Burnt by the Sun (Utomlennye Solntsem)

Allin Cottrell cottrell at wfu.edu
Wed Sep 20 19:17:05 MDT 1995

Anyone seen this movie, by Michalkov?  It made a great impression
on me, and I can hardly imagine the reaction it must have provoked
in Russia.  It concerns one Sergei Petrovich Kotov (an actual
historical figure), who was a Red hero of the Russian civil war,
and was executed in the purges, in 1936 (then rehabilitated in
1956 which, given Khrushchev's conservatism in these matters,
meant that there was nothing remotely substantive against him).

Of course, one already knew all about the Stalin purges, but the
movie brings the issue home in a way that the history books
cannot.  Kotov -- presumably like many of the other victims of
the show trials -- was apparently an intensely loyal Soviet
citizen.  When he was arrested, he was at first confident that
when they got to Moscow and he called Stalin's personal number,
the 'mistake' would be sorted out and those who had arrested
him would be punished.  He soon realized, however, that the
thugs who had dragged him off from his dacha were acting with
the full authority of the state.  He would soon be, as his
gloating nemesis said, 'crawling in his shit and begging to
sign' whatever nonsense 'confession' of espionage the NKVD had
cooked up for him.

By this time, it seems, Stalin had gone beyond killing those
who actually disagreed with him on important policy matters,
and was killing those who (a) might come to have some reason
to want rid of him, given what he was doing, or (b) were, or
were potentially, excessively popular.

No, it's not news, but all the same mightily depressing to
have the point made so eloquently.

Allin Cottrell
Department of Economics
Wake Forest University

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