TheSolidarity 598 article by Eric Lee on the 1941 invasion of the Soviet Union reminded me of one of the most intelligent and moving Soviet films about the war. The director Andrei Tarkovsky is probably too ethereal for some, but check out his first feature film, Ivan’s Childhood (1962).
Ivan (Nikolai Burlyaev) is a child scout for the Red Army. Irascible, self-confident but recklessly brave, he risks his life behind enemy lines. The avuncular Captain Kholin takes Ivan under his wing and sends him to a military college but Ivan runs away. The film ends with Soviet troops searching through the ruins of Berlin in 1945. They stumble upon military archives which reveal that Ivan was, at some point, captured and executed.
The film is based on a novella, Ivan, written in 1957 by Vladimir Bogomolov, himself a scout in the war. The Communist Party youth newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda published an article calling for all those who were formerly scouts to respond, finishing with the words: “Where are you now, young heroes? Come forward!”.
Bogomolov phoned the paper to see who had replied. None responded: All the scouts (of which there were thousands) died in the war. Bogomolov was the sole survivor.