"The Russian Story" is a profile of Anatoly Rybakov, a best-selling Russian novelist. Like a plaster mold, his personal life follows the life story of Russia in the 20th. century. The film is structured around three major themes in Rybakov's life: Stalinist purges and the Second World War, the Holocaust and the persecution of the Jews, and the destiny and the future of Russia. Every chapter of the film corresponds to a book written by Rybakov. Heavy Sand talks about the horrors of the Holocaust, perpetrated by the Nazi troops in the Soviet Union. In the last part, The Memoirs, Rybakov draws conclusions from his life as a writer. He makes a sad point that human life has lost its value in today's Russia, a deplorable legacy of the Soviet State.
The first thing he sees on entering is the legendary company commander Koerielko. Koerielko jumps on a cask and says: '…you were not sent here for correction: you can not straighten a humpback! You will write your letters home as follows: I live, I am healthy, I can not complain! Period!'" Thus, Alexander Solzjenitsyn describes the arrival in the reeducation camp on the Solovietsky-isle in his book The Gulag Archipelago. The book masterly sets down in words the atmosphere of the camp. For the first time, penetrating images of this oppressive atmosphere can be seen in Soloveckaja Vlast'. The film is completed with interviews with former prisoners. The fact that documentary material about the camps is available is less odd than it would seem at first sight. When the communists took power in 1917, they were soon aware of the power of the camera as a means of propaganda. Therefore, shots were taken of various politically relevant issues like the Solovky-camp. This film, made in 1927-28, was to show the humane way in which criminals and political opponents were 'corrected'. Soloveckaja Vlast' shows that nothing came of these fine intentions. On the contrary, mutual relationships in Solovky gradually but totally became corrupted, and the camp grew into a supplier of cheap labourers. This made it the omen of new relationships in the Soviet Union under Stalin. "…an atmosphere which is as yet unknown in the country, but which is the future atmosphere of the archipelago (Soviet Union), being created in Solovky.
The House on Arbat Street
The story of the people who lived in the House on Arbat Street in Moscow is the story of Russia of the 20th century. Built in the early 1900s, this grand apartment building at first was a residence of rich and privileged families. Then, after the Revolution of 1917, it was turned into a collective housing unit. People from very different backgrounds were brought in and told: "From now on you will have to cram together." People could not even choose neighbors. Through historical footage and the reminiscences of former residents, some now 99 years old, the incredible story of the House on Arbat Street comes alive. One resident describes how "every day you could hear doors banging: they had come to arrest someone." Another muses: "Today I am sure of nothing. There was so much hypocrisy and lying that everything I thought to be good was perhaps no more than an illusion. The only truly real thing was the people." The narrator remarks: "For 70 years all of Russia was like this, building a strange family indeed."