Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Diaspora

With loving and understandable bias, the documentary film series, Russian Choice, tells the story of the Russian diaspora, with loving bias. What does this story consist of? 80 years of exile in destinations as diverse as France, America, Tunisia, Turkey, Brazil, and Bulgaria.

It's the story of bitterness, nostalgia, and the unendurable and perhaps irrational hope of a return to the homeland. Russian Choice explores a number of different aspects of the diaspora, including the murder of the tsar's family, the defense of Siberia, the creation of the volunteer army, the cult of white generals such as Wrangel and Kolchak, the tragic retreat from the Crimea, and the Russian fleets betrayal at hands of the French.

The Russian community abroad was a splendid if also darkly pathetic thing. It consisted of writers such as Bunin and Nabokov, Russian-language newspapers, poets like Touroverev, students, engineers, scientists, officers, French patriots, Russian-language schools, Cossack cultural institutions, impoverished aristocrats, suicides, and cabbies. More than anything, Russian Choice reveals the depth of the community's nostalgia and raw anger at the memory of the Red Terror.

The series reveals the continuing horror of one ancient survivor of Wrangel's retreat from the Crimea with 150,000 Russians. But the film's makers and narrator are, even now, similarly perplexed by what happened to White Russia. Why, asks the narrator, aren't the heroes of the diaspora honored in Russia even now?

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