Russian émigré officers and their families at leisure - Serbia 1922.

 

Wars are less about destructive hardware or other imaginative ways of extermination – they're all about destroying the fabric of society and family ties. The Bolshevik Revolution and Russia's Civil War literally cast overboard several generations of educated people, and those who made it to safer havens were considered lucky to survive.

While Dr Zhivago's characters were fictitious, the real victims were millions – there were to be found on Turkish islands, on the pavements of the Balkan cities, in the libraries of Prague and European universities, most of them cherishing their dreams of reaching France, yet slowly dissolving into the societies of their new host countries. Hundreds of thousands of Russian émigrés settled down in 1919-1920 in Serbia and Bulgaria. In late 1921, in a few days only, 9330 Russian émigrés disembarked from 4 ships in the Bulgarian ports of Varna and Burgas.

Moscow's new rulers ruthlessly obliterated even the memories of their own educated exiles, shunning any reference of them that differed from the 'class enemy'. Few visual memories of the 'White Russians' have survived, mainly outside Russia and Ukraine.

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Meet Robert, Ukraine's 'best private detective', as he drives you round the beautiful Black Sea port of Odessa.This documentary, broadcast in February 2009 on Al Jazeera's Witness strand, offers a unique view on daily life in post-Soviet Ukraine.

Odessa robert1
It is a long and tricky process making a documentary. In 2006, whilst taking a Russian course in Odessa, director Raj Yagnik met Robert Papinyan and thought he'd make a good subject for an observational documentary.
The following year Grisha Rudko was sent out from Moscow to film Robert and the following "trailer" was cut - as a way of selling the film to a broadcaster.

 

The film was commissioned by Al Jazeera the following year.

Published in Red Square