Soviet Movies Finally Released to the Public

Gorbachev was known for being more of a lenient ruler of the Soviets. He issued a number of reforms and policies that were much different from his predecessors, including glasnost and the tearing down of the Berlin wall. With these leniencies, the Soviet people were able to express themselves much more fully, especially with film. For years the Soviets had had a strong grip on censorship of movies and did not allow many of them to reach the public. But by 1985, that all changed.

In 1986, three of what would become iconic films of Soviet Russia were finally released to the public after Elem Klimov was elected as head of the Cinema Workers Union: Trial on the Road (1971), Commissar (1967), and Repentance (1984). Each of these films was deemed by the censorship program to be somehow not worthy of being shown to the public.

Poster for “Trial on the Road”

Trial on the Road is the least controversial of the 3 in my opinion, and it’s a little confusing why it was even censored. The movie is set in World War II when a Soviet soldier defects to the Germans, but when captured by Soviet partisans, switches sides again. He eventually earns the trust of the partisans for his bravery in battle.

The film presumably was censored because of its theme that suggests sympathy for not only a traitor, but for someone who fought for the Nazi army. The Soviets still remembered the loss they experienced at the hands of the Germans, and my guess is that seeing a film in which a Soviet defector becomes the hero was not very ideal.

Whatever the reason, the film was very well received upon its release in 1986, and has received a score of 8/10 on IMDb. This just shows that the Soviet regime obviously did not have the people’s interests at heart, but was trying to save face both domestically and internationally.

7 Replies to “Soviet Movies Finally Released to the Public”

  1. What were the other two movies about? And what was the overall impact of these movies’ release on Soviet cinema? – was there a new willingness of Soviet directors to release movies with previously censorship worthy plots?

  2. This is a very good post! I think you did a great job of connecting Gorbachev’s leniency with the role of film in society. I would definitely be interested in watching the movies that were released especially in comparison with all the other events occurring at the time.

  3. What a cool post about the opening up of the Soviet Union! I am interested to see those three films. It was very cool to see the how the legacy of the second world war influenced Gorbachev’s policy of openness. Great work!

  4. I really liked the topic that you chose and I think you do a great job of describing how this movie was found to be controversial. I can certainly see why a strict government would want to censor something such as this, so that people wouldn’t get the idea that they could go against Russia. However, I also think it’s interesting that even today it has a high score on a modern day movie website.

  5. I find it very interesting, yet not surprising, that they wouldn’t release movies. I wonder why Gorbachev decided that he was going to allow them to be released after all? Did he think he would gain favor with an increasingly unhappy population by cutting down on censorship?

  6. I agree that the problem with Trial on the Road was having a defector as a protagonist — even if he redeemed himself. Anna raises an important question about Gorbachev’s rationale for releasing previously censored films. I think that the spirit of openness called for having a more nuanced and controversial public sphere, and it involved a recognition that difficult topics needed to be discussed and dealt with, not just pushed underground.

  7. Good post, reminds me of the censored media today in Russia. Pretty interesting that they would have made a movie where one of their own defected to the Germans and then come back. I can see why they didn’t want to the public to see that.

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