Chapaev  (Chapayev) (1934) 

 

 

 

 

 

Director:     Georgi Vasilyev, Sergei Vasilyev.

Starring:      Boris Babochkin (Chapayev),  Leonid Kmit (Petka),  Varvara Myasnikova (Anka),  Boris Blinov (Furmanov),  Illarion Pevtsov (Colonel Borozdin),  Stepan Shkurat (Borozdin's striker),  Vyacheslav Volkov (Yelan),  Nikolai Simonov (Zhikharev),  Boris Chirkov (Peasant ).

Russian movie about Vasili Ivanovich Chapaev (1887 - 1919) Commander of the Red Army's 25th Division

 

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

 

The Red Army in the Russian Civil War following the take-over of the Russian government by the communists.

From a horse drawn carriage, a soldier (Vassily Ivanovich, the Commander known as Chapaev) shouts out:  "Hold it! Where're you going?"  A farmer replies:  "The Czechs've taken the farmstead." Chapaev asks the man where is his rifle?  "Back there",  he says.  Everybody starts racing to "back there".   As the carriage goes along it picks up more and more fighters with weapons.  There are so many fighters that the White guards on a small bridge start running away.  They even leave their small cannon behind.  The chasers pour over the bridge after the guards. 

Chapaev has the non-professional soldiers line up in formation.  He goes over and asks the farmer again where is his rifle?  Now the man says:  "I've lost it in the river when we fled the farmstead."  The Commander tells him:  "Find it."  The man rushes to the river and dives in to search for the rifle.  Now the Commander asks Pastukhov where is his machinegun?  He has hidden it by the river bank.  The commander thanks his soldiers for taking the farmstead, but he says he will be checking to make sure that everyone has their rifle. 

And now come soldiers in military uniform.  Over to the Commander comes Furmanov, who is appointed to be the Commissar in the Commander's division.  He says the group that just came in are the weavers, who volunteered for duty.  A woman named Anka is among the volunteers. 

The commander says the troops are just in time because they just got an order from Mikhail Frunze.  Tomorrow they go on the offensive. 

At the encampment, men and women are singing to music.  A soldier named Pet'ka comes out of the headquarters and shoots his pistol in the air.  He shouts:  "Quiet, folks!  Chapaev needs to think."  Inside the building they talk about the battle plan.  Pugachev will attack at midnight, while Razin stay in reserve.  A soldier says that by 9 a.m. they have take the village of Lomikhinskaya.  IChapaev asks Yelan what he thinks and he says they should attack on the right.  Now Chapaev turns to ask the Commissar what he thinks?  The Commissar reveals that he doesn't know much about planning a battle.  He says he will go along with the Commander.  The Commander says they will attack on both flanks.

"The village has been taken."  Ivanovich's brigade commander reports in with a wounded left hand.  Ivanovich says that was stupid  -- that the commander has no business exposing himself to the enemy's bullets.  He takes time out to illustrate where the commander should have been stationed at different points in a battle.   He tells the brigade commander to use his head. 

Pet'ka  the machine-gunner shows the woman volunteer his machine gun.  He starts to grab at the woman's left breast but she pushes him off her.  The woman is angry and says all the Chapaev men are heroes only with women.  And now she demands that he teach her how to use the machinegun. 

The White Army (non-communists).  A lieutenant says that he was on the German front in WWI and fought against General von Ludendorf.  He says in a sarcastic way that now he has to fight who-the-hell-it is Chapaev, who was recently just a sergeant.  The older officer, Colonel Sergey Nikolayevich, says that Chapaev is a serious adversary.  The man is already famous for his deeds.

Two men rush to the Commissar to tell him that Chapaev has threatened to have them both shot.  While explaining what happened to them, Chapaev shows up and scolds them for being snitches.  He tells them to leave the room.  The two fellows march out side by side.  The Commissar wants to take the men's side.  Chapaev says:  "Why won't you let a single muzhik (a Russian peasant) be promoted to a doctor?"  The Commissar says the two men can't give a document saying that a muzhik can be a doctor because they don't have the right to.  Chapaev asks how dare the Commissar mock Chapev?  He will kill the bastard.  In fact, he gets so mad that he throws a stool down hard on the ground and breaks it into pieces. 

The Commissar says that Chapaev should stop dressing like a tramp and more as a Red Army commander.  He needs to set an example to others. 

A message comes for the White army Colonel saying that Cossacks Dmitry Potapov was arrested when trying to desert.  He tells his orderly Petrovich that they have to shoot the man  -- those are his orders from higher up.  Suddenly, the Colonel realizes that the man in question is the brother of Petrovich.  So he makes some changes to his orders for the sake of Petrovich.    

Chapaev's division is pushing forward.  A report comes in that the Third Platoon is marauding the local village.  The Commissar tells one of his men to go find Platoon Commander Zhikharev and bring him here.  Meanwhile, a soldier who did not have a rifle grabs a pig from off a farm.  The grandmother comes out to curse the soldier.  Two other farmers start talking about the incident.  One says that the Whites rob them and then the Reds rob them.  Damn them!

The Commissar talks with the platoon commander and then places him under arrest.  Before the commander is taken away, the Commissar has him sign an order that says all the stolen property be returned to the right owners.  Chapaev hears about this and become very angry.  He comes into the room to asks the Commissar:  "How dare you?  You red tape worm."  What his platoon commander allowed, only he (Chapaev) can forbid.  He asks the Commissar if he gets it?    Chapaev then takes of all his weapons ready for a fist fight with the Commissar.  He asks:  "Who's running the division, you or I?"  The Commissar says:  "You and I."  Chapaev tells the Commissar to get the hell out of his division, but the Commissar tells him that only the communist party can decide if he stays or goes. 

The civilians come with a big delegation.  The leader thanks Chapaev for his soldiers returning everything they took.  Now it starts to dawn on Chapaev that this Commissar may have done the very best thing.  And now he has more respect for the Commissar.  He tells the Commissar to call a meeting.  He wants to talk to his men and the civilians.  He explains to his staff that, after all, the party would not have sent him (Chapaev) just some nobody. 

At the meeting Chapaev scolds his men saying they have disgraced their division and the entire Red Army.  Furthermore, he will shoot anyone involved in plunder. 

Pet'ka tests Anka to make sure she can put together the Maxim machine gun from scratch.  She does it successfully, even beating the clock.  Pet'ka is impressed.  He likes Anka and so he tells her that Chapaev and the Commissar have sent him to go get a White Army prisoner.  He hopes that Anka will be upset at his having to take on such a dangerous task.  But Anka doesn't say much at all.  He leaves.  Anka does run after him up to the gate around the little cabin.  She watches him disappear along the road. 

Pet'ka sneaks up on a White army soldier who is fishing.  The guy being captured is none other than Petrovich.  The fellow is so shocked by surprise that he falls into the river.  When he pulls himself up and onto the river bank, he grabs his rifle and shoots at Pet'ka.  But the rifle only goes "click".  Pet'ka tells the fellow that he unloaded his gun before he announced himself.  Petrovich tells Pet'ka a sad story (but a true one) that he was just trying to catch a fish for fish soup for his brother Mit'ka.  He says that his brother was punished by being beating with ramrods and now he's dying.  Pet'ka asks Petrovich why he would still serve with the Whites after that?  Petrovich begs his captor to release him so he can go to his dying bother. 

Chapaev is furious that Pet'ka let his prisoner go free.  In fact, he's so mad that he decides to put Pet'ka under tribunal, despite the fact that Pet'ka is his orderly. 

At White headquarters, the Colonel plays the piano.  Petrovich loves the music and listens while he scrubs the floor with a scrub brush tied onto his right foot.  He sees the order issued by the Colonel and realizes that the Colonel ordered the beating of his brother.  He is mad at the Colonel now.  He tells him that Mit'ka is dead.  Then he starts crying. 

A couple of soldiers on sentry duty are talking about Chapaev.  One of them says that Chapaev was once a peasant like them.  The man even worked as a carpenter in Balakov.  The other sentry hears a noise and shoots wildly into the dark.  The Commissar comes out of the brush.  He says it's good the men are awake, but they should never shoot before they know who they are shooting at.  Oh, and they should try to improve their shooting skills.

Petrovich deserts the Whites and turns himself over to the Commissar.  The man is taken to Chapaev.  Petrovich tells the commander that all the the officer's unit lis aunching a counter-offensive tomorrow.  Chapaev appoints Pet'ka to take the man to the kitchen for some food.

At night Chapaev studies his battle plan to stop the counter-offensive.  Pet'ka wakes and talks with Chapaev for awhile. 

The next morning Chapaev is on his horse with binoculars surveying the battle field in front of him.  He shouts down that the enemy will attack in about 30 minutes.  Pet'ka races to tell the others, but he quickly returns reporting that there is a mutiny going on and the soldiers killed Commander Zhukov. 

The man who had no rifle and got in trouble with Chapaev, takes the leadership role in the rebellion.  He says there will be no more fighting for them.  He shouts:  "Let's go home!"  He sees Chapaev and Pet'ka racing to him and starts to react, but is shot dead by a pistol shot from Chapaev.  Chapaev now gets the men in a good solid formation.  Someone fires his rifle.  Chapaev demands to know who shot.  A man steps forward and says they just shot one of the key mutineers. 

Kappelev's office.  The Whites are starting off for what will become the battle field.  The men walk straight ahead and the Reds open up on them with rifle fire.  Anka's machine gunner comrade is hit by machine gun fire and dies.  Anka gets ready to fire the Maxim gun. As they come closer, she opens up on the White troops.  The Whites starting running away as Anka runs out of ammunition.  She needs to get more ammunition from her supplies. 

The White cavalry charge the Red line, but Chapaev leads a Red cavalry charge at the White cavalry.  The Whites start running away again. 

Kappelev Headquarters.  Chapaev has captured the regimental Headquarters.  Anka reports in and Chapaev asks her why did she stop shooting?  She says she was waiting for the enemy to get closer.  The men laugh.  Chapaev tells her to sit down and have some tea with them. 

Autumn.  Chapaev sings along with the soldiers.  He gets a message:  "Due to an emergency, I insist on Furmanov's immediate departure.  He will be succeeded by Sedov."  The message is signed Frunze.  So the old Commisar has to leave.  A car arrives carrying Sedov.  Sedov gets out and is greeted by the former Commissar.  Furmanov introduces the new man to Chapaev.  Chapaev hugs Furmanov.  Anka and Pet'ka watch as the car carrying Furmanov leaves. 

The White Colonel studies the disposition of the Red forces around Lbishchensk.  The division's main force under Yelan is in Sakharnaya.  This means that the Red Headquarters is now isolated and vulnerable.  the Colonel's superior officer says this is their chance to get rid of that troublesome Chapaev.  The Colonel himself says he will lead the operation.

Pet'ka and Anka are together.  Pet'ka sings along with the other soldiers.  The Commissar comes and says that since it is so pitch-black outside, they should double the guard.  Chapaev says he has the Whites so scared that they won't mess with him, but does agree to double the guard.  Chapaev tells Pet'ka and Anka that they are very lucky because they have their whole life before them.  They can do their work together and have a family. 

While the Reds sleep, the Whites are moving forward on horseback.  They even have a primitive tank.  Guarding the road are two guards, but both guards are sleeping.  Two Whites sneak up on the sentries and kill them.  The one of the White blows a whistle indicating that the road is clear.  A flare is sent up to light the way.  The Whites catch the Reds sleeping. 

Anka, Pet'ka and Chapaev climb to the top of the church where they were staying.  Chapaev opens up on the White soldiers below killing quite a few.  Pet'ka tries to send a message for help, but the Whites have cut all the lines.  Anka is going on horseback to Yelan to get help.  The machine gun is doing a good job until the tank arrives and opens up with two machine guns.  Chapaev is hit in the right forearm.  Pet'ka throws hand grenades at the tank.  Then Pet'ka tells Chapaev that they have to retreat.  Chapaev answers:  "Chapaev never retreats."

Anka arrives at her destination.  Help is on it's way now. 

Pet'ka helps Chapaev go down a steep cliff to their goal, the  river.  He calls out to the men below that Chapaev has been wounded and he needs help to get him down to the river.  The men get Chapaev down to the river and Chapaev jumps into the water saying he can swim by himself.  Pet'ka stays behind to shoot any Whites from shooting from the top of the cliff down on the Reds swimming across the river.  Nevertheless, the two men in the water with Chapaev are shot and disappear under the water.  Chapaev continues swimming.  Pet'ka now runs out of ammunition.  He starts running into the river but is shot in the back.  Pet'ka falls backward onto the river bank.  The Whites on top of the cliff use a machine gun to keep firing at Chapaev.  It is not clear if Chapaev is hit and goes under the water or goes under the water surface and escapes. 

Reinforcements arrive and the Whites start running.  The White Colonel is getting on his horse near a hay stack.  Inside the haystack is Petrovich.  When he sees the Colonel in comes out of hiding and with his sword kills the Colonel. 

 

 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 


Historical background:

 

1887  --  birth of Vasily Chapaev.  He came from a poor peasant family in the village of Budayka (now part of Cheboksary, Chuvash Republic).

1908 Chapayev becomes acquainted with Pelageya Metelina (16 years of age). They marry and live together for six years. They had three children.

During WWI (1914-1918) Chapaev fights as a non-commissioned officer and earns the Cross of St. George three times.

1917 Chapayev starts living with the widow, also named Pelageya, of his deceased fellow-soldier Petr Kishkertsev. Chapayev adopted both of her children.

1917 (September) he joins the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party (Bolsheviks).

1917 (December) Chapaev is elected commander of the 138 Infantry Regiment by the regiment's soldiers. Later, he commands the 2nd Nikolaev Division and the 25th Rifle Division.

1919 (September 5) the Red divisional headquarters near Lbishchensk (now renamed Chapayev in his honor) are ambushed by the White Army. The 32 year old Chapayev tries to escape by swimming across the Ural River. He is never seen again.

 

 

 

Return To Main Page

Return to Home Page (Vernon Johns Society)