about 17 republics.
Though in 1939 USSR had only 11 republics, while the number grew to 16 in 1940.
A narrator plays an important role for the Americans,
and not just because he explains what is happening on the screen.
Of course, for an American to appear in the film, there must be a name.
[Nikolaj Izvolov, historian]
And Robinson, who played in all detective films of the ’30s, was a very famous actor.
And even his photo was shown here, when…
when he reads the narration, his face speaks from the microphone.
The spectators had to know what the narrator was looking like, because they might not have recognised him by only the voice.
Why did the Americans have to re-make our film?
Simply speaking, it had to be explained to the American people,
why, what for do they have to fight in that distant Europe.
They even changed the name to “Moscow Strikes Back”
Does it remind you of anything?
“Empire Strikes Back”, “Star Wars” by George Lucas.
The film was widely shown in the US,
and became a true revelation for the Americans.
It turned out that these “terrible Reds” are the same people as the Americans.
While the pictures of atrocities and destruction from the German army, filmed by our cameramen
were convincingly saying that the fight against Fascism is the fight for the right cause.
But most importantly, we showed that it is possible to fight Hitler’s army.
And not just fight them, but also win.
Soon after the release of the film in America, a group of Soviet cameramen arrives there
to make a film about the Atlantic convoys.
Vladislav Mikosha was among them.
He had just returned from Sevastopol, where he was filming during the hardest battles.
I wan to show you
Mikosha is he looked in 1942 – 1943, when he arrived in America.
Can you imagine such handsome man, with a pipe,
and in the gorgeous, black, elegant maritime uniform.
A man who is witty, fun to be with, brave.
The stars of Hollywood were falling in love with him back then.
One of them even gave him a signet as a gift.
The cameramen travelled across the whole of America, from New York to Los Angeles.
They even had a meeting with Charlie Chaplin.
Shortly before the return to the USSR, the Soviet Consul called Vladislav Mikosha,
and hand him a box.
There was a gilded figurine in that box.
It was “Oscar” for the film “Rout of the German Troops Near Moscow”.
It turns out that in 1943, the Americans themselves nominated the film for the best documentary award.
And it won.
Besides it being a unique film, and uniqueness is always appreciated by the “Oscar”, the film was extremely relevant.
[Kirill Razlogov, cinema historian]
And considering such a strong left-orientation of Hollywood that later lead to persecutions under McCarthyism,
who said that the whole of Hollywood is Red and that Communists are running Hollywood.
Here they finally got a chance to express their real political convictions,
and their sympathies, which in this situation were naturally not on the side of the Germans, but the Russians.
Nowadays, all papers would have been trumpeting about “Oscar”, but back then…
Back then Stalin Award had a much greater weight.
As for “Oscar”? What about it? Some filmy prize.
“At the production halls and factories, at numerous assemblies,
Soviet people greeted dear Red Army.”
Few in the capital of the warring country were interested by the American figurine.
“Oscar” was set aside on some dusty shelf.
What became of it? And where is it now?
As Mikosha was a state serviceman, and he had to report about the voyage,
and tell about all the items, given to him by the foreign party,
he most probably handed all these thing to the Cinema Governance Office, as “GosKino” (State Cinema) was called back then.
Here is the building that housed this Office in the ’40s.
More precisely, USSR State Committee for Cinematography,
but that organisation has long ago ceased to exist in that form.
After all the reorganisations, cinematography is now under the jurisdiction of a Department within the Ministry of Culture.
Maybe we should look for the figurine there.
We are filming a documentary about the first Soviet “Oscar” and the film “Rout of the German Troops Near Moscow”.
According to the information that we have, “Oscar” figurine was in 1943 handed over to GosKino”, that is – to you.
Do you happen to have it now?
Previously, in the Soviet period all the awards were handed over to “GosKino”.
I have no idea what became of them since.
I know that Menshov took his “Oscar” back with him, but where the other disappeared to,
that I cannot answer.
Where can that “Oscar” be?
CSDF surely had it, but that organisation was dismantled and closed down.
CSDF – The Central Studio for Documentary Films.
It was located here, in Lihov alley.
As we can see, not even a trace is left of it.
The building was handed over to the Orthodox St.Typhany Theological University.
CSDF had a museum of front-line cameramen.
Where all the materials from this truly heroic epos of the Great Patriotic War were collected.
Montage scripts, correspondence, documents were kept there,
and obviously the figurine was transferred there.
But in the ’90s CSDF had practically fallen apart.
More precisely, it was split into several organisations, dividing all the belongings as well.
The trail of the “Oscar” became lost.
Has our search come into a dead end?
It can’t be so that “Oscar” vanished without a trace.
And suddenly our hero, cameraman Victor Dobronitskij,
mentioned in passing that he saw some “Oscar” at an exhibition”.
But is it that very figurine that he’s speaking of?
At the Memorial Mountain – Poklonnaja Gora
Haven’t you seen it? It’s there. At the exhibition.
As far as I know, it was a gilded, wooden figurine.
And it was exhibited like that at the exhibition.
Gilded? Wooden? Is he really speaking about “Oscar”?
Nevertheless, we go to the Museum of the Great Patriotic War on the Memorial Mountain.
Success at last. It turns out the figurine was here.
The exhibition is, however, long since over.
Exhibition dedicated to the front-line cameramen – “They Filmed The War” – was held here on the 6th of May this year (2019).
And here, where the workers are now setting up a new exhibition, stood “Oscar”,
[Dmitrij Lobanov, methodologists of the Great Patriotic War museum]
which was awarded to our film in ’43, dedicated to those events,
to the routing of the German troops near Moscow.
The figurine was lent to the exhibition by the Film Museum, which is located at MosFilm.
We are driving there.
Excuse me, do you keep the “Oscar” for the film “Rout of the German Troops”?
Yes, we do, I can show it to you, if you want.
Emma Malaja is the curator of the museum.
She’s worked here for many years and knows about every exhibit in it.
Here is out precious “Oscar”.
So that’s how it looks, our very first “Oscar”.
It does not at all look like the figurine that we are used to seeing, right.
And weight less. Maybe it’s a copy, a replica?
This is not a copy.
This is the only exemplar that really was presented at Hollywood, and this
copper plaque in English, detailing what the prize was awarded for
to this particular film, proves its authenticity.
It is, indeed, not made of gold, and not from the metal that is customarily used to produce “Oscars”.
It’s made of plaster and gilded with golden paint.
It does not weigh much, but…
it’s probably the most significant “Oscar” in history.
The first Oscar Award ceremony was held in the USA in 1929.
The figurine’s design was developed then:
a knight, standing on a film roll and holding a sword in his hands.
“Oscar” weighs 3.5kg, and is cast from an amalgam of tin and copper,
after which it is plated with gold.
However, during WWII plaster figurines were used instead of the metal ones.
As every bit of metal was needed at the front.
Everyone was in a difficult situation during the war. Some even started selling them.
[Emma Malaja, curator of the Film Museum]
Therefore they decided that for the duration of the war,
to make do with a plaster model painted with golden paint.
And once the war is over, exchange them for the real ones, as they are supposed to be.
But after the War the former allies very quickly entered the state of Cold War.
No one even thought of going to the US and exchanging the plaster “Oscar” to a metal one.
And no one thinks of it now.
Which is right.
The war-time “Oscar” is unique.
It is one of a kind.
This plaster award is much more precious, than the normal gilded figurine.
It is it that holds the true history.
Our cinematographers filmed this picture not for the sake of medals and awards.
It is not in vain, that after the film was released, the military started saying,
that they got a new kind of weapon.
So the film “Rout of the German Troops Near Moscow” gave its mighty contribution
towards the Great Victory.
Eternal memory to those, who gave their lives for this Victory.
UPDATE 08.09.2022: Moved defunct YouTube information to the bottom for historic reference:
On several previous occasions YouTube removed my uploads of translations, so to avoid any problems, here are 5 easy steps that will allow you to watch it with subtitles on your desktop machine: