Russian television’s Trotsky serial: A degraded spectacle of historical falsification and anti-Semitism


The main poster for the Trotsky TV-serial

Trotsky, the Russian mini-series about Leon Trotsky, is now available on Netflix. The World Socialist Web Site posted this comment on the slanderous eight-part series in November 2017.

Russian television marked the hundredth anniversary of the October Revolution with the broadcast of an eight-part serial titled Trotsky. The series is an exhibition of the political, intellectual and cultural depravity of all those involved in the sponsorship and production of this grotesque falsification of history. No excuses can be made for anyone—the producers, director, scriptwriters, actors and assorted technical personnel—who participated in this mixture of lies, pornography, anti-communism and blatant anti-Semitism. They deserve, individually and collectively, nothing but contempt. Their association with this pathologically reactionary enterprise will define their careers forever.

To the extent that this Trotsky has any enduring significance, it is as a demonstration of the fear and hatred of the October Revolution held by the Russian regime and the oligarchical elite. A quarter century after the dissolution of the USSR, the Putin regime—which more or less openly promoted this film and welcomed its broadcast on Kanal Pervyi (the most prominent TV channel) as an official event—cannot allow anything approaching an objective and honest portrayal of the October Revolution.

Above all, the Putin regime and the semi-criminal cabal of oligarchs who owe their current power and wealth to the theft of state assets that followed the restoration of capitalism require the perpetuation of the anti-Trotsky narrative. The lies that were employed to justify Stalin’s terror eighty years ago remain the foundation of official Russian history. The television serial departs from the script of the Moscow Trials of 1936-38 only in its more explicit reliance on anti-Semitism.

Stalin’s regime, which still sought to present itself as the political continuity of the 1917 socialist revolution, portrayed Trotsky as the agent of British imperialism, German fascism, and the Japanese Mikado. Putin’s government, which strives to represent itself as the resurrection of Holy Russia, portrays Trotsky as the Judeo-Bolshevik anti-Christ. In fact, the main poster advertising the series consists of a frightening image of Trotsky dressed in black and with his eyes concealed by sunglasses in which a hell-like fire is reflected. Attached to his chest is a bloodstained cross.

No doubt the Russian Orthodox Church, today’s official state religion, gave its blessing to the depiction of Trotsky as a demonic, Mephistophelian figure. Trotsky is joined by a contrived portrayal of another Jewish socialist, Alexander Parvus (Gelfand), the alleged mastermind of behind-the-scenes treachery. What is it that motivates Parvus’ scheming? In this anti-Semitic horror story, the answer is insatiable greed.

In various interviews, the film’s directors, Aleksandr Kott and Konstantin Statskii, and the scriptwriter, Oleg Malovichko, have explained their conception of the film’s principal character. “Trotsky was a rock star, lacking only a guitar.” Kott and Statskii do not provide Trotsky with a guitar. Instead, they clad him in black leather, surround him with women groupies, and supply him with hallucinations, not necessarily drug-induced, but the product of a tormented soul.

The actor chosen to play the role of Trotsky, Konstantin Khabensky, had already played Trotsky a decade ago, somewhat sympathetically, in the film Esenin. According to Konstantin Ernst, one of the new series’ main producers and general director of Channel One, “[Khabensky] had played him incorrectly, and we discussed this with Kostya. He took everything into account and understood what and how he would act now.” Khabensky apparently learned his lesson well. He notes on the film’s website: “Trotsky was a terrible man with a terrible fate. … Nothing in Trotsky attracted me.” This is a confession of artistic bankruptcy. With this statement Khabensky denies the character that he has been selected to portray any identifiable element of humanity.

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