"Documentary film on life and self-sacrificing patriotism of Gennady Zyuganov, Russia’s Communist Party leader"
by Gilbert Doctorow, gilbertdoctorow.com (June 27, 2024)

Russian prime time television is not entirely devoted to news from the front lines in the Ukraine war, or news about terrorist devastation of civilian targets perpetrated by the ‘Kiev regime.’ Besides the inevitable ‘serials’ which play out femme fatale intrigues set in Hollywood-style glamorous real estate, there can also be thought provoking programs of substance. Such was the case last night when the channel Rossiya 1 aired a 46-minute-long documentary film on Gennady Zyuganov, decades-long leader of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation who is celebrating his 80th birthday.

The film bears the title Правда Зюганова, which is a play on words meaning ‘the truth about Zyuganov’ while also making reference to the party newspaper Pravda where he figures so prominently. The production team listed at the end appears to be normal staff of the broadcaster with no superstar director. The main contributor is the presenter, journalist Yevgeni Rozhkov.


What we have here is a dramatic restatement of Russian history from the period of Gorbachev to present, one which pulls no punches and leaves no doubt about Gorbachev’s responsibility for the implosion of the economy and collapse of the Soviet Union, no doubt about Yeltsin’s treacherous sell-out of Russian interests to the United States and the pauperization of the broad population during his years of misrule [emphasis added].

There are a number of vignette appearances worthy of note.

One is by Vladimir Bortko, one of Russia’s finest cinema directors who is best known for his 2002 production of Dostoevky’s Idiot in 10 episodes for television. Three years later he directed the best ever film edition of Bulgakov’s Master and Margarita also in episodes. I say this to hammer home that Bortko is one of the most serious creative personalities of 21st century Russia and he stands by Zyuganov.
Bortko is a Communist Party member and served in the State Duma from 2011 to 2016.

Another prominent personal reference for Zyuganov is given by the prolific novelist and political activist Alexander Prokhanov, who once was close to the Communists, though he never joined the party and today stands on the ultra-nationalist hard Right of Russian politics. As they say, politics makes strange bedfellows!

The third vignette appearance is by a grandson of Zyuganov who speaks about his experiences with his grandfather during his childhood and about Zyuganov, the family man as opposed to the stern fighter as public figure.

However, in political terms the most significant comments about Zyuganov are made by Speaker of the State Duma Vyacheslav Volodin, whose appreciation takes us back not just to the many years he has answered hostile questions from Zyuganov in the lower chamber but to Zyuganov’s critically important role in saving Russian democracy in 1996, about which we will speak in a minute.

Then there is a brief interview with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov who also pays his respects to Zyuganov for his principled conduct of politics and defense of national interests.

Of course, such comments from representatives of Russia’s ruling party will hardly surprise Western cynics who say there is no real opposition to the United Russia party from among the Duma parties, pointing instead to disseminators of subversion and armed revolt like Alexei Navalny as the real voice of the people. But pay them no mind: the Western cynics care not a whit about Russia and know nothing about the realities of Russian politics. Moreover, they would likely miss entirely the very important political statements about how official Russia now regards its past leaders who are so celebrated in the West, and whose betrayal of Russian statehood and of the well-being of its population were quietly overlooked in Washington, London and Berlin [emphasis added].

Indeed, this film takes direct aim at Mikhail Gorbachev, and more especially at Boris Yeltsin, while also putting in a less than flattering light such heroes of Russia’s Liberal movement so beloved in Washington as the leader of Yabloko, Grigor Yavlinsky, and economist Yegor Gaidar of the Democratic Choice Party, briefly Yeltsin’s prime minister who put in motion the destruction of what remained of the Russian economy by his American-guided transition from the planned to a free market economy [emphasis added].

We are treated to the film clip of drunken Yeltsin dancing wildly on stage during the 1996 electoral campaign. As we know, shortly thereafter he suffered a heart attack which nearly took him out of political life. We are shown Yeltsin’s declaration to the joint session of Congress during his visit to Washington: “God bless America.” In today’s context that remark is by itself enough to topple Yeltsin from any pedestal in Russia.

But the key piece in the film is the discussion of the electoral results in the presidential race of 1996 which according to exit polls gave Zyuganov a handsome victory but according to the official tally left him far behind Boris Nikolaevich. Would Zyuganov denounce the official tally? Would he call his people out onto the streets to demonstrate against the fraud being perpetrated on the country?

There was a phone call between Yeltsin and Zyuganov at that critical moment during which Zyuganov conceded defeat. He did so for one reason only: to avoid the outbreak of a civil war, which was highly likely if he had pursued the victory that was being denied him.

For this act of patriotism alone, today’s official Russia rightly salutes the leader of the Communist Party. It is also a rebuke to all of those in the Putin-hating West who insist that Vladimir Vladimirovich has destroyed the free and democratic Russia of the 1990s.


This film does what all such tributes to leading personalities regularly do: it takes us back to Zyuganov’s family home in Orlov region where Gennady Andreevich points to the window of the wooden frame house behind which was his bedroom. A neighbor from those days is given the microphone to talk about the Zyuganov family. We hear about how his schoolteacher mother saw him through his primary education. We follow his rise in the Communist Party to his appointment as head of the Moscow region by Yuri Andropov, one of the two aged and ill CPSU leaders in the transition from Brezhnev to Gorbachev. This position put him at the center of national politics, from which he never turned back.

Of course, the importance of this film is not in these nostalgic moments but in recounting the political environment that Zyuganov found himself in after Gorbachev’s inept handling of political and economic reforms led to the Putsch by Party loyalists in the summer of 1991 and subsequent banning of the party. The Party’s resurrection under his leadership reestablished its credibility in democratic Russia as a genuine Opposition in parliament to the despotic Yeltsin regime which ruled by decree [emphasis added].

I highly recommend this film. It is now available only in Russian, but surely will be reissued with English voice over or subtitles in the coming days.

©Gilbert Doctorow, 2024