The Death and Birth of Soviet Europe

Curzon’s rumination on post-Soviet Ukraine and Belarus and the strange death of Slobodan Milosevic got me thinking about post-Soviet Europe generally. Film can be a good of narrating history, so here are five films that tell the story of Soviet Europe, from its tragicomic end to its terrible birth.

Timeframe: 1940s-1990s

Synopsis: An armed monkey accidentally liberates disoriented Serb WWII vets from a kleptocratic arms smuggler. Corrupt UN peacekeepers and “Nazis” litter the landscape.

Opinion: Hilarious, truly sad, and amazingly symbolic, it originally aired on Serbian TV.

Stand-out Quote:

“Here we built new houses
with red roofs and chimneys where storks will nest.
With wide-open doors for dear guests.
We’ll thank the soil for feeding us and the sun for warming us.
And the fields for reminding us of the green grass of home.
with pain, sorrow, and joy, we shall remember our country,
as we well our children stories that start like fairy tales
Once upon a time there was a country…”

Timeframe: 1980s-1990s

Synopsis: An armed monkey Slobodan Milosevic accidentally liberates… Corrupt UN peacekeepers and “Nazis” litter the landscape.

Opinion: Demonstrated that war is politics by other means. Originally aired on BBC and the Discovery Channel.

Timeframe: 1980s-1990s

Synopsis: Communism falls, but the old are too weak to take it. A loving son pretends to live in the corrupt deathwatch of Stalinism.

Opinion: A country jumps 50 years into the future.

Timeframe: late 1940s

Synopsis: A murder in Allied-Occupied Austria… but who is the 3rd man?

Opinion: Take The Quiet American, and replace 1950s Saigon with 1940s Vienna. Good in an academic sort of way. Watch The Quiet American instead.

Timeframe: May 1945

Synopsis: A hopeless insurgency destroys the lives of Poles. A victorious Communist Party prepares to destroy more.

Opinion: Originally aired in Poland during the 1950s. Very human characters and some interesting cinematography.