Posted: July 7th, 2022

Film Representations of Relations Between Poland and Russia

After all, Russia has featured prominently in Poland’s historical memory and cultural representations: as the inferior occupier, the encroaching neighbour and the growing economic power to be both feared and admired. Focusing on common representations of Russia in Poland, such as the dependence on the Russian gas or the supposedly growing number of Russian intelligence officers in the region, questions – not only about the two countries’ troubled relations, but also about Poland’s own nation building and cultural memory rise. Write an essay of max 1000 words which deals with representations of Russia in contemporary Polish film. You can focus on either of the films above or other Polish feature films of your choice. Although this is only a short piece of work, make sure you narrow down the topic, pose a good research question, which invites an analytical rather than a descriptive approach, and provide footnotes and bibliography. At least three secondary sources are required.
Readings:
– Valentina Feklyunina, Russia’s foreign policy towards Poland: Seeking reconciliation? A social constructivist analysis, International Politics 49/4 (2012): 434-448;
– Tomasz Zarycki, Uses of Russia: The Role of Russia in the Modern Polish National Identity, East European Politics and Societies, 18/4 (2004): 595–627.
Films:
– Waldemar Krzystek (dir.). Little Moscow, 2008.
– Andrzej Wajda (dir.), Katyń, 2007.
Film Representations of Relations Between Poland and Russia

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Film Representations of Relations Between Poland and Russia
The film has been more meaningful for its creative depiction of society, including illustrating historical patterns. Over time, the film would be a creative outlet used by film creators to present the negative perception of Poland towards Russia (Castle, 2015, 7). Russia has been considered the country of lower civilization and a threat to Poland in different contexts, including politics, military-wise, and economically (Zarycki, 2004, 595). The analysis of the two Polish films, Katyń, directed by Andrzej Wajda, and Little Moscow, directed by Waldemar Krzystek, would demonstrate the perspective of Polish in Russia, especially in emphasizing it being a threat to them and even other European countries.
Generally, Andrzej Wajda’s Katyń is a film that depicts the murder of thousands of Polish officers by the Soviet NKVD (secret law enforcement). The contemporary film has been set after the Cold War, and the mother, wife, and daughter of one Police officer are waiting for the officer’s return from camp. After being concerned with the long duration the officer was talking about not returning, they searched for him (Katyń., 2007). The film covers one of the most heart-wrenching issues for the Polish people: the Katyn massacre. The film evoked considerable heavy emotions on the brutal truths of the Katyn crime. The audience gets to understand the extensive suffering that the affected families had to go through. This is a painfully cruel truth, especially going through the inhumane certainty of the women who waited daily for the return of their now-deceased family members. It is prudent to note that the film was not against the Russian people. Nonetheless, this film depicted the horrors of the Stalin regime. This became one of the main reasons for the unwelcoming attitudes towards the Russians and why the Polish people have always looked at them as threats.
The 1967 Little Moscow film was set after the Cold War at Legnica, Southwestern Poland. This town has been turned into the largest Soviet garrison by the Red Army due to the proximity of Legnica to Czechoslovakia and East Germany. Vera, the wife of the Soviet pilot Yura, falls in love with Michel, a police officer. This forbidden love affair goes through many twists and turns until the end, where Yura and his angry daughter, Vera, face the past and make peace with it. Notably, the characters in the film were a clear illustration of the actual perspectives of each other. The NKWD members at Legnica did not subject the Poles to physical violence since the latter group had attained a certain degree of sovereignty. Also, the film was set during the post-war duration. Nonetheless, the secret police constantly surveyed the Poles and inflicted violence and inflicted violence if provoked, such as the Poles transgressing the code of conduct, including the forbidden love affair. Notably, the violent aspects of the Russians towards the Poles were considerably deported in Katyn since it was a systematic ethnic cleansing affiliated with the extermination of Jews by the Nazia. Also, the Russians engaged in the destruction of Polish intelligentsia, which they understood was very critical in preserving the Polish identity,
Despite the crudeness in the style and ideologies incorporated in the films, these depictions are recognized as authentic representations of the past. This was considerable because they were presented as memory works instead of crystallized memory. Kaityn was partially reliant on the diary of one officer killed at Kaityn and showed how several women coped with the ‘discursive cleansing’ (Brouwer, 2016, 54). Little Moscow is a confrontation of the history of the love affair between Vera and Michal through their daughter’s and Yura’s memories (Brouwer, 2016, 54). The close links of the films with memories instead of impersonal history rendered the two films a noble and trustworthy experience of the Polish and Russians.
Films such as Kaityn and Little Moscow did a proper job depicting the tensions that have gripped the relations between Russia and Poland. Notably, these tensions came from the different historical grievances related to the Soviet doings under Stalin (Feklyunina, 2012, 446). The relations between the two regions have considerably been influenced by the different historical narratives that have created the dominant identities, which political elites would later promote to maintain the identities.

Reference List
Brouwer, S., 2016. Contested Interpretations of the Past in Polish, Russian, and Ukrainian Film: Screen as Battlefield. Brill.
Castle, D., 2015. Between History and Fiction: Visualizing Contemporary Polish Cultural Identity.
Feklyunina, V., 2012. Russia’s foreign policy towards Poland: Seeking reconciliation? A social constructivist analysis. International Politics, 49(4), pp.434-448.
Katyń. 2007. [DVD] Directed by A. Wajda.
Little Moscow. 2021. [DVD] Directed by W. Krzystek.
Zarycki, T., 2004. Uses of Russia: the role of Russia in the modern Polish national identity. East European politics and societies, 18(4), pp.595-627.

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