Current events in the Putin Era Films Historiography Imperial Russia Nostalgia and Memory Post-Soviet Russia Russian History in Popular Culture Teaching Russian History Uncategorized

Filmmaker Nikita Mikhalkov Praises the “Wisdom of Serfdom”

According to a website called “Tsenzor.Net” filmmaker Nikita Mikhalkov told a group of journalists that he is preparing to make a film praising serfdom as “the wisdom of the nation.” His comments show a romanticization of history that is pretty hard to believe:

After all, what was serfdom? [he told the journalists]. Serfdom was patriotism, secured on paper. A person was tied to his mother-earth not only by a feeling of duty, but also on paper [in documents]. Serfdom is the wisdom of the people. It is 400 years of our history. And now, when people suggest we should erase 400 years of our history, I say to them, “Brothers, do you think our ancestors were idiots?”

“I am very happy that Putin is now reviving our historical memory,” said the director. “The law on registration [propiska] is exactly what our people are missing, what was torn out by the roots.”

“Ведь что такое было крепостное право? Крепостное право – это патриотизм, закрепленный на бумаге. Человек был связан со своей землей-матушкой не только чувством долга, но и документально. Крепостное право – это мудрость народа, это четыреста лет нашей истории. И теперь, когда мне предлагают вычеркнуть эти четыреста лет из нашей истории вычеркнуть, я говорю «Братцы, так вы что же думаете, наши предки дураками были?».

“Я очень рад, что Путин сейчас возрождает нашу историческую память, – сказал режиссер. Закон о прописке – это именно то, чего не хватает нашему народу, который оторван от корней.”

By Elizabeth Wood

Elizabeth Wood is Professor of History at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

7 replies on “Filmmaker Nikita Mikhalkov Praises the “Wisdom of Serfdom””

This reads like obvious satire, and Googling around doesn’t reveal any other coverage that might suggest he really said something like this.

Mikhalkov is off by about two centuries. Although it began to be imposed much earlier, serfdom was only fully codified by Alexis Mikhailovich’s Ulozhenie of 1649. Unless, of course, you include half a century of collectivisation in the twentieth century. Next thing you know, Russians will be saying that Joseph Stalin was a great hero.

It’s fake news.
Addendum to Echo of Moscow’s reprint:

П.С. Интернет все-таки великое дело. Он, как вода, имеет свойство – самоочищение. Не прошло и часа, как выяснилось, что «сообщение Михалкова о крепостном праве» – фейк. Большинство увидевших и я в том числе, посыпаю голову пеплом, поверили. Очень уж текст подходит персонажу А главное, такое развитие событий вполне ожидаемо.

Крепостное право уже есть, де-факто. Девяноста процентов граждан страны уже прикреплено к “земле” бедностью. Осталось фактическую “крепость” оформить юридически.

На наших глазах выстраивается новый правовой каркас режима. От имитационной демократии Ельцина к неофеодализму Путина.

Only a fool thinks that being a slave is the same as being happy.

Probably, Nikita Mikhalkov was not quoted correctly.

I do now think that the article is a fake. I had looked for corroboration when I posted it without any success. Still, as the Chinese were say, these are interesting times. I do know serious scholars who are concerned that there is a return to something closer to serfdom in that people in many one-industry cities and on many estates are completely dependent on the “barin” (the lord). They may not be propisany (entered in the cadasters as serfs) and they do still have some mobility, but it is hard to move if you’re in Magadan or Norilsk from the center. There just aren’t a lot of choices.
Catriona Kelly also made an important comment on facebook. She wrote: “Mikhalkov has been a zasranets since he was born (or certainly since the late 1990s), but the worrying thing about this is that I’ve heard of intellectually respectable people coming out with this kind of thing too (e.g. a Russian friend who not long ago gave a presentation about serfdom and was told by someone in the discussion that ‘no-one’ thought it was unjust in the late C18 or early C19. I think people had Radisichev and the early Pushkin shoved down their throats all the time at school and they are now reacting by arguing the opposite about the culture equally dogmatically (and partially).”

Actually there was a denial by Mikhalkov that he was making such a film:
Никита Михалков назвал “фальсификацией” информацию о планах снять фильм про крепостное право. 16 июля 2013, 19:04

Leave a Reply to Greg Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.