Russkii Bunt: Proshkin’s Film Adaptation of Pushkin’s Kapitanskaya Dochka and Istoriya Pugacheva

Melissa Sokol, Brown University

With all the festivities that were part of the 200th anniversary of A.S. Pushkin’s birth, it is no surprise that a film was made bringing (again) his works to life. To commemorate this anniversary Aleksandr Proshkin made an epic film “po motivam” “Kapitanskaya Dochka” and “Istoriya Pugacheva.” Considering that four film versions of “Kapitanskaya Dochka” exist, and that the underlying story is well-known, undertaking production of this film was certainly not easy (Skvortsova-Ardabatsaya; Zorkaya). This “cult film” is regarded as having the necessary ingredients to be a box office success: "nemnogo seksa, nemnogo nasiliya i kheppi-end" (Eel’maa). But in addition to its appeal to moviegoers, this film is of interest to literary scholars due to the way in which it emphasizes and sheds light on the longstanding debates regarding Pushkin’s works.

Literary critics have been examining the relationship between Pushkin’s work of historical fiction (“Kapitanskaya Dochka”) and his history ("Istoriya Pugacheva"). How and why did his interest in Pugachev lead him to write works of different genres and what is the relationship between these works? As Proshkin’s film begins it is noted that the film is based on both works. I will explore how Proshkin represents these different genres in the film. In particular, I will focus on the role Pugachev plays in the film in order to demonstrate how Proshkin blends into this character elements from both Pushkin's historical fiction and history.

Scholars have also been discussing the idea of chance, how it plays a role in Pushkin’s works in general and in “Kapitanskaya dochka” in particular. Proshkin’s film version changes the role that chance plays. For example, whereas in Pushkin’s historical novel Masha learns where Catherine walks and the two end up on the same bench, in the film version Masha rushes out in front of a horse which is part of Catherine’s entourage. She tells Catherine (knowing full well that she is speaking with the Empress) of her fate, and passes her the letter in which she justifies Grinev’s actions and thus innocence. By examining such changes made by Proshkin I will analyze the role chance plays.

Proshkin’s film is also interesting in its focus on the religious beliefs and ethnicities represented by the peoples in the Orenburg region. For instance, Savelich’s prayers at an Orthodox church are juxtaposed to the offerings of Muslim prayers. In addition to considering this, I will discuss the significance of the Kirghiz hats and speech, yurts and melons in Proshkin’s film and how they relate to Pushkin’s texts.


Eel’maa, Iurii. “ Pushkin i Proshkin: Dva vzglyada na “Kapitanskuiu dochku.” Uchitel'skaya gazeta.

Skvortsova-Ardabatskaya. “Skromonoe obayanie ‘Russkogo bunta.’” Moskovskii komsomolets.

Zorkaya, Neya. “Aleksandr Proshkin v kartine ‘Russkii bunt’ razdumyvaet ob istoricheskom opyte Rossii.” Nezavisimaya gazeta, February 16, 2000.