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Return of the Cossacks

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I can see why some of Gogol’s characters are especially appealing for film adaptation in today’s Russia – especially if they can challenge Ukrainian sovereignty (which is also helpful in securing funding from from the government – not the first film they have made).  The latest blockbuster is another high budget remake of the classic Taras Bulba – an openly nationalist film of grand, imperial sweep – just what Russia needs. From The New York Times:

Taras Bulba, the 15th-century Cossack immortalized in Nikolai Gogol’s novel by that name, disdains peace talks as “womanish” and awes his men with speeches about the Russian soul. When Polish soldiers finally burn him at the stake, he roars out his faith in the Russian czar even as flames lick at his mustache.

A lush $20 million film adaptation of the book was rolled out at a jam-packed premiere in Moscow on April 1, complete with rows of faux Cossacks on horseback. Vladimir V. Bortko’s movie, financed in part by the Russian Ministry of Culture, is a work of sword-rattling patriotism that moved some viewers in Moscow to tears.

It is also a salvo in a culture war between Russia and Ukraine’sWestern-leaning leadership. The film’s heroes are Ukrainian Cossacks,but they fight an enemy from the West and reserve their dying words for”the Orthodox Russian land.”

Mr. Bortko aimed to show that “there is no separate Ukraine,” as heput it in an interview, and that “the Russian people are one.” Filingout of the premiere, audience members said they hoped it would increasepro-Russian feeling in Ukraine.

“The political elite there will not like it,” said NikolaiVarentsov, 28, a lawyer. “But there are certain ideas that unite us andmust be shown. For regular people in Ukraine, this film will beunderstood.”