Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Ya sluzhil v okhrane Stalina / I Was Stalin's Bodyguard

Ja sluzhil vi ohrane Stalina, ili Opyt dokumentalnoi mifologii / Я служил в охране Сталина, или Опыт документальной мифологии / [Palvelin Stalinin henkivartijana eli dokumentaarisen mytologian kokeilu] / I Was Stalin's Bodyguard, Or an Experiment in Documentary Mythology / I Served in Stalin's Guard [the title on the print]. SU © 1989 Panorama Studios. PC: Lenfilm. P: Ada Staviska. D: Semjon Aranovitsh / Semyon Aranovich. SC: Juri Klepikov / Yuri Klepikov, Semjon Aranovitsh. DP: Sergei Sidorov. M: Aleksandr Kneifel. Researcher: Anton Antonov-Ovsejenko. ED: Tamara Guseva. Featuring: Aleksei Rybin / Aleksey Rybin alias Leonid Lebedev. Never released in Finland. 73 min. A Gosfilmofond print of a NFM print with English subtitles. Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (The Gulag Archipelago), 22 August 2012.

An interview documentary on Aleksey Rybin, who belonged to the inner circle of Stalin's security guard since the 1930s. "We're disappearing from history", states Rybin who lists other head bodyguards, including Ivan Khrustalyov, whose name appears in the title of a movie by Aleksey German on Stalin's death. The death of Stalin, "the great sun of the nations", opens Semyon Aranovich's remarkable movie. Rybin tells about the slow process into Stalin's confidence, including service in his sauna: Stalin enjoyed the same kind of sauna as Finns with löyly (full steam via throwing water on hot stones over the fireplace), and with vihta (birch whisks). We hear how Stalin embraced Kirov warmly; a day and a half later Kirov was murdered.

Rybin joined originally the OGPU, in charge of the Gulag system, with responsibilities in security, informers, interrogations, and terrorists. "Our detective work was very hard". For tasks the solving of which a month would have been a minimum Yagoda only gave 10 days. "I had about 30 informers". "For the informers, I was Leonid Lebedev. Even my wife calls me Leonid".

Rybin has never stopped admiring Stalin. Stalin ate elk's meat and enjoyed fried eggs. His feet hurt, but he never gave up his old boots; he died in them. He trimmed his moustache himself with a safety razor. During the war he often could not sleep. He always wore only one star. "He was not as frightening as his companions".

Rybin depicts the members of Stalin's politburo as slimeballs. Beriya was always chasing skirts. Molotov was closest to Stalin. Khrushchev was a fraud; he participated in atrocities. In the funeral of Zhdanov everybody got stoned.

"I was connected with the Bolshoi Theatre since 1933". Komsomol sent girls to work for the NKVD; all had pistols. "Stalin understood art better than any Bolshoi star". "He took art seriously". Stalin sung in a quartet: "Gori, gori, moja zvezda". We see footage from Tikhon Khrennikov's opera In the Storm. Stalin watched all dress rehearsals.

Stalin was shocked when Alliluyeva shot herself. Stalin cut off all relations with women after her and went to Alliluyeva's grave at night.

"I work with children now". Time and again we see Rybin play the accordion. Rybin talks about music pedagogics. Music makes the memory and the mind sharper, they make a person instead of a hooligan. Children sing and recite poems in Rybin's class. In historical footage, children celebrate Stalin's birthday: "thank you for our happy childhood". Stalin, Mao and Khruschchev are listening.

"I remember many informers", are the last words of the movie, "but I cannot tell you their names".

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