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In the Spotlight: 17 Moments of Spring

Published: May 12, 2009 (Issue # 1473)


This week, the countrys newspapers have been obsessing over the 1970s spy series 17 Moments of Spring, which the clever people at Rossia television have carefully changed from the original black-and-white film to color. Were only talking a small dash of gray to Shtirlitzs eyes and scarlet to his Nazi armband, but the new look has caused wails of outrage. Not to mention a new crop of impenetrable Shtirlitz jokes.

The show is set in Germany during the last months of World War II. The hero, Shtirlitz, is an undercover Soviet agent who is trying to outwit the Nazis and stop them from holding secret talks with the Western powers.

Its hard to understand why 17 Moments is so popular at first glance, despite the stylish photography and stunningly handsome lead actor, Vyacheslav Tikhonov. The show is heavy on long dialogues and scenes of the hero gazing into the distance. The spy story is also pretty confusing, given that the Soviet agents and the Nazis all wear the same uniform and are all speaking Russian.

If you do manage to watch the whole show, though, it will be a passport to understanding punning headlines playing on the phrase, Shtirlitz, Ill ask you to stay behind no, me neither as well as countless jokes involving Shtirlitz and his Gestapo nemesis, Muller. It also might help to explain Russians affection for a certain former Soviet agent in East Germany.

You have to be careful about the comparisons you make, however. A Saratov newspaper was threatened with court action after it published a collage showing Vladimir Putin in the noble role of Shtirlitz perhaps forgetting that showing the then-president in a Nazi uniform was not the best idea.

The show gets a regular airing round Victory Day, but this year Rossia decided to spice things up by showing a new colored-in version, which apparently took three years to complete. A nice change, you might think, but Komsomolskaya Pravda even devoted a front page to disgusted comments about the heros brown makeup and the terrible, childish coloring-in.

KP also printed a topical joke about a new book of Shtirlitz jokes The jokes are still the same, but the letters are multicolored.

Looking at Shtirlitzs face, which is usually a noble pearlish-gray color, but is now covered in a light colonial tan, as if the Standartenfuhrer had got addicted to a tanning salon, you think that you might as well paint a marble statue with foundation and blusher, Kommersant wrote.

Goblin, the famous translator of Western films into Russian, who likes to add his own jokes, went even further in his blog, saying Shtirlitzs appearance reminded him of the colored-in photographs that they put on grave stones.

One blogger, Yefim Diky, even suggested that the whole coloring project was actually an attempt to divert attention from the Mikhail Khodorkovsky trial.

The Communists of St. Petersburg and the Leningrad region also announced one of their regular campaigns against popular culture this youth group has already attacked the Russian characters in the last Indiana Jones and James Bond films as perverted Western propaganda. This time, they are calling for viewers to just say no to the colored version.





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Thursday, Aug. 28


Learn more about the citys upcoming municipal elections during the presentation of the project Road Map for the Municipal Elections being presented this evening in the conference hall on the third floor of Biblioteka at 21 Nevsky Prospekt. Steve Kaddins, a coordinator for Beautiful St. Petersburg, which gives residents an online forum to lodge complaints about infrastructure problems in the city, will be on hand to answer any questions. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. and is open to all.



Friday, Aug. 29


Park Pobedy will feature the sights and sounds of the world outside of Russia during the Open Art International Festival today. Taste foreign cuisine, learn how to make tea like the Chinese or relax in a hammock during the free event. Although entrance is free, you must register beforehand if you wish to attend.



Saturday, Aug. 30


Break out the tweed and channel your inner Englishman during the English Hunt Picnic this afternoon organized by the Bagmut stables from Krasny Bor in the Leningrad Oblast. Equestrian stunts, English archery and classic hunting fashion will all be available to visitors hoping to live like the characters in Downton Abbey if only for a day. Tickets for the event cost 7,900 rubles ($219.40).


Bookworms will have their chance to swap out well-read classics for something new for their bookshelves at Knigovorot, a free book exchange that will be held in the Yusupov Garden on Sadovaya Ulitsa today. Come for the chance to get a new book or take the opportunity to discuss the literary merits of your favorite authors with fellow fans.



Sunday, Aug. 31


The Neva Delta International Blues Festival wraps up this afternoon on Vasilevsky Island with a concert featuring not only some of Russias best blues bands but international stars as well. Admission is free for all three days of the festival, which begins on Aug. 29, and the shows starting at 5 p.m. each day.



Monday, Sept. 1


Today marks the beginning of Lermontov-Fest, a fall festival celebrating the life of one of Russias most remarkable poets who, in a fate eerily similar to Pushkins, was killed in a duel at the age of 26. Organized by the Lermontov Library System, the next several months will see art exhibitions, concerts and public lectures focusing on the Lermontovs short yet prolific career. Check the Lermontov Library Systems website for more details.



Tuesday, Sept. 2


Join expats and practice your Russian during the Russian Clubs weekly meetings every Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. The club is free to participate in although you need to be a registered member of Couchsurfing.



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