I Watched Khraniteli, the Recently-Rediscovered Soviet Lord of the Rings Adaptation

At the end of 1991, the Soviet Union dissolved. I could talk at length about the internal contradictions that allowed a counterrevolutionary victory (yes there was sabotage from western imperialists but there was always gonna be), but I think the salient point is that the fall of the Soviet Union remains to this day one of the most devastating defeats in the history of the global, multinational working class. And it’s one we really haven’t ever recovered from.

Which isn’t to say there isn’t hope. China has largely stepped into the USSR’s role of providing logistical support to smaller communist nations and other nations that are fighting to throw off the yoke of western capitalist imperialism. And there are so many heroic examples of the struggle to point to like Cuba stubbornly resisting U.S. imperialism despite being literally on the U.S.’s doorstep and being subjected to a decades-long stranglehold of a blockade. And then there’s the people of Bolivia who elected a socialist government, saw it replaced by a U.S.-backed fascist coup, protested so hard and for so long that the literal fascists (I repeat: literal. fascists.) felt they had no choice but to hold free elections, and then elected a socialist government by an even wider margin than they did the previous time.

Granted, this is a bit of a tangent, but when I talk about the defeat of the Soviet Union in such blunt terms, I do feel a certain responsibility to provide a counterweight of revolutionary optimism.

All of which is to say… this hokey, low-budget Lord of the Rings adaptation was made at a very particular moment in history. A moment where things were just as dire as in any Tolkien story. (… wow he would hate that comparison. Kind of makes me love it even more.)

And the people making this film would have been well aware of that. The writing had been on the wall since at least 1988. And you know all the western cliches about the end of the Cold War being “the end of history”? Just think how much more it must have felt like that to the people watching the revolution crumbling around them and being able to do nothing to stop it. (Which is one of those internal contradictions I mentioned earlier, btw. The people of the Soviet Union had become spectators by this point, which is not how you run a revolutionary government.)

So yeah, I’m not going to give this film very high marks. It wasn’t especially well-made or engaging. It didn’t have the resources to be. But none of that is to say it didn’t make me feel something. It made me feel quite a bit. It made me feel grief. It made me feel sympathy. It made me feel resolve.

Long live the revolution. If by my life or death I can protect you, I will. You have my sword.



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