Tikhly Don (Quiet Flows the Don) (1957)



Director:     Sergie Gerasimov. 

Starring:     Pyotr Glebov (Grigori Melekhov),  Elina Bystritskaya (Aksiniya),  Zinaida Kiriyenko (Natalya),  Daniil Ilchenko (Panteleimon Prokofyevich Melekhov),  Lyudmila Khityayeva (Dariya Melekhova),  Nikolai Smirnov (Pyotr Melekhov),  Aleksandr Zhukov (Miron Koshevoy),  Natalya Arkhangelskaya (Dunyashka),  Aleksandra Denisova (Lukinichna),  Aleksandr Blagovestov (Stepan Lekatov),  Boris Novikov (Mitka Korshunov),  Igor Dmitriyev (Yevgeni Listnitsky),  Mikhail Gluzsky (Yesaul Kalmykov),  Viliam Shatunovsky (Shtokman).

covers Russian history from 1912 to WWI to Bolshevik Revolution, to the Russian Civil War


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

Part I. 

Chapter 1.  Aksinya and Grigory's Meeting. 

Village of Tatarsky.  The Cossacks are getting ready to leave for the May camps.  Stepan, who is married to Aksinya, will be heading off.  Grigory (Grishka) likes the married Aksinya.  His brother Pyotr will also be going away.  Grishka on his horse goes down to the Don River tot talk with Aksinya.  He asks her if she will miss her husband Stepan.  She says of course.  Grishka says:  "Our Darya gets fat with Pyotor's absence."  Grishka teases Aksinya by blocking her return from the river with his horse.  She gets angry, so he lets her go. 

Chapter 2.  Haymaking. 

The women and the men not going to May camp work on scything and raking the hay crop.  Grishka is one of those scything.  He accidentally kills one of the little ducks hiding in the grass.  When he takes a break he lays down by Aksinya.  He tries to feel her up.  She gets irritated and tells him to go away or she will scream.  He continues and she yells for Uncle Panteley, Grishka's father.  Grishka gets up and hurries away from Aksinya.  But at night Grishka and Aksinya come together again and kiss.  They walk down by the river.

Chapter 3.  Father.

Panteley Prokofievich comes to the store.  His son is Grigory (Grishka) who is not married yet.  The store operator Platonych tells Panteley that he has heard that he is taking Stepan's Aksinya as his daughter-in-law.  Panteley goes and scolds Aksinya saying that she is playing tricks on men.  He tells her to never come on his property again.  Aksinya becomes insulted and chases Panteley away.  She tells him:  "Write to the ataman for all I care!"  She adds that Grishka is hers.  Panteley goes home to scold Grishka.  He tells his son not to disgrace him.  Otherwise, he will marry him to Marfutka, the fool.  And, he says, I will castrate you.

Aksinya sees Grishka and tells him that there is only nine days left before her husband comes home.  Grishka tells her that his father wants to marry him off, to Natalya Korsunov.  But he wants to marry Aksinya.  So Aksinya suggests that they run away from the village.  Grishka says he can't leave the farm.  And he can't leave right now because he is due for military service this year.  To sum up, he says he will never leave the land. 

Chapter 4.  Stepan's Home Coming. 

Pyotor comes back, followed by Stepan.  Stepan glares at Aksinya and she tells him:  "I don't deny I've sinned."  He tells her to get him something to eat and she gets him bread and milk.  Waiting on him she seems very pained.  She wants to sit down but her husband won't let her.  He tells Aksinya to tell him how she waited for her husband.  He gets up and socks her into the next room. Frightened she runs outside.  Stepan chases her down, knocks her to the ground and starts kicking her.  Grishka sees the commotion and runs over to Stepan.  He hits Stepan.  Pyotor comes to help his brother and the two of them fight Stepan.  Stepan does very well considering the odds against him.  Another man breaks up the fight. 

Chapter 5.  Matchmaking. 

Miron Grigorievich receives his guests, Panteley and his wife.  His wife Marya gets two chairs for them.  Panteley tells Miron that he has a bride, while he (Panteley) has a bridegroom.  He asks:  "Can we come to terms?"  Father says that his daughter Natayla (Natakha) is too young.  And she is also very shy. 

Aksinya and Grishka meet again.  She complains that her husband beats her everyday.  Grishka is only half-listening because he tells her that they should end their relationship.  She cries and leaves. 

Chapter 6.  Wedding.

The couple Grishka and Natalya kiss at their wedding.  Their guests dance.  The next morning Natalya awakens in her bed alone.  In the fields Aksinya asks Grishka how is his life with his new wife?  So far, it's o.k.  The newly weds are living with Grishka's family.  Natalya's mother-in-law tells her husband that they should let Natalya take it easy her first year of marriage.  He agrees. 

Chapter 7.  At the Mill. 

Pyotor and his wife Darya go down to the mill.  A fight begins between the Cossacks and the Ukrainians.  Apparently, the fight started over someone jumping in line. The Cossacks say that they beat up the Ukrainians.  A stranger tells the Cossacks that Cossacks are Russians.  But the Cossacks says they are Cossacks.  The future Cossack serfs ran away from their landlords to settle by the Don River.  As a group they all became known as Cossacks.  The Cossacks are not pleased by what the new man says and ask him his name.  He says his name is Shtokman, a locksmith and he lives in Tatarsky. 

Chapter 8.  Unloved one.

Grishka tells Natalya that she is like a stranger to him.  She gives him neither cold nor warmth.  He goes on to say that he does not love her, but adds for her not be mad at him. 

Back at home Grishka's father tells him that Natalya wants to leave the family.  And it's all Grishka's fault.  He says that if he won't live with Natalya, then he can just get out of here.  Grishka reminds his father that Natalya wasn't his choice.  He leaves.  Natalya chases after him.  He tells her:  "You can go to hell, the unloved one." 

Chapter 9.  Escape. 

A bunch of men talk together.  They say the Cossacks have been reduced to shame.  Grishka comes in.  He asks his friend if he could stay at his place for awhile.  Osip Davydovich says he knows who Karl Marx is, but will speak of it at another time.  When the talk is over Grishka goes with his friend to his house.  The friend asks Grishka about his plans.  He says tomorrow he will go to Sergey Platonovich.  If not, then he will go to General Listnitsky's place.  Hs friend tells him that he certainly won't make much money if he intends to be a farm laborer. 

At night Masha Koshevaya comes to Aksinya's place to tell her that Grishka is waiting for her at the store.  And he said to make sure she brings her things.  Stepan tells Aksinya that he is going to go play cards.  He leaves.  Meanwhile, Grishka waits for Aksinya at the store.  She shows up, but she says she is in pain from lifting heavy things during the day.  They leave together.  Stepan returns home.  He soon realizes that she has left him.  He is very angry but does not chase after her. 

Chapter 10.  At the Estate.

Yagodnoye, General Listnitsky's estate.  Aksinya works in the kitchen of the estate.  The son of the general likes to sit and stare at Aksinya as she works.  A man named Getko brings Grishka a message from Natalya.  In the message she asks what is she to do without a husband.  She says she is lost; neither here nor there.  Natlaya asks him to have some pity for her. 

Grishka comes into the kitchen.  He sees the general's son sitting in a chair staring at Aksinya.  The son gets up and goes into a different room.  Grishka asks Aksinya why he sits there staring at her.  She says she doesn't know and makes fun of the man.  She tells Grishka that she is pregnant.  He asks if the child is Stepan's?  She just says:  "Yours."  The General and Grishka ride off. 

Chapter 11.  Letter.

People say Natalya has a hernia.  That's why her husband dropped her.  Another says it's because she was doing something with his father.  Natalya passes by looking so forlorn.  Mitka walks besides her and tells her he wants to cheer her up.  She just tells him to get away from her or she will scream.  He has to back off.

Getko gives Natalya Gishka's reply.  He says just two words to her:  "Live alone."  Natalya takes a scythe blade and tries to slit her throat with it. 

Chapter 12.  Grigory's Father. 

Aksinya has had her baby.  It's a girl.  Grigory's father visits them.  He asks his son if he is getting ready for his military call-up?  He says he is.  He leaves the day after Christmas.  Grandfather goes to look at his new grandchild.  He looks and then leaves.  Outside dad tells Grishka that Natalya has crippled herself.  She cut a tendon in her neck and now her head leans to one side. 

Chapter 13.  Call-up. 

The General tells Grishka not to worry about his wife.  Just be a good soldier he says.  Aksinya cries as Grishka rides off. 

Chapter 14.  Arrest. 

July 18, 1914.  A woman tells her friend Natalya that Mishka Koshevoy stood with her all evening.  A group of men have come to tell Osip Davydovich that he is under arrest.  They ask him how long has he been a member of the RSDRP?  He shows Ospi the document from Rostov that confirms his membership in the party.  Osip says he has been a member since 1907.  He is being arrested for reading books banned by the law. 

The men ride off with Osip.  His wife chases after him to try to give him something, but she falls. 

Chapter 15.  To the Front.

Pyotr's wife tells him that she would love to have a swim on this hot day.  A man comes riding over the field shouting:  "Alarm!"  Pyotr jumps on his horse and rushes off.  The women ask:  "Is it war?" 

Pyotr with hundreds of other soldiers leave by the railroad.  A group of men on horseback with lances await their orders.  Grishka is among them.   General Listnitsky and his son show up in the back of an automobile.  The General scolds a man for not having a bridge build already.  He asks him how he will ever get to the other side now? 

The order is given for the cavalry to charge.  Grishka virtually leads the way.  He is a demon on horseback.  He spears a fleeing enemy soldier in the back.  In fact, all the enemy seems to be fleeing.  Even the men in the trenches flee.  In the town Grishka sabers a man in the head.  He gets off his horse to stare at the dead man.  Someone passes by Grishka while asking him why he is standing and not continuing to ride?  Grishka gets back on his horse. 

Chapter 16.  Rivals.

Natalya comes to see Aksinya.  She tells Aksinya that she stole her husband.  She adds:  "You've ruined my life."  Natalya shows Aksinya her neck.  Aksinya replies that Natalya knew that Grishka was living with her and now she has a baby girl by him.  And Natalya is now a cripple.  She tells Natalya she will never get Grishka back.  Natalya says she knew that she had no hope of Aksinya agreeing to give her husband back.  She came solely out of anguish.  Natalya leaves.  She is so sad and depressed that she collapses to the ground by the side of the road. 

Chapter 17.  The Master's Arrival. 

The master's son, Yevgeny, comes home from the war.  He and his father embrace each other heartedly.  Aksinya's daughter has died.  After dinner the General's son visits Aksinya.  She feels very sad and Yevgeny tells her not to torture herself.  She is young and can have more children.  She starts to cry and he goes in for the kill, so to speak.  He uses her loneliness and sadness to take advantage of her.

Chapter 18.  In the Hospital. 

Grishka is in a hospital bed with his head and right eye wrapped in bandages.  His bed neighbor seems to be a Communist.  He tells Grishka that the soldiers were made to fight for the rich.  Grishka believes this and feels a lot of resentment about it.  So when the Tsar comes to visit him and places the St. George Cross on him for bravery, he just tells the Tsar that he has to go do "number one" as he says.  An officer with the Tsar says what can one expect from a Cossack.  "They are only good for taming mobs.  Otherwise, they're just animals."  

The man who runs the hospital is very angry with Grishka for his attitude toward the Tsar.  He made the man look bad.  He calls Grishka a "scoundrel".  Grishka shouts back that the man is a "bastard".  He also tells the man:  "Send me home!"  The fellow replies:  "We will!"

Chapter 19.  Grigory's Return.

Grishka gets a ride home on a horse drawn wagon.  He jumps off and walks over to the barn to see his grandfather Sashka.  He asks where did they bury his little girl?  In the garden under a poplar tree.   He asks how is Aksinya?   Sashka becomes very evasive until Grishka tells him to tell him about Aksinya or he is leaving.  Sashka says:  "You warmed a snake in your bosom!  A real viper!"   He then tells Grishka that she's been messing around with Yevgeny. 

Grishka leaves the barn.  He knocks on the window to awaken Aksinya.  She opens the door and hugs him.  They go into their abode and he sits down and looks over the bed, probably thinking about Aksinya being with Yevgeny.  He is very cold to Aksinya.  She cries and he asks her:  "Why the tears?"  Isn't she glad to see him? 

Chapter 20.  Break-up.

The General comes outside and says hello to Grishka and notes that he is the holder of the St. George Cross.  Grishka says he will only be home for two weeks before he has to return to the army.  Yevgeny comes out and also says hello to Grishka  Yevgeny is going for a ride.  Grishka says he wants to drive the sled for old time's sake.  Yevgeny agrees.  Grishka drives the sled really fast until he stops it very suddenly.  He takes the horse whip and starts whipping Yevgeny with it.  Yevgeny gets out of the sled and starts to fight Grishka, but he is forced to the ground and whipped some more.  Grishka then starts driving the sled back to the estate.  He walks over to Aksinya and hits her with the whip a couple of times shouting at her:  "Slut!"  "Bitch!"  He starts walking back home. 

Aksinya chases after him.  She begs him to forgive her.  He turns his head to look at her with great disdain and keeps on walking.  He walks all the way home.  His sister is amazed to see him when he walks into the house.  Natalya also can't believe her eyes.  She gets up from the kitchen table and goes over to grab onto Grishka.  He stands there with his wife just holding onto him. 


Part II. 

Chapter 1.  Reflections about the Future.

1916.  Grishka now has four medals on his chest.  A political pamphlet goes around saying that the enemy of the Russians are not the Germans and Austrians, but the Tsar and the industrialists.  Cornet Bunchuk says that the Cossacks are being held in reserve to crush any mutineers in the army.  He has just returned from home where there are food shortages.  Hunger and discontent are rife within the workers' districts.  The Russo-Japanese War of 1905 sparked the 1905 Revolution and this present war will culminate in another revolution and a civil war.  The Cornet is asked if he wishes for the defeat of Russia in the war.  He says yes. 

Captain Kalmykov becomes angry and says that to wish for defeat of one's own nation is to be a traitor.  His comrades have to restrain him from thrashing the Cornet.  A messenger arrives with a note from Colonel Shiryaev.  Kalmykov tells the men that they have been urgently summoned to the Colonel.

Chapter 2.  Offensive. 

Sitting on his horse Grishka waits with the others from his unit.  Next to him is Aksinya's husband Stepan.  Grishka tells him that today he is scared.  The offensive begins.  The cavalry charges.  The Germans open up with their machine guns.  Suddenly the shout goes up that the Germans are using gas.  The Russian troops start running for their lives back to where they started. Aksinya's husband loses his horse.  Grishka tells him to grab onto his horse and he will help pull him out of there.  Stepan trots alongside the horse while also being pulled forward by the horse.  After awhile he can't go on and let's go of the horse.  He takes off his boot and finds it filled with blood. 

Stepan says that from behind Grishka he shot at Grishka three times. God saved Grishka and now Grishka has saved him, Stepan.  Stepan says still he cannot forgive Grishka for taking Aksinya from him. Grishka starts to fall, but is grabbed by some of his buddies. They hold him up and take him over to the Red Cross wagon.

Chapter 3.  News from Afar

Back home Aksinya asks how are their neighbors, the Melkhovs, doing?  She asks about Pyotor and then about Grishka.  Grishka came home last Christmas.  His wife had twins this year.  He was also wounded in the shoulder.  At the General's house, the General says that the news was all pre-ordained.  The royal dynasty was doomed.  The Tsar has abdicated.  The General reads from his son's letter that the men don't want to fight; they are tired. 

Back with the Cossack troops the news is that Tsar Nicolas II has been deposed.  All power is now in the hands of the Provisional Committee of the State Duma.  A fellow gets up to say that what this all means is that the war must be ended for the Russians. 

Chapter 4.  Meeting in Petersburg. 

The General's son eats at a restaurant with Captain Kalmykov.  The Captain believes that there will be a coup d'etat and Kornilov will lead the government.  He says that the army is behind Kornilov.  So the two powers in dispute will be Kornilov and his backers versus the Bolsheviks.  Kalmykov says that they are going to Moscow.  The General's son will be going along with him.

Kornilov gets off a train and is met with a series of big hurrahs. 

Chapter 5.  Mutiny.   

Narva, August 1917.  Cornet Bunchuk gets off the train and runs into Kalmykov.  Kalmykov says to him that he probably has come from Petrograd, from darling Kerensky and the Bolsheviks.  Bunchuk tells him not to worry. 

The train hauling the Cossacks have been stopped.  Kalmykov says that Kerensky and the Bolsheviks have stopped them from going any farther.  He suggests that they detrain and march on Petrograd.  At this point Cornet Bunchuk shouts out that he is the representative of the workers and soldiers from Petrograd.  He says that the Codsacks are being led into a fratricidal war to crush the revolution.  He screams that if they want to restore the monarchy then they should go. 

Kalmykov shouts against Bunchuk by telling everyone that last year he deserted from the army.  He continues:  "Are we to listen to this coward and traitor?"  He starts to draw his pistol but is stopped by men who grab his arm and other who point their rifles in his face.  Bunchuk tells him that he is under arrest.  He tells the other that they will take Kalmykov to the Revolutionary Committee.  While walking Kalmykov off, the Captain starts damning the Bolsheviks, who he calls "scum".   He shouts:  "Your Lenin has sold Russia for thirty German marks!"  Bunchuk starts losing his patience and takes his pistol out of its holster.  Kalmykov tells him to go ahead and shoot.  He will show Bunchuk how a real Russian officer dies.  Bunchuk shoots the man.  Kalmykov looks so surprised and upset that he has been shot.  He falls and dies.  The fellow with Bunchuk is surprised that he actually killed the Captain. 

The revolutionaries take over the Winter Palace.  Some of the men shoot off their weapons into the air or into the ceilings of the building. 

Chapter 6.  Cossack Assembly. 

Autumn 1917.  The Cossacks are coming back home from the war.  A relative of Grishka's, asks the passing soldiers where is Grishka?  He is told that Grishka joined the Bolsheviks and stayed in Kameskaya. 

There is a political meeting as regards who the Cossacks will support.  One of the speakers condemns Kornilov.  Grishka asks who are the men on the podium.  There is Krivoshlykov from Gorbatov village; Podtyolkov; and Golubov.   The speakers says that Kaledin and Kornilov are together.  They have intercepted their order about arresting their congress participants.  The men on the podium suggest making a Cossack Revolutionary War Committee to fight Kaledin. 

Chapter 7. Negotiations.

A train comes in. With them are the men on the podium who suggested making a Cossack War Revolutionary Committee to fight Kaledin. Some of the people on the platform call the revolutionaries "traitors".

Five representatives of the Revolutionary committee wait for the representatives of the local government. The local government representatives ask the revolutionaries what they demand. They demand that the local government delegate power to the War Revolutionary Committee. On February 4, a Cossack Assembly is to be convened. The revolutionaries suggest that they may not accept the legitimacy of the Cossack Assembly. Someone asks: Who will be the judge? The people is the answer. The audience in the balcony laughs at this.

A man named Shein condemns the Bolsheviks and gets a round of applause from the audience. The head of the local government delegation says they will give the Revolutionary Committee its answer at 10 a.m. tomorrow.

Chapter 8.  Fight in the Village.

Next morning at the village of Glubokaya an explosion occurs.  An officer named Chernetsov yells:  "Come on Cossacks, let's disturb the Bolsheviks." 

An officer tells Grishka to line his 100 men up and take them to Yerokhin Gully.  Grishka leads his men out.  They arrive and find Cornet Bunchuk firing a machine gun at the enemy.  He tells Grishka to go along the gully and come out on the enemy's flank.  Grishka heads his men out. 

The enemy charges.  Grishka and his men charge.  Grishka is wounded in the leg and is out of action. 

Chapter 9.  Revolutionary Court. 

Grishka is brought in on the back of a wagon.  His commander calls him a "good boy".  He also says:  "We wiped them out!"  He then tells Grishka to tell Podtyolkou that he is accepting the responsibility for Chernetsov.  Grishka delivers the message but Podtyolkou says that Chernetsov as a counter-revolutionary will be tried right away by the revolutionary court.  Chernetsov is brought before Podtyolkou.  Chernetsov calls Podtyolkoua traitor to the Cossacks and pulls out a hidden pistol.  Off screen someone shoots and kills Chernetsov.   

Chapter 10.  On a Leave.

"They're coming mama."  Grishka arrives.  Pyotr greets him, followed by sister Dunyasha and his wife.  She gives him his son and then his daughter to hold.  Mother greets him, while Darya waits in the house to greet him.  Dad comes in and sits down.  Grishka sits down.  He has brought presents for everyone.  They are all impressed by Grishka's many ribbons and medals.  The latest news he has is that the Bolsheviks are advancing from Tagarrog, Tikhoretskaya and Voronezh.  Grishka says he is for Soviet power.  Pyotr calls him a fool and his father says:  "You tell him, Pyotr!"  Dad says that a Cossack will always be a Cossack and Cossacks don't want the Russians to rule over the Don.  The family's old friend Panteley Prokofievich comes in to visit with the family. 

Chapter 11.  Different Opinions.

Valet is fishing from his boat.  A buddy comes to tell him that the Red Guards were crushed at Migulinskaya.  They were passing through and the Cossacks gave them a beating.  They took a whole mob of prisoners to Kargin.  And the White Guards are starting a mobilization, so they need to get out.  Valet tells his buddy to go to Ivan Alexeyev and he will join him later. 

The buddy goes up to be with Grishka and Panteley and another man.  Grishka and Panteley tell the others that they are staying.  The others leave. 

Chapter 12.  Execution of the Bolsheviks.

Ponomaryov Village, April 28, 1918.  Troops walk through the area.  Grishka and his unit arrive.  A soldier asks the Cossacks where are they form and they answer from the village of Tatarsky.  The soldier says that they're too late.  They've already caught Podtyolkou and he is to be hung shortly. 

At the execution area Podtyolkou sees Grishka and tells him he is shooting his brothers.  He is a turncoat.  Grishka becomes angry and asks the man:  "Remember the fight at Glubokaya?  How you shot the officers?  Now you're getting a taste of your own medicine.  You betrayed the Cossacks!"  Around 30 prisoners of war are shot by firing squad.  But Podtyolkou is to be hanged.  He tells the gathered crowd that all Russia will be Soviet.  He tells them to remember his words:  "You'll be sorry later, but it will be too late."   They try to hang him but the noose is too low.  The condemned man says:  "They don't even know how to hang a man the right way."  Everyone gets disgusted and leaves the place of execution, except the hangmen, of course. 

Chapter 13.  "Presents".

Grishka sits at the table of a Red family.  He gives the little girl there a sugar cube.  A fellow comes in to tell Grishka that his father is outside.  Grishka goes outside to welcome dad and his sister-in-law Darya.  They come inside.  Dad asks why the Cosscks won't go beyond the Don region?  The Cossacks says:  "Why should we?"  Another man says:  "We'll drive the Muzhiks from the Don and go home."  But another Cossacks says they cannot defeat the whole of Russia.   Dad says that he visited Pyotor at Kalach and he is doing very well (by taking goods from the Red families).  Grishka becomes very angry, but father asks him why not take from those who went over to the Reds?  Grishka says because it's a sin.  He leaves the house angry.  Dad goes out to tell him before he leaves that Aksinya has gone back to her husband Stepan. 

After Grishka leaves, dad has Darya help him steal a big kettle from the woman and her daughter.  The mother tries to sop them, but dad will not be stopped.  He also takes a horse collar from the poor woman.  All the Cossacks leave, including dad and Darya.

Chapter 14.  Two Anthems.

There is a big celebration and dinner.  The host says that today they are expecting the Allies' troops in Moscow.  A big hurrah goes up from the party goers.  The host says they will wait for the Allies to enter the Kremlin together.  They sing the National Anthem. 

The Red commander yells:  "At the enemies of the Revolution, fire!"  Shot after shot from the many artillery pieces go off.  The Cossacks start running away.  The Soviets charge slowly after them singing the Internationale

Chapter 15.  Hard Decision. 

Pyotr comes home.  Grishka is already there.  Pyotr tells his father that they are done for.  Mother cries.  Grishka asks his brother what he intends to do?  Darya and Natalya say that if the whole village leaves, they will leave with them.  Dad goes crazy at their remark.  He curses them and tells them not to interfere in men's business.  More bad news.  The Reds are approaching Veshenskaya.  Pyotr finally decides.  He says:  "The family will stay!"  Everyone seems to heave a sigh of relief that finally the family has decided. 

Chapter 16. Enemy of the Soviet Power.

Mischka Koshevoy is taking down the names of the enemies of the Soviets. One of the names is Ivan Andreyev Sinilin who spread propaganda against Soviet power. Grishka comes in. He asks Mischka not to commandeer their horses. They’ve gone lame.

Ivan Alexeyevich is the local chairman. He comes back from having seen the district chairman. He says he was impressed by the friendliness of the man who had Ivan sit down and talk with him. He says that before they only had a General-Major who made them always stand at attention. He says he likes the new way because he says he’s treated like a human being.

Grishka starts to argue with Ivan about the goodness of the Soviet system. Ivan tells him don’t defame the Soviets! Grishka continues by saying that there is nothing good about his government. For instance, they have locked up the atamans. Ivan says that Grishka speaks like a counter-revolutionary. He says: "You’re an enemy of Soviet power." Grishka leaves.

Osip Davydovich comes into the room. Mishka and Ivan greet him warm-heartedly. Ospi goes over the names of the enemies of Soviet power and asks why aren’t the Melekhovs on the list? The enemies of the Soviets must be punished now or they will just become rebels later. The fact is that the majority of the Cossacks don’t support the communists. Mishka tells Osip that he will go get Grishka right away. He walks over to Grishka’s house but once there he sees he is not there. He says that they have slipped away and leaves.

Chapter 17. Koshevoy.

Osip Davydovich is leading an outdoor rally. One of the Cossacks asks if can speak frankly, without being arrested. Osip tells him to go ahead. The man says that the communists want to wipe out all the Cossacks. Osip says all the communists want is an end to all the bloodshed. A messenger comes in to tells Mischka that while they rally the Whites have attacked. Mischka tries to go for help but is shot.

Mischka makes it back home. His mother tells him that the must go away. They will find him here. She gives him a horse. He gets on the horse and slowly rides away.  

Chapter 18. Pyiotr’s Death.

Grishka and some other Whites go over to talk to Stepan. Stepan tells them that he is not going to fight again. Grishka tells Khristonya to grab him and stand him up against the wall outside. Suddenly, Stepan changes his tune and says he will join them.

Pyotr and the Whites see the Reds setting up a battery at Mayveyev Mound. Grishka warns Pyotor about the ravines, but Pyotr says that the ravines are no problem. The Reds suddenly attack. Pyotr and his few men retreat to the ravine. Stepan uses the confusion to get away from the fighting.

The Reds tell the Whites in the ravine to come up. Their situation is hopeless. Mischka tells Pyotr to undress. Pyotr begs Ivan not to kill him. But it is not Ivan that acts, but Mischka. Mischka shoots Pyotr dead.

Pyotr’s body is brought to his father’s house. The women cry over the body. Aksinya watches from around the corner. She wants to speak with Grishka but can’t get the opportunity.

Chapter 19. Before the Battle.

The men with Grishka tell him that he is their hero. They rely and depend upon him. The men sing various Russians songs.

Chapter 20. Bolsheviks.

Fighting begins. Grishka gets up to go to battle. He tells his men that he will lead the first company himself. He shouts: "To the attack my brothers!" The first men Grishka finds he slashes. He goes into a slashing frenzy. His own men have to wrestle him down off his horse. Grishka is killing his own men. Once Grishka realizes what he’s done he says: "There’s no forgiving me. Kill me! Put me to death!" One of his men says that Grishka is gorged with war.



Chapter 1. Family Affairs.

The cherry trees are in blossom. Natalya complains to Grishka about his drinking sprees and his whoring. He tells her: "We walk on the edge of death and sometimes a man trips." He asks: "Who’ll heal the breach between us and the Soviets now?" Natalya tells him to stop blaming his bad behavior on the war. She tells her husband that she should have finished herself off that time she tried to kill herself.

Grishka starts repairing a fence. Darya comes out to complain that he always ignores her. She says that Grishka is the only Cossack left in the village, so let her look at him from a distance. Darya laughs and says the local girls say it’s unfair that the only man left always sticks right by his wife’s side.

Chapter 2. Another Encounter.

Grishka goes down to the Don River. Aksinya is there and he talks to her. He says it’s been a long time since they last talked. But even though it’s been awhile, he still can’t tear her out of his heart. He has grown kids and still he thinks of her. He even sees her in his dreams. Grishka says he still loves her. Aksinya feels similarly.

Aksinya calls Darya over to speak with her. She gives Darya a gold ring to keep in exchange for telling Grishka to come out and see her. Darya agrees to the deal. Aksinya and Grishka walk in the fields and he puts his arm around her.

Chapter 3. Meeting.

The village of Ust-Khopyorskaya. A messenger arrives to tell Osip that there is a mutiny in the Serdobsky Regiment. The messenger asks for Mischka, but Osip tells him that Mischka went to Ust-Medveditskaya.

The soldiers hold a huge rally. Opis gets up to speak to them. He says shame on them. Their commanders are traitors. "Come to your senses!" he shouts. Suddenly Opis is shot by one of the soldiers. He still keeps speaking against the mutiny so he is shot again. This time he is down and out. Another man gets up to scream: "Death to the communists! Beat them!"

Chapter 4. Darya Takes Justice in Her Hands.

The Red prisoners of war are coming home. Ivan Alexeyevich is one of the returning prisoners. But Mishka Koshevoy is not among the prisoners. Darya jumps out at Ivan and demands that he tell her how he killed her husband. Ivan says he didn’t kill her husband. Darya grabs a rifle and shoots Ivan dead.

Grishka arrives home to the news that Darya killed Ivan. Grishka can’t believe it. He goes outside to find Darya sleeping off a drunken spree. He spits on the ground in disgust with her and rides away.

The White officials calls out for Darya. They asks her if she is the widow of the killed Cornet Melekhov? Yes, she is. They give her a medal and 500 rubles for her display of valor. The government also expresses its sympathy. Darya takes the money and goes.

Chapter 5. Revelations.

Natalya asks Darya why they gave her a medal? She says for killing Ivan Alexeyevich. Darya jokes around with the women saying that with one more medal she’ll be a general. They all laugh. They continue laughing when Darya says she will be put in charge of all the old men in the village and she will train them to march.

After a spree of laughter Darya is overcome by feelings of grief and sits on her bed. Natalya goes over to console her. Darya tells her not to touch her. She says she won’t live long. (The implication is that she has contracted a venereal disease.) This repulses Natalya. Darya says that she wants to confess something to Natalya, something about the ring. Natalya says she guessed correctly the meaning of the ring. Then she tells Darya that she knows that Darya only confessed to hurt her. Darya admits it’s true. She asks: "Why should I be the only one to suffer?"

Chapter 6. Prayer.

Natalya tells her mother-in-law that Grishka has gone back to Aksinya. She says she won’t live with him any more and she won’t bear him any more children. (And she is presently pregnant again.) Lightning and thunder begin and it becomes very windy. Natalya starts crying and shouts: "May the Lord punish him. May the Lord strike him dead." Mom says that she must ask for God’s forgiveness for asking God to strike dead the father of her children.

Chapter 7. Natalya.

The kids are teaching Dunya to read. Mom comes in and asks where’s Natalya? Natalya went out early in the morning. Mom is very worried about the "poor" girl. Meanwhile, Natalya is slowing dragging her body home. It appears that she has probably aborted herself.

Father comes in and wonders what is going on. Mother comes and tells him to go get a doctor. She then whispers into his ear about the abortion. Father is very upset and calls Natalya a "shameless" woman to do a thing like that.

Natalya tells mom when she dies to dress her in her green skirt. Dunya brings in Natalya’s son and daughter. They don’t understand why their mother is sick. Natalya dies.

Grishka rides home as fast as he can. Darya says nothing as he arrives and goes into the house. His father cries and Grishka cries.

Chapter 8. Red and White.

Late July 1919, the Don White Guard Army’s forward units were stationed at Balashov. Captain Grishka is getting drunk with a buddy and a man from Great Britain named Mr. Campbell. The buddy tells Grishka that Campbell believes that the Reds will beat the Whites. The fellow asks Grishka why is he so sad? He says his wife died recently. Grishka wants to know Mr. Campbell’s reasoning so his buddy asks him. Campbell tells him in English that he has seen bare-footed soldiers going against tanks. Artillery explosions come closer to Grishka’s place of shelter. In Russian Grishka tells Mr. Campbell to go home or he’ll be sorry.

Chapter 9. Darya.

Red artillery fire is heard in the distance. An old mans says: "When the Don freezes over, the Reds will chase us all the way to the sea." Grandmother tells her grandson to play in the yard. Aksinya sees the boy playing and she comes over and kisses him a number of times saying: "Grishka’s son!"

The two daughters, Darya and Dunya, go bathing in the river. Darya swims way out to the middle of the river. She floats and then goes down but comes right back up to say: "Goodbye, Dunya!" She sinks beneath the water again and doesn’t come back up. Dunya screams: "Darya! Come back!" She then runs home shouting: "Darya’s drowned! Daryya’s drowned!"

Chapter 10 Assembling a Hundred.

Grishka comes back home. He asks if father has been mobilized for long. No, says mother. She says that Mitka Korshunov betrayed him. And it was Mitka who killed Granny Koshevaya and the children for revenge against Mishka.

Grishka tells Dunya that it is time for her to get a bridegroom. But it cannot be Mishka. If he sees Dunya with Mishka he says he will tear her limb from limb. Dunya says nothing.

Grishka says he’s leaving tomorrow and will take Aksinya with him. His traveling buddy Prosha says he doesn’t care if she comes along.

Chapter 11. On the Road.

The Whites are fleeing. Grishka, Aksinya and Prosha travel in a cart. Aksinya becomes sick with typhus and calls out for Grishka even though he is right there by her side. Grishka asks the owner of the house to let Aksinya stay with him and he will pay for her care. But Grishka has no Tsarist bills and no Kerensky money. Prosha suddenly slaps his money on the table to give to the man. Now the farmer will take care of Aksinya.

Chapter 12. Flight.

Novorossiyisk, March 3, 1920. Everybody’s trying to get on the same ship. Grishka is one of those trying to get aboard but it is hopeless. Prosha tells Grishka that they should go to Tiflis and from there to the Turks. No, says Grishka. Anyway, it’s too late, he says. The Reds have arrived. The people on the dock panic and run for cover.

Chapter 13. "Antichrist."

Spring comes to Tatarsky. Mom goes over to Aksinya’s house to welcome her home. She asks if she knows anything about Grishka? No, she doesn’t. Mother says that Panteley Prokofievich died on the retreat. She adds that they are left all alone now. She urges Aksinya to come see them once she is settled in.

Mother sees Mishka and is deliberately rude to him. Mishka asks where is Dunya? Mother answers that he had better not make her angry. She asks him: "How do you dare come to our house?" After all, he killed Pyotr. Mishka admits it.

Mishka sees Dunya and to get her daughter away from him mom tells her to go fetch water. She goes back to the attack: "How can you even face me? Murderer. Get out of here! . . . I can’t bear the sight of you." Mishka asks about her Korshunov. Isn’t he a murderer? And if there ever was a murderer, certainly it would have to be Grishka. Mishka leaves.

Chapter 14. New Master.

Mishka goes outside to talk with Dunya. She complains that their boat is not ready to be used this spring. Mishka promises to fix the boat. Grishka’s son comes to ask him what he is doing. Suddenly Mishka gets the shivers and asks the boy to go get him a blanket so he can cover himself. The boy goes to his grandmother. She gives him a blanket but refers to Mishka as the "antichrist".

Dunya has already covered Mishka with a blanket. He is shivering badly.

Aksinya stops to tell Dumnya that Prokhor Zykov, Grishka’s buddy, is back. He has been wounded. She will go over to see him to see what she can find out about Grishka.

Chapter 15. Good News.

Aksinya goes to see Prokhor. He tells her that Grishka is alive and well. They were in Novorossiyisk and the two of them joined Comrade Budyonny’s Cavalry. Grishka was put in command of a hundred men, a squadron. Prokhor served under him. They went straight to Kiev. And, by the way, Grikshka earned a citation.

Chapter 16. Blessing.

Dunya wants her mother to giver her blessing to marry Mishka, but mother says no. "Then I’ll run away from home," says Dunya. Mother doesn’t want to be all alone with only herself to raise Grishka’s two children. So mother gives her blessing. Dunya cries and kisses her mother’s hand.

Mother takes out her burial clothes, which shocks Dunya. She says she will not live to see Grishka come back home.

Mishka and Dunya are together. Dunya tells him that she wants a church wedding. She also mentions that her mother’s getting ready to die.

Chapter 17. Chairman.

Mishka goes to the chairman’s office. He is taking over from the now old man, who says: "Thank God!" The former chairman tells him: "There’s no money."

Chapter 18. Grigory’s Arrival.

Dunya tells Mishka that Grishka has arrived. He goes in to see Grishka. Grishka greets him warmly, saying: "It’s been a long time. It seems like a hundred years." Mishka is so pleasantly surprised that he tells Dunya that they will have a big celebration for the master’s homecoming.

At the dinner Prokhor comes in so happy to see Grishka, who finished as a Deputy Regional Commander. Pokhor asks why did they let Grishka go so fast? Grishka says it’s probably because of his past. Aksinya comes to visit. She gives a toast to Grishka and downs a small glass of vodka. Then Aksinya and Grishka go to a separate room to kiss passionately.

Chapter 19. Hard Talk.

Mishka tells Grishka that they are enemies. Grishka says: "We were." Mishka says that Grishka has killed too many Red fighters and that’s why he can’t look at Grishka and not feel hatred. He just can’t forget it.

Grishka says that Mishka is afraid that he will rebel against the Soviets. Mishka says: "Once there’s trouble, you’ll join the other side." Grishka says he’s not going to join anybody. All he wants to do now is live with his children on his farm. But Mishka says Grishka has to go before the Revolutionary Tribunal. And he has to register tomorrow. In fact, Mishka insists that he register tomorrow. Grishka tells him: "What a bastard you’ve become." Mishka warns him that he is not used to this kind of talk. He insists that Grishka go tomorrow or he will have him conveyed there.

Chapter 20. Running Away.

Grishka is with Aksinya and she tells him that his hair has become very gray. There is a knock on the door. Aksinya says: "It’s Dunya!" Dunya comes in to tell her brother to run for it. There are four men who have come from town saying he is to be arrested. Grishka gives his sister a big kiss. She leaves. He kisses Aksinya goodbye and leaves.

Chapter 21.  Agitation. 

The Whites try to get the populous to throw out the Reds, the Bolsheviks.  A spokesman says that they are to stop feeding the communist parasites.  But the feeling of the people is that they are tried of fighting.  One man says it's time for harvesting and not for fighting.  A messengers comes galloping in shouting:  "To horse!  The Reds!"  The Whites jump on their horses and leave as fast as they can.  Chasing them come the Reds.

Chapter 22.  Together Again.

Grishka and three other Whites are down by the Don River talking.  Grishka becomes fed up with it all and says:  "I'm going and you cannot stop me."  The gung-ho White spokesman says he will shoot Grishka, but Grishka says the man cannot afford to make any noise at this time.  He gets in the boat and starts for home. 

Chapter 23.  Aksinya's Death.

Grishka comes to Aksinya's house.  He knocks on the window.  Aksinya opens the window and they kiss.  Grishka has to sneak through the window to avoid being seen at the door.  He tells her he wants her to go with him south to Kuban (another Cossack stronghold) or farther.  Aksinya says she will do anything to go with him.  She says:  "I can't live without you, Grishka."  Early in the morning they leave on horseback.  Along the road three Red soldiers order them to:  "Halt!"  Grishka and Aksinya make a run for it.  One of the soldiers fires his rifle at them.  He tells his buddies as they turn back that he thinks he hit one of the riders.  And hit one the riders he did indeed.  He hit Aksinya in the back.  Grishka holds her and tries to stop the bleeding.  She dies in his arms. 

Chapter 24.  Coming Home. 

Grishka sits by the grave of Aksinya under a tree with the two horses.  A fellow comes along and asks who did he bury?  Grishka says he buried his wife.  The guys asks Grishka to come with him.  Grishka tells him no.  He is going home.  Grishka cries.  He gives the man the horse Aksinya was riding.  The fellow thanks Grishka, gets on the horse and rides out. 

We see Grishka walking on the frozen Don River.  As he nears his home, he throws his rifle, pistol and holster and his medals into a hole through the ice.  He has a thick beard.  As he gets very close to home he sees his son playing.  He calls out to him, but his son doesn't recognize him.  Grishka calls him his son and picks him up.  He walks with his son in his arms the rest of the way home. 


Very good film.  It is in many ways like "Gone with the Wind".  It's a "soap opera" as the critics said about the American film (but I don't mean the term soap opera in a negative way).  It covers a lot of people over a considerable amount of time.  In the American film the war is the Civil War.  In the Russian story there are wars plural:  World War I and the Russian Civil War.  (There is also the infamous Russian Revolution.)  The rebels of the American South were excited about going to war against the North.  Likewise, many of the Cossacks were ready for and upbeat about going to war.  And like the American southerners, they get a bellyful of it and then some.   Many important characters in the Russian film are killed off one by one.  In the American film the heroine is very selfish and very determined to get what she wants (Scarlett O'Hara).  In the Russian film there is Aksinya.  She goes from her husband Steppan to Grishka to the General's son, back to Stepan and finally back to Grishka.  Grishka is the Clark Gable role of Rhett Butler.  Both of them were wronged by the woman they loved.  Like Scarlet and Rhett the love between Grishka and Aksinya is very strong and endures over time and many obstacles. 

What upset the Soviets (and Stalin in particular) was that the Whites were presented as talented and determined men equal to the talented and determined men of the Reds.  This is especially shown by Grishka who at first fights for the Reds and then turns to fight for the Whites.  Shokolov had to talk personally with Stalin about this issue before he could publish more of his work.  

My wife is a big "Gone with the Wind" fan and she also liked this film.  There is a rough spot to get through  -- the political machinations part of revolutionary politics.  But you can get through this and get on to the love story.  Actually, in the Russian film politics and war plays a bigger part than in the American film. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.



Return To Main Page

Return to Home Page (Vernon Johns Society)