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2023 Author: Seth Attwood | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-05-24 11:30
From the first shots, the author declares that he is not going to prove or deny anything to anyone, his task is to tell about the very difficult life of Lavrenty Beria, based only on facts and the memories of the contemporaries of the all-powerful People's Commissar of the NKVD …
Commentary from the film's website www.beria1.ru:
I sit, deafened, after watching, with burning ears and a rise in temperature … Today's pain in connection with the tragedy of Ukraine suddenly faded into the background after watching this film …
In the text below, director Yuri Rogozin describes how this film was born …
How this film was born
Until 2011, it would never have occurred to me to shoot something like that. Long-term anti-Stalinist propaganda, intensified with the arrival of Gorbachev, did its grandiose task. The attitude towards Stalin and Beria was negative among the population. About 15 years ago, when I saw in the news on TV that the very middle-aged son of Beria Sergo (by the way, an outstanding military designer) was seeking the rehabilitation of his father, I thought: well, this is too much, there are so many sins behind him!..
Sergo, by the way, died without having achieved his father's acquittal.
Then I remembered an old anecdote. A tour of hell. Ivan the Terrible is ankle-deep in blood, Hitler is waist-deep, Beria is knee-deep. They ask him: "Where is Joseph Vissarionovich?" “And I stand on his shoulders,” Lavrenty Palych answers …
Even in jokes, Beria was portrayed as the most bloodthirsty.
In the mid-80s of the last century, I had a chance to talk live several times with the author of exposing books about Stalin and Beria, Anton Antonov-Ovseenko. The son of the revolutionary Vladimir Antonov-Ovseenko and Rosalia Borisovna Katsnelson, he himself spent thirteen years in the camps, but despite the unbearable conditions of detention and his poor health, he survived safely to a very old age - 93 years old and died in 2013. His father, a former Menshevik, who at the right moment became a Bolshevik, was shot in February 1938 as a Trotskyist, an enemy of the people.
Anton Vladimirovich Antonov-Ovseenko, a dry, bile-looking old man, almost blind from childhood, lived in a large Stalinist house. On his desk, next to a typewriter, lay piles of manuscripts of future merciless articles and books. Referring to some secret archives and memories of old revolutionaries, mostly shot, he passionately and convincingly, with the smallest details, as if he was constantly present nearby, described the most heinous atrocities of Beria.
And then I unconditionally believed this amazingly informed storyteller, his every dagger word! As enthusiastically believed the employees and readers of the most popular youth magazine Smena at that time, with millions of circulations, which, like other editions, also published such chilling horror films, were overwhelmed by the salty wave of perestroika.
I also remember how, as a boy, having arrived in Moscow from his native Siberia at the end of the 60s and walking on the solemn cobblestones of Red Square, I was surprised to find that there are monuments on the graves of outstanding people, and on Stalin's grave it is empty. I thought: apparently, Stalin really did a lot of bad things. And a few years later I saw that the monument suddenly appeared … Come today to Red Square, all the graves are empty, only one always has fresh flowers. At his grave.
In the history textbook, they wrote and write that Khrushchev in 1956 boldly spoke at the twentieth party congress with a report where, like a surgeon, salvageously opened up invisible abscesses - the terrible deeds of Stalin. And that already three years, as it was not alive!
In the tenth grade, I could not understand: what then was the courage of Khrushchev, if he scolded the dead? And why was everyone silent before? So they were afraid?.. Or were they at the same time with the ghoul-leader, that is, they themselves were ghouls? Or did they not notice anything, and only one honest and brave Khrushchev, who accidentally got into this bloodthirsty pack, courageously revealed to the ignorant people who until recently sobbed over the coffin of the leader, all the truth hidden from their eyes? But before this fateful moment, Nikita Sergeevich worked with Stalin hand in hand, regularly receiving orders and medals on his broad chest.
Something didn’t work out here, the puzzles didn’t fit. Or maybe because the furious truth of Khrushchev did not correspond to reality?.. But for some reason it was not customary to ask such questions.
I remember how Stalin was always present in the epochal, beloved from childhood war films directed by Yuri Ozerov, but, as it seemed to me, some small, puny, not very confident in himself, but more important, decisive and knowledgeable looked powerful Zhukov, similar to an irresistible tank for the enemy (performed by the great actor Mikhail Ulyanov), which clearly was not afraid of Stalin, was in all respects a head taller than him, and, demonstrating his attitude towards him, for example, could easily talk to the Supreme Commander on the phone, sitting on chair, and even sipping gulls with taste. At that time, I still did not know who actually played the main role in the victorious leadership of the Soviet army. The one who on a white horse hosted the parade on May 9, 1945, or the one who simply stood on the podium of the Mausoleum among other members of the Politburo.
And after all, in none of the films about the Great Patriotic War, including those of the same Ozerov (a front-line soldier, by the way, and a professional military man), filmed after the death of Joseph Vissarionovich, there is no Beria at all! As if he was sitting out on the moon at that time. Although, of course, both veterans and historians knew perfectly well what Lavrenty Pavlovich was doing in those years, and what was his real contribution to the Victory.
But how many films, programs and serials have been released - from the 90s to the present day - about the bloodthirsty Beria! As a result, he poisoned Stalin and seized power, but he was punished in time by the sagacious Khrushchev, arrested, and fearless generals headed by the future Marshal Batitsky (and according to another version - personally by Zhukov himself), tightly bound, nevertheless, deadly, right in the basement was boldly and mercilessly shot from pistols almost point-blank.
And how many entertaining books have been published about his delightful sexual exploits! Corrosive reporters even found some elderly victims of his maniac harassment, who, however, not without pleasantness recalled their intimate relations with the all-powerful People's Commissar of the NKVD, while praising him as a man …
Yes, until 2011, I was no different from the majority, which condemned Stalin and Beria. But one day I came across a book by Yuri Mukhin, and then by Elena Prudnikova - about Beria. These were books based not on the fantasies of fictional writers and zombie or engaged historians, ecstatically replicating familiar clichés, not on the stories of offended relatives of victims of repression, but on real documents, facts, figures and memoirs of contemporaries who personally knew Beria.
I couldn't believe my eyes! It turned out that everything that I knew about Lavrentiy Pavlovich before was nothing more than a deliberate lie, roughly planned, but tightly cobbled together and filigreely embedded in the minds of gullible citizens. What for? is a separate topic.
It turned out that Beria was completely different!
And now, when, thanks to these books, I looked into the open door of the cleansing truth, everything instantly rose from head to foot. All the questions and inconsistencies that have tormented me since my youth, docked!
I began to look for other books and documentary sources about Beria. And I found a lot of them. I was overwhelmed with a feeling of joy that I had touched the real truth about our heroic past, I was amazed at the incredible scale of the deeds that Lavrenty Pavlovich could do. I felt great pride in the fact that I live in the country, which he defended and built all his life and for which he eventually died.
But at the same time I was saddened by the fact that the circulation of wonderful books by Yuri Mukhin, Elena Prudnikova, Yuri Zhukov, Andrey Parshev, Arsen Martirosyan and other "alternative" historians is simply ridiculous on a Russian scale, about 5 thousand each! How many people will read them?..
That's when I decided to shoot a movie about Beria. Hoping that it will be shown on TV and seen by millions of people who will think, and someone will reconsider their views, someone will become stronger - from the fact that they learned this truth. I thought that this truth is capable of rallying people, reviving their patriotic feelings and pride in their homeland. I suddenly realized that everything I had done up to this moment was an insignificant trifle, and this film would become the main boundary and meaning of my life. And it doesn't matter what it will cost me, whether the powers that be or the notorious liberal intelligentsia like him.
I decided not to even try to ask the Ministry of Culture, TV channels or the rich for money for a film. They happily gave money, but for films about Beria the killer. Several years ago I wrote to one of the Russian funds for the support of culture and proposed a large-scale theatrical project, everything was already ready there, including agreements with theaters, and money was required for a penny. I was not even honored with an answer. So now, without hesitation, I sold the little apartment left over from my mother and started work.
The first difficulty awaited in the film archives. The frames with Beria on the film turned out to be negligible: Khrushchev destroyed everything he could. But the main problem I ran into was when the film was finished. To test it, I sent him to two Russian documentary film festivals. And wasted my time. At one festival, the jury was headed by a filmmaker who devoted his life to exposing Stalin, and at the second, prizes were handed out mainly to relatives of former and current film officials. But I wasn't looking for prizes! It was important for me to see the reaction to the film. But she was not there. No.
Then I called one of the federal channels and (oh, miracle!) Talked with the deputy general director and at the same time a well-known presenter. He told me right away: this topic on our channel is taboo. I could not even get through to other channels. I was simply not connected to the executives overseeing documentary projects. At best, they offered to send my proposal by e-mail, which I did. But nobody called me back.
Then I went to my good old friend, a very prominent journalist working in one of the main mass media of the country. He watched the film, said that the liberal intelligentsia could raise a howl, and that up there, he would hardly like it, but he promised to help me by constructing, so to speak, bypass roads for this. However, after about a week, he began to refer to the lack of the right people in the field, then to their long illness and other viscous reasons. Five months passed in such telephone conversations. And I stopped bothering a good person …
During this time, I showed the film to several close people. With two old friends after watching, my relationship suddenly cooled so much that we stopped communicating. One turned out to be a militant anti-Stalinist, and the second was his deputy …
A member of the film crew, my like-minded person, while working on the film, several times listened to advice from his father not to do this business, they say, the topic is dangerous and slippery. But when his father saw the finished film himself, he unexpectedly praised his son.
Another member of the group, with whom I did not know before the film, later admitted to me that, having agreed to cooperate with me, he still wanted to call and refuse: the image of the almighty marshal always seemed so odious to him …
Knowing that in Russia only in one place all these years, despite instructions from Moscow, they did not remove the portrait of Beria from the wall, I was going to go to the secret small city of Sarov, aka Arzamas-16, the cradle of our atomic bomb. It is there, in the museum of the Russian Federal Nuclear Center, that the portrait of Lavrenty Pavlovich hangs, as the head of the USSR atomic project. But getting permission to enter the city turned out to be almost impossible. Then I emailed all the editors of local newspapers asking them to photograph this place in the museum. Nobody responded! Still, one journalist helped me. She asked the director of the museum, Viktor Ivanovich Lukyanov, to take photographs, which he immediately did, and for which my heartfelt thanks go to him.
In the biography of Beria, a lot of unknown details remained. I thought: what if we turn to a psychic? And he went to the famous clairvoyant, shaman woman Kazhetta. I have already had the opportunity to see for myself her extraordinary abilities. I brought her a photograph of Beria and asked her to tell about him everything that she sees through the past years. Born in a small Kazakh aul, she had never been interested in the life of Beria. We turned on the camera, and Kazhetta began to speak … Much coincided with the recollections of Beria's contemporaries, his son, with the versions of "alternative" historians. Some things were just a discovery. It is clear that not everyone believes psychics. But the unique abilities of people exist regardless of whether someone believes in them or not.
I really wanted the author's text behind the scenes to be read by Stanislav Lyubshin, an actor whom I love very much. I needed not just a recognizable voice, but a recognizable voice of a person who was adequately related to the one he was talking about. Already finishing the film, one day I saw on TV the story of Lyubshin that in his youth he wanted to become an intelligence officer and wrote a letter about this to Lavrenty Pavlovich Beria. Literally a few days later, he was invited to the People's Commissariat (ministry for the present) of the Interior, which was headed by Beria. They had a friendly talk with young Lyubshin and said that "his psychophysics is more likely to suit the artistic profession than the intelligence profession." Lyubshin spoke of this kindly. And I thought: this is fate!
But it turned out to be very difficult to communicate with the famous artist. All his contacts are filtered by his spouse, who is half his age and serves in the culture department of a large newspaper. I got hold of her phone number, called, and then emailed the details. A couple of days later, the answer came from her by e-mail. They say that Stanislav Andreevich thanks for the offer, but he will not be able to participate in the film. Without explaning the reason…
Whether my wife told Lyubshin about my idea or not, I don't know. Well, I don’t go, in the end, to the theater, which shows two performances a month with the participation of an actor, and wait for him at the door, where, again, there is a high probability of catching his guardian angel in female form …
Frustrated, I listened to the voices of the announcers on the Internet for several days. Finally, I found something more or less similar. I found myself in a seedy recording studio, where a fat man of about fifty-five came belatedly, took the text and cheerfully sat down in front of the microphone. It turned out that he was usually "written" right off the bat … After listening to my introduction, he began to read aloud the text unfamiliar to him. Stammering and making accents in the wrong places, he bravely spilled without stopping! For about ten minutes I endured this toothache, then nevertheless I forced him to read all 20 entire pages to himself, and once again explained how it should sound. He seemed to be trying, but, alas, it did not change anything … When he finished, he proudly announced that he was going to act in some series.
I realized that it’s not worth wasting more time looking for an announcer. And I decided to read the offscreen text myself.
And the music for the film was written and performed by young guys from Tomsk, who were found by chance. Stas Becker sent me a song from his group for a competition that I announced on the Internet, to participate in a documentary project. I liked the song, and I suggested that the team try to write music and a song for the film. He explained that the film was not easy and, in addition, not commercial. The lack of promises of money did not bother the guys. I deliberately did not tell them who the film would be about, so that they would not go astray, saturated with negative information about Beria on the Internet. They sent in material, I listened, made comments, they redid it, sent it again, redid it again … As a result, after three or four months I selected several music tracks. The song turned out to be a bit angular, but sincere and poignant.
The work on the film was very hard. An already extremely small group, for various reasons, lost soldiers on the move, they had to integrate new people, transfer material from one program to another, and endlessly redo a lot.
I have no task to make money on this film. I am not embarrassed that it will not even be possible to recover at least part of the costs. For me, the main thing is for people to see the picture and think. I promise, if suddenly money comes from somewhere, I will continue to shoot. After I plunged into this topic, I know: the white pages of our past are waiting!..
… If the roots of a tree are destroyed, it dries up. If a child is taken away from his parents, he will become defenseless, anything can be put into his head, including the most nasty ideas. If history is taken away from the people or it is rewritten in such a way that it will be a shame to even remember it, people will not be able to rely on the authority of their ancestors, they will be fragmented and weak. Such people are doomed to extinction.
In our history, as, incidentally, in the history of other states, a lot has been rewritten, distorted, repainted. This has been happening for a long time and constantly. Roman emperors destroyed the statues of their predecessors and accused them of all sins. Peter the Great, having introduced the European calendar in Russia, cut off five thousand years of its history from Russia in one fell swoop.
Reinventing the past is an inevitable process. Some heroes are declared scoundrels, and scoundrels are declared heroes. The task of historians is to try to be objective. But historians are real people who live here and now and want to live well and be in harmony with the authorities and the official point of view. That is why we sometimes have a very distorted picture of the past.
With this film, I want to restore at least a little the historical truth.
A funny moment. At the beginning of winter 2013, I wrote an e-mail to a lady boss from Channel One, who supervises a documentary, about my film and my desire to meet. She didn't react in any way. And in early June 2014, on the first channel, an hour-long program suddenly went out about the mystery of Beria's death, about Khrushchev's conspiracy, etc. And the name of that lady boss flaunted in the credits of the program. Maybe, of course, all this is a coincidence, but maybe not …
I finished the film in the middle of 2013, after which I sent it to the aforementioned festivals. And a little later, in the winter of 2014, he made minor changes in the credits, so he set the date - 2014.
In the credits, I appear as Yuri P. Rogozin. This is not a whim. It's just that there is another director Yuri Rogozin, who makes a feature film, he only has a different patronymic - Ivanovich. That is why I inserted the letter "P" in the middle so that my namesake would not be bothered with unnecessary questions about this film.