Chronicles of Perestroika

Chronicles of Perestroika

This film by Dmitry Vilensky is intended to be viewed before Perestroika Songspiel (see below). Vilensky turned two hours of archive footage into sixteen minutes of video. This footage of demonstrations in Leningrad during perestroika (1987-1991) was provided by the Petersburg Documentary Film Studio. The filmmaker is especially grateful to the unknown cameramen who recorded these unique moments in history, as well as to Sergei Gelver, who has preserved this priceless archive.

The soundtrack was composed by Mikhail Krutikov.

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Perestroika Songspiel (After the Victory Over the Coup)

Project authors: Olga Egorova (Tsaplya); Dmitry Vilensky; Natalia Pershina-Yakimanskaya (Gluklya); Nikolai Oleinikov
Director: Olga Egorova (Tsaplya)
Composer: Mikhail Krutikov
Screenplay: Tsaplya, Dmitry Vilensky, Gluklya
Camera and lighting: Artem Ignatov
Sound: Sergei Knyazev
Set design: Nikolai Oleinikov, Dmitry Vilensky

The action of the film unfolds on August 21, 1991, after the victory over the restorationist coup. On this day of unprecedented popular uplift it seemed that democracy had won a final victory in the Soviet Union and that the people should and would be able to build a new, just society. How did our heroes see that society? This is the question we try to answer in our film.

The film is structured like an ancient tragedy: its dramatis personae are divided into a chorus and a group of five heroes. Our heroes are key types generated by the perestroika era, each of them with a particular vision of his/her role in history: a democrat, a businessman, a revolutionary, a nationalist, and a feminist. They act and they dream. They analyze their actions, their place in society, and their vision of the country’s political path. The chorus is the incarnation of public opinion. It makes moral judgments on our heroes and it foresees their futures, as if it were gazing on the proceedings from the present day.

The film analyzes the specific configuration of forces during this supremely important historical moment of contemporary history. It critiques political naïveté while also showing how difficult it is for people to realize their vision of the future together.

The screenplay is based on our reading of documents and eyewitness accounts of the perestroika period.

For more reflection on the meaning of perestroika today, see Chto Delat No. 19, What Does It Mean to Lose? The Experience of Perestroika, where you’ll also find the complete screenplay of the film.


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