Chapaev' is the most popular film of the Soviet era. Directed by Georgi and Sergei Vasilev, it tells of the legendary exploits of the Red Army Commander Vasili Ivanovich Chapaev during the Russian Civil War. Its greatest fan was Joseph Stalin, who saw it 38 times at late-night showings in the Kremlin. It was both praised by Party ideologues for its faithfulness to the Bolshevik cause and loved by mass audiences for its adventure sequences and its tragic love story. For over seventy years, Chapaev, Furmanov the Commissar, Petka and Anka have remained heroes of the Russian popular imagination. This illuminating and enjoyable companion tells the story of the real-life Chapaev, of the novel by Dmitri Furmanov, and of the struggles to make the film. Julian Graffy offers a detailed analysis of the film itself and then considers Chapaev's extraordinary after-life. The film provoked poetry by Osip Mandelstam and a novel by Viktor Pelevin, operas and scabrous popular anecdotes. Graffy shows that to understand Chapaev's appeal is to understand something about what it means to be Russian.
Kinofile Filmmakers' Companion 12