Russkiy bunt (Captain's Daughter) (2000)




Director:  Aleksandr Proshkin

Starring:  Vladimir Mashkov (Pugachev), Mateusz Dameiscki (Petr Grinev), Karolina Gruszka (Masha), Sergei Makovetskii (Shvabrin)   

During the Pugachev uprising, the love of Masha Mironova and Petr Grinev is threatened.  High-budget historical film. 



Spoiler warning:  below is a summary of the entire film. 

1762.  A group of nobles kills Peter III, Tsar of Russia. 

Catherine (soon to be Catherine the Great) tells her dinner guests that her spouse Pyotr Fyodorovich passed away last night.  She says the cause of death was a bout of hemorrhoidal colic.  Everyone crosses themselves. 

A sleigh crosses through the snow.  The driver is worried that a blizzard is approaching.  The young man in the sleigh, Pyotr Andreich Grinev, tells the driver to push on and try to make it to the station.  The young man falls asleep and has a nightmare of being at home at the death of his sponsor father. 

Pyotr Andreich says that his father, Andrei Petrovich Grinev, retired after the death of Tsar Peter III.  Pyotr was only five years old at the time.  He entered into the Semenov regiment as a sergeant.  He was considered as on leave until the completion of his schooling.  He was taught to read and write by their groom Savelich.  Then his father got him a tutor to teach him French.  M. Beaupre was a member of the Prussian army.  Pyotr got along with him very well.  Father came in one day to check on Pugachev's education and found him sitting with a girl wearing few clothese on his lap, while M. Beaupre was sleeping on the floor.  Pyotr says:  "Thus my education came to an end."  Dad sent him into the army. 

He became an officer of the Guards and was very happy.  Dad sent him off to Petersburg, but he went to the end of the world, Orenburg Fort.  The sleigh ran into a blizzard and the men had to take shelter with a local Cossack, named Pugachev.  

1773.  The previous year, the Yaik Cossacks' mutiny had been quelled, but it seemed that a new rebellion would well up. Ural (orYaik) Cossacks settled around the Ural River that flows into the Caspian Sea. 

The next morning Pyotr gives Pugachev his red royal coat for his hospitality.  Savelich says that it was wrong of Pyotr to give the Cossack a royal coat.  What possible use would he have for such a coat?  Pyotr tells Savelich to forget about it.  The sleigh continues on its journey.  They run into Cossack prisoners in hand and leg chains being abused by Russian soldiers.  They come to the fort.  A soldier teaches Pyotr billiards saying that this is a "must" for the soldiers here.  The teacher gives Pyotr some alcoholic punch and he ends up drinking too much of the liquid, making him sick.  His servant tells him to watch his money or he will be in serious debt, but Pyotr doesn't want to hear that. 

The next morning they leave Orenburg.  By his father's request, he has to go to Belogorsk fort in Amur Oblast, not far from the Chinese border.  There he will serve under Captain Mironov.  

Back at the home of Pugachev, there is talk of a man in Tsaritsyn (in today's West Kazakhstan, northeast of Volgograd) claiming to be Tsar Peter III.  Because of the rebellion all army Cossack privileges have been taken away.  Worse, the Tsarina has not paid the Cossacks for over a year.  Pugachev says they can go to the Turkish Pasha, who will be happy to see them.  And he now claims that he is Tsar Peter III.  The men say that the royals have certain royal marks on their body.  Pugachev tosses off his royal coat, bearing his upper body to the men.  The men now go to their knees in front of the Tsar.  He then shows them a red mark on the upper left corner of his face.  He says it is the tsarist eagle. 

Pyotr arrives at his destination.  Two young ladies come sleighing down the hill and Pytor has to jump out of their way not to get hit.  A man rushes out to meet Pyotor saying his name is Alexei Ivanovich Shvabrin.  Alexei says he is so happy to see a new face.  He says the landlords here at too uncouth and the women too heavy.  He then points out Captain Mironov.  He says, however, that the real commandant is the man's wife, Vasilisa Egorovna.  Then there's the captain's daughter.  "She's sweet until she opens her mouth."  The daughter comes walking up the snow-covered hill.  Pytor seems impressed by the young lady's smile and face.  Her name is Maria Ivanovna. 

Pytotr has dinner at the commander's house.  He asks Maria to excuse him because he almost knocked right into her sleigh.  Maria laughs and says that earlier in the day she almost killed the young fellow.  Ivan Ignatievich asks if Pyotr served in the Semenovsky regiment?  Yes, he did.  Now the man wants to know why Pyotr would want to leave the Guards for a regiment?  Pyotr says it was the will of his superiors.   Ivan asks:  "Not the deeds unworthy of an officer of the Guards?"  Vasilisa tells Ivan that's enough.  She tells Pyotr the he is not the first or the last officer that has come here because of his record.  Shvabrin was knocked down in rank four years ago and banished here. 

Mironov arrives for dinner.  He says to Pyotr that it is best that he be out here in an isolated garrison, so he won't become a spendthrift and a playboy as so many officer do who are stationed in Petersburg.  The priest gives a blessing and everyone start eating.  Pyotr says that the Cossacks say that this garrison is a pretty dangerous place.  Vasilisa tells him they came out here 20 years ago.  When she first arrived she was terrified of "those heathens".  Someone asks how many servants does Pyotr have?  300.  Vasilisa gasps at the number.  She says they only have one servant girl, Palasha.  Vasilisa says her only concern now is her daughter Masha.  She talks a little too openly about her daughter and Masha leaves the table.

On horseback Alexei makes a wager with Pyotr.  He says;  "He who hits more watermelons kisses the captain's daughter."  Pyotr wonders ifs Masha would agree to that.  So Alexei rides over to the young lady and asks her.  She says yes.  Alexei goes first and only hits a few of the watermelons.  Pyotr goes next and almost slices every one of the melons.  Pyotr accuses Alexei of deliberately losing the contest.  He wants to go again.  Alexei has to tell him now that it was only a joke.  "Did you really think she'd be kissing in public?"  Pyotr looks over at Masha and her friend.  They giggle and then walk away.  Pyotr is a bit embarrassed.  When his servant comes over with an overcoat, he pushes him down.  Then he rides down the hill away from the practical jokers.   

A small army of men rush to the river by horse and sleigh.  They break holes in the ice and start pulling one fish after another out of the water.  The Cossacks come riding up and fire their rifles into the air.  The fishermen are told that they have Tsar Peter III with them.  Pugachev now has a really red military outfit on.  He goes down the hill to talk to the men.  He tells the men that if they follow him loyally he will give them the Yaik River from its source to its mouth.  Pugachev tells the men that he knows they have been badly treated and he not only intends to restore their liberties, but to assure even their well-being.  He gives a warning too.  He will deal directly with any man who is disloyal to him. 

Pyotr as narrator says that he was having a pleasant time in Belogorsk.  Maria was no longer shy around him.  He and Alexei visit a market run by an Asian-looking people (probably of Mongolian heritage).  There are lots of camels, sheep and horses there.  Alexei introduces Pyotr to the steppe queen, Elizaveta Alexeyevna Kharlova . 

Maria looks into a mirror to see how some earrings look on her.  Alexei comes up behind her saying she looks lovely and she shouldn't take the earrings off.  They are hers.  And now he asks her if she will marry him?  She just laughs, saying she never knows when he is making a joke or trying to say something serious.  Alexei immediately leaves. 

After dinner, Masha, Vasilisa and Kharlova sing a song for the group. 

Pyotr writes some poetry dealing with Masha.  Alexei reads some of it and teases Pyotr.  He asks Pyotr, who is this "Masha"?  Alexei says in a snide way that if he wants Masha, he better give her earrings rather the verses of poetry.  Pyotr calls the man a scoundrel and a liar.  Alexei now demands satisfaction.  They will meet tomorrow morning. 

The two men end up punching each other and then it's over.  Vasilisa wants the two duelers not to be punished.   Her husband has to be careful in his ruling.  He says military law forbids duels, but on the other hand, he just asks the two men to shake hands.  They shake hands.  Vasilisa tells her husband to make them kiss each other.  The two do the French way of kissing, cheeks placed together on one side of the face and cheeks placed together on the other side of the face. 

Masha runs out of the house and down to the quarters where Pyotr is staying.  She throws a rock at his window and he comes out to see her.  Mashsa asksd who started the argument between he and Alexei?  She bets that it was Alexei.  She says she is a little afraid of him because he is always sneering.  Pyotr tells her that Alexei loves her.  She tells him that Alexei asked her to marry him.  Pyotr asks:  "And you didn't accept him?"  She says he is from a good family and has property.  Then she laughs at herself for what she is saying and runs back to the house. 

Alexei and Pyotr sword fight over whether Alexei should apologize.  Alexei backs up Pyotr so far that he falls off a small cliff.  But later  Pyotr drives Alexei into the river and he falls in.  Pyotyr's servants yells for him and Pytor takes his eyes off Alexei.  He starts to turn and Alexei takes advantage of the situation and stabs Pyotr. 

Pyotr is put to bed in the commander's house.  One morning Masha comes running down to her mother, who now thinks Pyotr has just died.  No, he just awakened.  They hug each other and cry. 

Pyotr as narrator says from that day things got better and better for him.  He asks Masha to marry him. 

Pyotr and Masha go for a walk down by the river.  Behind a huge tree, they kiss.  Alexei is released from confinement.  He tells Pyotr that he very much regrets the incident.  He says he was totally at fault and he begs that Pyotr forgets the whole thing.  He asks to be forgiven and Pyotr forgives him "with all my heart".  With that done, Alexei gives the telescope to Pyotr and tells him to look at what the Cossacks are doing. They are dragging two men behind their horses.  The bodies are then put on a sleigh.  Miranov and others run down the hill to look at the corpses.  One of the men is Kharlov.  The other man is a priest. 

Miranov tells the sergeant to bury the two men at the bottom of the hill and no one is to say anything about this to anyone else.  Those in the fort must not know about this.  Miranov thinks that the Cossacks might attack them tomorrow. 

Miranov receives a letter from Pugachev as Peter III saying that those who resist him will meet a cruel death.  The commander tells his officers that he got a letter from the general saying that he wants Miranov to arrest the great pretender, who is an escaped convict, if he appears in his area.  Pyotr says that they should perhaps send the women to Orenburg.  Vasilisa says she will send Masha there, but she will stay with her husband and die with him, if necessary. 

Pyotr reads the letter from his father saying that Pyotr is still a boy and he won't give his consent for him to marry.  Pyotr is mad and he blames his servant for rat finking on him.  The servant has Pyotr look at the passage in the letter where his father scolds the servant for not telling him about his son, but having to hear about it through others.  So now Pyotr thinks it was Alexei who rat finked. 

Some of the soldiers decide to go over to the side of Pugachev.  They take one of the Asian men with them as a present to the Tsar.

In the barn Masha has word sent to Pyotr that she is waiting for him in the barn.  When Pyotr arrives she tells him that she's leaving tomorrow.  They kiss and then fall into a huge pile of wheat.  They laugh.  Now Pyotr pulls out the letter from his father so Masha can read it.  When she reads it, she is devastated and starts to walk out of the barn.  Pyotr grabs her.  She tells him they must submit to the will of God.  No, says Pyotr.  Masha leaves. 

Pugachev comes with his army.  Miranov gets his men ready to fire.  Masha passes by Pyotr and he asks her why didn't she leave?  She couldn't because the road to Orenburg is cut off.   

Under a white flag a package is brought up to the wall of the fortress.  Vasilisa takes the cover off the gift and it turns out to be one of their captured Asian soldiers.  Masha really screams her head off.  Her father tells the other women to get Masha back to the house immediately.

The cavalry charges the fort, followed by the peasants.  Now the whole army seems headed for the fort.  Miranov and a squad of men are just outside the gate and fire at the oncoming peasants.  The soldiers retreat but Miranov refuses to.  He is wounded by the oncoming mass.  That was a foolish move because now the peasants just pour into the fort through the open doors. 

The soldiers inside soon surrender.  Pugachev rides among them saying that he is Tsar Peter III.  He also says that he forgives the soldiers.  Pugachev sits on his throne and calls the commander forward.  He asks Miranov how dare he resist his Tsar?  Miranov says that the Tsar is a thief and an imposter.  Pugachev gives the signal to hang the commandant.  The next highest officer in command says the same thing and he is taken over to the gallows to be hanged.  It's Alexei's turn and he swears allegiance to the Tsar.  The other two officers are now hanged. 

When Pyotr won't budge from his spot, Pugachev gives the signal to hang him.  Pyotr's servant, however, intervenes and tells Pugachev to spare the young man and they will be able to get a huge ransom for him.  He also says they can hang him in place of his young master.  The Cossacks let go with a big laugh.  So Pugachev agrees to spare Pyotr.  But now Pyotr must kiss his hand.  The priest and the servant grab Pyotr and tell him to go up and kiss the Tsar's hand.

At this moment Vasilisa comes out of the house and sees her husband hanging from the gallows.  She runs over to her husband's body, rips her blouse up (brief nudity) and tries to cover his feet with the material.  Pugachev gives the order to shoot the "old hag".  She is shot.

At a large dinner for Pugachev and his staff, they invite Pyotor and Alexei to come in.  Alexei starts to sing the Cossack song, but Pyotr looks like he is in a daze.  Pugachev has Pyotr brought up to sit next to him.  He tells the young man that he is lucky that he recognized the old servant or Pyotr would have surely hanged.  Pugachev gets angry and throws everybody out except for Pyotr.  He then tells the young officer that if he is loyal to his Tsar, he will be rewarded with the title of Field Marshal or of Prince.  Pyotr tells his host that as an officer he gave his oath to be loyal to Catherine.   He adds:  "If you wish me well, let me go."

Pyotr is free to go and he goes straight to where Masha is.  She is sleeping because she was tossing and turning all night calling out for her parents. 

Alexei will now be the new commander and he will report to Pugachev.  Pyotr's servant comes with a list of things stolen from Pyotr.  Pugachev has the state secretary read the list.  The reading begins and all the Cossacks are having fun laughing.  The servant, however, made one bad mistake.  He put on his list the royal robe that Pyotr gave to Pugachev.  This infuriates Pugachev and he says that he can have the servant skinned alive.  Pyotr comes forward to tray and prevent his from happening.  Pugachev's attention now turns to Pyotr.  He tells him to go to Orenburg and tell those there to welcome their Tsar with "affection and docility.  If they want to escape a cruel death."

Pyotr and his servant set off walking the long journey to Orenburg.  And now Alexei tries to force himself on Masha.  He says she will be his wife sooner or later.  She responds: "I'd rather die!"  He says he could turn her over to a group of men.  Masha's friend comes in and pours a large pitcher of milk over his head.  Alexei get up and pushes her, a pregnant woman, into a large bucket of milk.  As he leaves, he says to Masha:  "Be sensible.  I mean it."

Pyotr as narrator:  "The siege of the Orenburg fort is now history. It proved a hard nut for Pugachev to crack.  He never seized it.  The siege proved fatal for the inhabitants who lived through famine and all manner of suffering."  Pyotr says the long siege left him extremely bored. 

One of the turn coat soldiers who went over to the Tsar's side, brings a note to Pyotr.   His name is Maximych.  As he rides away, Pyotr yells to him:  "Thank you, Maximych!"

Pyotr asks his commander for 50 soldiers and he will clear out the Belogorsk fort.  The commander says Pyotr will lose too many men on the way to the fort.  So now Pyotr tells the commander that an orphan named Masha has written a letter to him saying that the traitor Alexei is forcing her to marry him.  The commander says he will have Alexei hanged, but Pyotr is just going to have to be patient for now. 

Pyotr is going to take a chance.  He and his servant race out of the fort.  Both men are caught and brought before Pugachev, who is surprised to see the officer again.  Desperate,  Pyotr tells Pugachev that he was going to Belogorsk. Why?, asks Pugachev.   "To save an orphan who's been maltreated there."  It's Shvabrin who keeps the maid in confinement and who is forcing her to marry him.  Everyone laughs.  What Pugachev wants to know is what is this young lady to Pyotr?  "She's my fiancé."  Pugachev has Pyotr put under lock and key. 

The next day Pugachev and some of his men go with Pyotr to Belogorsk.  Pugachev kicks open the door to Masha's room and lets Pyotr go in to see her.  She has obviously been terrorized by Alexei.  She looks a mess and she acts a bit crazy.  Pyotr tries to reassure her that everything will be okay. 

Now Pyotr comes to Pugachev to ask him to finish all the good he has done for him by letting him and Masha go.  Alexei comes over and whispers to Pugachev that he loves the girl.  Pugachev just tells him to go get him a drink.  Pugachev now let's Pyotr and Masha go free.  He even gives them a sleigh to ride in with a driver.  Pyotr says that for the rest of his days everyday he will pray for the Lord to have mercy of Pugachev. 

Pugachev is still hanging a lot of people.  He even hangs a prominent scientist. 

Pyotr and Masha reach a little settlement. The military there are about to throw the two in jail when Pyotr spots the fellow Zurin that first taught him how to play billiards.  He vouches for Pyotr. 

Pyotr tells his servant that tomorrow he wants him to drive Masha to his parents at the manor house.  The officer adds that he has to stay here and go to war.  The servant vehemently denounces the idea.  Pyotr tells his servant:  "In serving her, you'll be serving me."  He also wants his servant to intercede on their behalf with Pyotr's parents.  For the night Pyotr and Masha get to sleep together.  In the morning she tags along for a while by Pyotr's side, until she can't keep up with the horses.

Pyotr as narrator:  "So I stayed in Zurin's detachment.  . . . Hundreds of noblemen's families were murdered villainously.  All attempts at governing were given up.  . . . Gangs of ruffians were perpetrating outrages.  Government troops retaliated with more outrages.  . . . in all it's ruthless stupidity."

Alexei still commands at Belogorsk, but the place is captured by the army.  The rebels are taken out and whipped on their backs.  Pyotr is brought before a court-martial and asked to explain this strange friendship between Pyotr and Pugachev.  After all:  "One officer was spared, while others were slaughtered."  The key informer against Pyotr is Alexei, who is brought in.   Alexei says that Pyotr went over to the other side like he did.  He was sent to Orenburg as a spy.  He would send messages to Pugachev everyday.  Pyotr doesn't have a good defense or favorable witnesses, so he goes to jail as a declared traitor.

The faithful servant tells Pyotr's father that there was no betrayal.  Masha supports the servant and says that she must go to Petersburg to testify for Pyotr.  Surely they will believe the daughter of the commander at Belogorsk fort, who lost both her parents. 

Pyotr as narrator says:  "Pugachev fled devastating everything on his way.  Unrest swept from province to province.  Dozens of new imposters sprung up."  Pugachev fought his way south toward Persia.  He says he is going to the Caspian, the Kirghiz steppe.  His troops start turning on Pugachev, saying they made him Tsar because they needed a Tsar.  But now they are afraid of literally losing their heads.  Pugachev tells them to come and get him.  He stands up, picks up a knife and starts to cut his left arm.  Maximych comes over to tell him that they don't want his blood because they have seen enough of that.  After saying this, Pugachev shoves the knife in the chest of Maximych.  His wife, Masha's dear friend, sees this and starts wailing.  The soldiers subdue Pugachev.  He is taken to be turned over to Catherine's forces. 

Pugachev is taken in an iron cage on a wagon to be imprisoned.   In chains and barefooted, he is let out of the cage.  An officer asks who is he?  Pugachev says he was in the officer's army corps.  He fought at the battle of Bendery with the rank of cornet.  Why did Pugachev do all this?  He says that he thinks that God willed this "to punish Russia through my accursed works."  The officer becomes infuriated and socks Pugachev in the face knocking him down onto the snow.  As he is carried to prison, Pugachev yells to the people to forgive him. 

A procession of royals goes by Masha and a man on a horse runs her over.  The people pick her back up.  Catherine is in one of the sleighs and Masha asks her to free Pyotr.  The empress is a bit prejudiced because she already knows about the case.  She tells Masha that she can't do anything for her.  But Masha runs alongside the sleigh and tells her that the accusations against Pyotr are all lies.  She keeps talking until Catherine says she will review her petition.  She is to come to the palace tomorrow morning. 

Emelyan Pugachev is tried.  He is found guilty and sentenced to be quartered, his head impaled, parts of his body taken to four parts of the city where the parts will be burned.  The leader of the rebellion says he does repent of all his brutal acts. 

Masha goes in to see Tsar Catherine.  When she comes in a man tells her:  "Your matter is settled, my child. . . . The empress is convinced your fiancée is not guilty."  Masha is about to faint when the man grabs her.  Catherine comes in and Masha kisses the bottom of her dress.  The Empress even says that she will personally look out for her fortune.  She says:  "Now a courier and a long journey to Kazan are awaiting you."

Pyotr is just about to be hanged.  And here comes the sleigh with Masha.  A man jumps out and runs into the execution ceremony.   He gives a letter to the commander.  Pyotr is given a sword that now he breaks over the head of Alexei.  He is then let out the gate doors to go to his darling Masha.  Alexei is greatly disappointed to see Pyotr escape death and to unite with Masha.

Pyotr as narrator:  "From that moment I never served in the army.  I devoted myself to my dear wife, Maria Ivanova, who is no longer with me, and to my children and, now, grandchildren."  As an old man, Pyotr sends a grandson off to the army. 


Good story of the Pugachev Rebellion as seen through the eyes of a young army officer, Pyotr, and the young woman he falls in love with, Masha.  The villain in the love story is an officer named Alexei, who is obsessed with Masha, and will literally do anything to make her his.  He causes a great many serious problems for the couple in love.  The other villain is Pugachev himself who seems to love killing or executing his opponents.  The film also gives a good idea of just how serious was the Pugachev Rebellion.  So many other imposters popped up all over the area of the rebellion and started gathering armies of disaffected Cossacks around them.     

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


Historical Background:


See Tempest (1959).



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