Coming to Terms with the Soviet Myth of Heroism Twenty-five Years After the Chernobyl’ Nuclear Disaster: An Interpretation of Aleksandr Mindadze’s Existential Action Movie Innocent Saturday

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Johanna Lindbladh


This essay presents an analysis of the Russian director Alexandr Mindadze’s feature film Innocent Saturday, released precisely 25 years after the Chernobyl’ accident in Ukraine.  In a comparative study between the Russian-speaking and non-Russian-speaking reception of the film, I will show that the philosophical dimension, depicting Chernobyl’ not as a “great” historical, technological event, but in terms of how it affected peoples’ minds and feelings, constitutes the main theme in the Russian reception, but is more or less absent in the non-Russian-speaking reception. Building upon this divergence in reception, I will further explore the theme of Soviet heroism in a hermeneutical analysis of the film. My conclusions are that Mindadze, in depicting a hero who “does not escape”, points towards the existential impossibility of “escaping from your own self”, thus challenging not only the rules of an action movie, but also the Soviet myth of heroism, still a politically intense debate in the former Soviet Union.


Keywords: Russia, Ukraine, Soviet Union, film, reception, Chernobyl’, nuclear accident, Mindadze, Innocent Saturday, myth of heroism, existentialism, Bakhtin, non-alibi in Being


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Special Issue: Memories, commemorations, and representations of Chernobyl