Produced as the Red Army swept across Ukraine in 1943-44, The Battle for our Soviet Ukraine and Victory in the Ukraine are among the Second World War's most unusual documentaries. Drawing upon footage from 24 Soviet cameramen, and made under the guidance of Soviet director Alexander Dovzhenko, they capture the Eastern Front in wide-angle as well as in searingly personal dimensions. Combining Dovzhenko's visual lyricism with the deeply felt eloquence of his commentary, they stand among the director's greatest works.
THE BATTLE FOR OUR SOVIET UKRAINE (1943):
The Germans and their allies have been defeated at Stalingrad. The Red Army has finally begun a sustainable counteroffensive. After the Battle of Kursk in July 1943, the tide has definitively turned against the Germans and they will no longer be able to launch a large offensive operation against the Soviets again. This film was made sometime in September/October 1943. It is undated, but Kharkov has been liberated (September 1943: again and for the last time) and Kiev has not yet been taken back (November 1943). This film briefly traces pre-War history in the Ukraine, the German invasion and the battles to take it back. All the historical facts you would not expect to see in a Soviet film -- the massive battlefield errors and losses by the Soviets; the huge numbers of prisoners taken; the unpopularity of the Soviets and the collaboration of the locals; etc. -- you won't see here. In this film, all Ukrainians are victims, none collaborated. The Ukraine flourished under Soviet rule. They are welcomed back by all during "liberation" and the 15,000 Jews in Kharkov executed by the Germans are referred to as "citizens". In spite of all that, however, the propaganda is pretty much kept to a minimum and there are scenes never before scene in the West -- including captured German material, which, although sometimes used in an incorrect chronological fashion, are knitted together with contemporary Soviet films quite well.
VICTORY IN THE UKRAINE (1945):
This film picks up where The Battle for our Soviet Ukraine ended. It is September 1943 and the Red Army has begun its massive offensive against the Dniepr Line. The film describes the exploits of the Red Army and the Ukrainian citizens in defeating their occupiers and rebuilding the land. Kiev is liberated as is the rest of the Ukraine to the Carpathians and the film terminates with the Red Army crossing the Prut into Rumania. There is quite a bit more propaganda in this film and it's to be expected: in The Battle for our Soviet Ukraine, the Soviet government and the Red Army was just beginning to be optimistic about their chances of victory in the War. Stalingrad ended in February 1943 ... that was the psychological turning point of the war on the Eastern Front. But the defeat in Kursk marked the physical turning point of the War. After Kursk, there would be no major advance by the Germans and their allies on the Eastern Front again. Still, Kharkov changed hands for a third time in September and Kiev was not yet in Soviet hands. The belief in final victory was cautiously expressed in Soviet governmental circles and this is reflected in the film's tone. In Victory in the Ukraine, this tentative hesitation is nowhere to be heard. For one thing, Kiev and all of the Ukraine is now in Soviet hands. In fact, the film was made at a time when Soviet forces were well into Rumania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Slovakia and Poland. Now the tone is not only very confident; the propaganda is more strident and uncompromising in expressing total Soviet control over the Ukraine.
IN RUSSIAN WITH SWITCHABLE ENGLISH SUBTITLES
LENGTH OF FEATURE FILMS: 132 mins