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Lenin and Me (Parts 1 &2) 1996

Highly Recommended

Distributed by Chip Taylor Communications, 2 East View Drive, Derry New Hampshire 03038-4812; 800-876-CHIP
Produced by Arthur Chidlovski
Director n/a
VHS, color, 88 min.

Jr. High - Adult
History, European Studies, Russia, Multicultural Studies

Date Entered: 11/09/2018

Reviewed by Michael Fein, Coordinator of Library Services, Central Virginia Community College, Lynchburg, VA

The sudden, and generally unexpected, collapse of the Soviet Union some ten years ago altered the international landscape. It saw the removal of one of the linchpins of Soviet Power and the society it had created. Although this is speaking the obvious, the removal of the "cult" of Lenin, which had been the de facto religion of the USSR, created an enormous vacuum in society. Even though after the War most people did not believe the Party's propaganda, the elevation of Lenin to the level of a god was something that several generations of people under Soviet power were taught. Even his embalmed remains were on view for the people to venerate. (This reviewer spent a summer in Leningrad in 1978 and one amazed at seeing his image everywhere.) With the U.S.S.R. gone, many of those raised in this cult were confronted with the necessity of reconciling the official Lenin (all-knowing, kind, all-wise, "Father of the October Revolution") with the real Lenin as evidenced in the collapse of his legacy. This dilemma of having one's worldview turned upside down is described by Arthur Chidlovski in this video, which he produced as a part of his Master's program.

The author was born in Moscow in the 1960s and immigrated to Boston in the early 1990s. Hearing that a statue of Lenin was in a scrap metal yard in Connecticut, he and three friends make a journey to view the icon of Soviet power. This journey forms the framework, and is a metaphor for Chidlovski's own journey from his Soviet childhood to his present attempt to make sense of Vladimir Lenin. Using still photos, archival film, and video Chidlovski describes his life in the Soviet Union, switching back and forth between his history and the trip as well as showing the history of Russia, Lenin, and the Revolution. Interspersed in the story, two historians, one from Boston University the other from Harvard, give a larger historical context to Chidlovski's narrative as well as telling us about Lenin the man.

This history may be disturbing to some, as they paint a picture of an intelligent man driven by his ideology and hate. They let it be known that Stalin did nothing that had not been prepared for him by Lenin. Chidlovski's family kept secret the fact that his paternal grandmother spent eight years in the Gulag. His grandfather, they found out, was executed by the secret police in 1937.

This production is highly recommended as an introduction to Soviet history for high school and lower-division undergraduates. Public libraries should also consider this fine production. The picture and sound qualities are good, as is the use of original music and three songs from the Revolution. Chidlovski's narration is very even and disciplined; his English is easy to understand. In describing events that many of us would find hard to describe, his voice never wavers.