In January, the series “Russians” was released in and on – about the life of Russian spies. Its plot is based on the real story of the KGB officers and, based on which Hollywood has already made the series “”. The “Russians” tell about the same events, but, as the authors say, with an emphasis on the “Russian narrative”. “If, after watching this series, at least a small group of boys and girls wants to be scouts, then we have completed our task,” declared Bezrukov, who participated in the promotional campaign of the series. “Medusa” four episodes of “Russians” and talks about the impressions of the propaganda project.

The series about the US conspiracy against Russia called “The Russians” was filmed for NTV, but the premiere took place on the Premier online platform, which is also part of the Gazprom-Media holding. The project of directors Denis Neymand and Viktor Shkuratov is an attempt to respond to the TV series The Americans (2013-2018), the owner of four Emmys and one Golden Globe.

Both series are based on stories Elena Vavilova and Andrei Bezrukov, Russian spies exposed by the United States in 2010. The couple spent 23 years in other countries, surviving regime change in Russia, and lived in Boston for the last few years before their arrest with children who were allegedly unaware of their parents’ secret. The creator of The Americans, Joe Weisberg, was impressed by the story – and based on it, he made a series about the same agents living undercover in the United States, but during the Cold War.

Spy Kids How the sons of Russian agents expelled from the US are trying to return home

Spy Kids How the sons of Russian agents expelled from the US are trying to return home

The Russian project, however, is loosely based on Vavilova’s own memoirs (The Woman Who Can Keep Secrets) and takes place at the same time that she and Bezrukov were actually working in the United States. Nevertheless, the attempt to echo the “Americans” is obvious – and is not limited only to the name of the show.

According to the plot of The Russians, scouts Vera Sviblova and Anton Vyazin, who live in Washington under the names of Catherine and Georges Gauthier, are trying to expose the American plan “Zone of Influence”, according to which the States are going to expropriate Russian natural resources. This makes the “Russians” an ideal candidate for, an analogue of Dmitry Kiselev’s program or propaganda videos about the decaying West. However, in fact, the series is hardly suitable for such a role, because the most striking thing about it is how faded it remains with all the available inputs. Writing or reading about him is clearly more interesting than watching.

All the craziest things about The Russians are packed into the first ten minutes. Vera, aka Katrin, stops at a gas station and sees news from Russia on the screen (for some reason, Russian news is shown in the USA). A freelance journalist on screen complains about the lack of freedom of speech. “Wild country, no democracy,” comments a store employee. “We don’t know anything about them,” Katherine replies irritably, which is “perfectly normal” for an undercover spy and should not arouse any suspicion.

A couple of minutes later we see the same independent journalist (and even in the same clothes) at the anarchist-revolutionary training base. He gives them wads of dollars on a tip from the CIA. Russian anarchists are firing into the air and throwing Molotov cocktails at brick walls (it’s quite anarchic, after all). Meanwhile, the FSB takes over their training base and detains the journalist, after which he dies. However, the agents manage to get documents that he carefully printed out in advance, detailing the same American plan “Zone of Influence”.

The battle for Russia begins: Gauthier’s agents in Washington must expose the plan of the Americans. Why exactly they have to do this and how exactly – is not very clear, however; all we see is a series of chaotic events involving drug dealers, a sadistic official, and the intimate lives of FBI agents.

It is also curious how Washington is depicted in The Russians. The creators claim that the directors have been looking for places in the vicinity of St. Petersburg that resemble the American capital for a long time. In particular, the suburb of Washington, where the Gauthier family lives, was filmed in Vsevolozhsk near St. Petersburg.

Of course, there is not even a minimal resemblance to the capital of the United States near the city in the Leningrad Region. All interiors and exteriors here are one big Freudian slip. The houses in the frame hardly resemble American, rather typical Soviet and post-Soviet dreams of an ideal America. Children’s looks like a bedroom from the IKEA catalog, a garage – like Russian coffee shops and barbershops with an American garage design.

If the “Americans” moved the story of Vavilova and Bezrukov during the Cold War, then the “Russians” “send” the Cold War to our time. Not everything goes according to plan: along with conspiracy theories, the Russian series also recreates Soviet dreams of life behind the Iron Curtain. But the most revealing and saddest fact about the “Russians” is that in principle Russia could have come up with the idea of ​​responding to an American Cold War series.

Sure, The Americans has a “,” but on the whole it doesn’t need to be unmasked by the Russian side at all – it’s probably the most conciliatory Cold War story ever made. The creator of The Americans, Joseph Weisberg, in 1990 entered into the service of the CIA, and the “Americans” reflect his, as he himself believes, bad experience: they present the cold war not as a battle between good and evil, but as a battle between two empires. The absence of a real battlefield plays a cruel joke on the participants: on both sides they are like in a room of distorting mirrors – they see the worst versions of themselves and the embodiment of their own deepest fears. Weisberg in The Americans thoroughly studies this phenomenon of mutual demonization and tries to dispel the most stupid stereotypes about both sides.

Moreover, the “Americans” also rendered a gigantic service to Russian intelligence. The real story of Russian spies and their arrest in 2010 is hardly like an action-packed thriller, more like a comedy like “Burn After Reading” by the Coen brothers. So far, there is no evidence that Vavilova and Bezrukov really managed to get some valuable information. In all interviews, the people who interacted with them expressed bewilderment: some strange characters somehow; they were not caught before, it seems, only because no one needed them.

In The Americans, Elizabeth (Hope) and Phil (Misha) turn out to be KGB agents of unprecedented cunning and power, who practically took over the whole of Washington. Weisberg paid great attention to detail, hiring for filming Russian consultants; most of his Russian-speaking characters were played by Russians or Russian-Americans. All this, of course, does not at all look like a Russophobic product that needs a symmetrical response.

However, The Americans themselves, and all Weisberg’s assumptions about the Cold War, were based on the fact that it was over. Two months before Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the director published in The Washington Post columnwho called to stop treating Russia as an evil empire and try to negotiate.

But the “Russians” again remind that the conflict has not gone away. Having devoted his life to trying to understand Russia, Weisberg was right in The Americans to show the times when any gesture of America in the USSR was perceived as hostile. What he failed to see was that even his conciliatory step would be mistaken by Russian propaganda for yet another attack.

The best movies, books, music, series and games of 2022. Meduza Critics’ Choice Previously, this list was called “what could not be missed.” Anything can be missed this year. But here is something that definitely deserves your attention.

The best movies, books, music, series and games of 2022. Meduza Critics’ Choice Previously, this list was called “what could not be missed.” Anything can be missed this year. But here is something that definitely deserves your attention.

Georgy Birger

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J. A. Allen

Author, blogger, freelance writer. Hater of spiders. Drinker of wine. Mother of hellions.

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