esmaspäev, aprill 05, 2010

buratino

My wife sat in our bedroom spellbound by YouTube clips of The Adventures of Buratino, a 1975 Russian-language made-for-TV film. For her the song at the finale, with an auditorium full of children shouting "Bu-ra-ti-no!," brought back warm memories of a happy childhood. And there always is this question in Estonia of how fondly to recall life in the Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic.

It reminded me of an interview I read with Toomas Hendrik Ilves conducted by Mikhail Veller and published last month in Nezavasimaya Gazeta:

--

What do you think now, many years later – aside from the bad, did Soviet rule bring Estonia anything good?

If I’m not mistaken, Brodsky has an essay on this topic. He answers it this way: yes, but no.

But didn’t Estonia have a dynamic, intriguing and rich literary, painting and musical scene? A foundation was laid for science; the Estonian Academy of Sciences was founded…

Yes. But it all took place under pressure. It would appear that a totalitarian regime is still too high a price to pay for artistic development.

--

Too high a price to pay for artistic development, most certainly. But what about all those kids clapping and shouting about Buratino? If that film was made under Stalinist guidelines of Soviet realism, where everything has but one meaning, I couldn't tell. Besides, little Buratino didn't even have a red star on his nose. Wait, Buratino? Who the hell is Buratino?

If you are from the Anglo world like me, then Buratino is Pinocchio. But in the Russian world, Pinocchio is Buratino. Just as Puff Daddy took The Police's 1983 hit "I'll be Watching You" and made it his own in 1997 with "I'll be Missing You," Aleksey Nikolayevich Tolstoy borrowed the motifs from Carlo Collodi's 1883 masterpiece The Adventures of Pinocchio and made them his own in his 1936 book for children, The Golden Key, or the Adventures of Buratino. Tolstoy had read the original as a child, tried to recreate it as an adult, and came up with something slightly new, he said. "Geppetto" became "Papa Carlo," and other new characters were thrown into the mix. The book soon spawned a series of cartoons, films, records, dolls, and other Soviet merchandise. It's still somewhat popular. While Estonians now consider their land to fall under the protective umbrella of the West, to this day they put on Buratino plays. In the Estonian language, of course.

That was another "Say wha?" moment the other night. The 1975 film my wife was watching was in Russian. Except my wife's native language is not Russian and, even though she lived within the USSR as a child, Viljandi county in the southwest of Estonia is a pretty monolingual environment, unless you want to consider Mulgi dialect a separate language from Estonian. "Did you understand what they were saying back then?" I asked her. "Muidugi," she replied. Muidugi? Of course?

For me, and a lot of Americans, this one is a bit hard to fathom. The most of any other language I knew as a child was gleaned from listening to Speedy Gonzalez, Warner Brothers' "fastest mouse in all of Mexico," shout ¡Ándale! ¡Arriba! French lessons were provided by a skunk named Pepé Le Pew, who was always searching for "l'amour." Affaire d'amour? Affaire de coeur? Je ne sais quoi ... je vive en espoir. Mmmm m mm ... un smella vous finez. So, no, I was not functional in any language other than inglise keel as a child. How did she do it? I don't know. But she still knows the Russian words to the songs in Buratino.

An interesting aside: as a child, a lot of the programming I consumed was not produced in the United States. Instead, other than Looney Tunes, I watched imported British television (cartoons like Danger Mouse, spooky serials like The Third Eye). In my formative years, I saw enough British TV that I still get excited when I see the old logo of Thames Television. Whenever I see the reflection of London in the river, something stirs in my chest; I know that something really good is about to happen. "Ah, the good old Thames," thinks this New York-bred 30-year-old who lives in Estonia, "how I miss it."

What does this really mean? It means that we are dinosaurs. How small is the demographic of Estonians for whom that Buratino film from 1975 brings back warm feelings of nostalgia? It's a preciously thin slice of the local population. Likewise, how many Americans really care about Danger Mouse? For most, he's a successful DJ, not a mouse detective. And Mikhail Veller can reference Eesti NSV and the triumphs of the cassette generation, but how many Estonians today are still leafing through the nearly 50-year-old works of Leelo Tungal and Jaan Kaplinski?

When our 15-year-old babysitter gets a case of childhood nostalgia, she starts talking about the Moomin TV series from the early 90s. I don't understand it, but she can sit and watch those old Finnish cartoons dubbed into Estonian all day long.

51 kommentaari:

Kalle Kniivilä ütles ...

Fascinating. However, the Moomin cartoons are actually Japanese. My children here in Sweden watched them dubbed to Finnish. Now they speak Finnish with a slight Moomin accent. :-)

Tiamsuu ütles ...

Buratino? Bah. I found an even more nostalgic gem on Youtube the other day: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n-GbnsNgStA.

I remember playing four tankists and a dog in primary school. Nobody wanted to be the dog.

Myst ütles ...

I get nostalgic over "Nu Pogodi" cartoons. The Soviet Tom & Jerry: the charmingly malicious wolf and the happy-go-lucky rabbit. 'Tis good!

Here's a sample:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mM8qgX3vbuI

H. ütles ...

He-he, I remember these USSR cartoons etc as well and I love them! But funny thing is, I am from later time, from '88. And either for that or not, I also remember and love the Danger Mouse (with the Thames Television logo) and others and I have also watched Moomins... and then the oddities of the '90s like Digimon and the likes.

Brüno ütles ...

The Moomin Japanese connection is blurry for me. (I am too lazy to wiki it to find out). Finns seem to present Moomin as their own. Which is it?

For those of you, who share the shiny Soviet Childhood watch this for goosebumps ... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_4m-jXuQHLg

My 3 year old can watch this over and over ....

Indrek ütles ...

The Moomin Japanese connection is blurry for me.

The book is written by a Finn.

Bea ütles ...

What to tell about the Soviet animation? It was cute. Did you know, Giustino, that there had not been all that many Soviet movies and kids were shown and had happily watched all the same movies over and over again for tens of years. Kids and their parents knew what was there, and they'd not even expected to see some new movie. That's where the "I know" and "I understand in what ever language that is" and "Aw, that's my childhood..." come from so quickly.

Rainer ütles ...

Actually the Russians did have a knack for doing children's stuff, both movies and cartoons. They have certain emotional appeal and philosophical depth which makes them fascinating even today and bring forth fond memories.
"The Hedgehog in the Fog" still gets me every time...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dRsXU4Q6a0Q

And it is my firm belief that it's their timelessness that makes them dear to us, not the fact that they are from the "Soviet period". It's a case of "despite", not "because".

Myst ütles ...

Aren't everyone nostalgic about happy stuff from their childhood? I don't think it matters if the childhood was spent in the USA, the USSR, France or North Korea.

Indrek ütles ...

I don't understand. Was "The Hedgehog in the Fog" supposed to be a children's cartoon?

I remember that every time they showed it I thought: "this crap again".

Other thing they showed from time to time was "Klaasikillumäng" and I still don't get for what audience was it aimed at.

Then again I am not really a soviet time kid. I was 7 when it collapsed and then we had stuff like Transformers (in Deutsch). Back then I haven't trouble understanding cartoons dubbed in german. Now when I listen to some german channel I can catch only some words..

Tiia ütles ...

I loved my childhood in Soviet Estonia, it was great! :) Even though we only had very few cartoons and even less time to watch them - we were busy playing outside. In the summertime, our parents would let us stay out until 12 without any problems, even playing in Lasnamäe. There would be kids all over the place, it was awesome. I don't know if I would let my son do that now. Starting in first grade, a pack of us 6 year olds would make it from there to school in the city center and back every day. It seemed like a safe place to live. When it comes to glorifying the Soviet times, I think it may happen to those of us who just saw that happy side of it through a child's eyes.

Martasmimi ütles ...

Tiia ütles...
I loved my childhood in Soviet Estonia, it was great! :) Even though we only had very few cartoons and even less time to watch them - we were busy playing outside.

Tiia: My life was much the same here.
When my family moved me to Long Islands North Shore at the age of 10 I was the oldest in my family...
We would leave the house after breakfast ..and spend the days roaming the farm down the road..then home for lunch and then down to the beach for the afternoon.
We too were out till late at night(not till 12) but then a quick shower and off to sleep ...and yes very little TV as well.
Justin spent his days at the beach and I think has more of a boys tale or version of his summers.
The East End of our Island still provides a bit of this lifestyle.

Kaspar ütles ...

I lived at lasnamäe too and I remember when we got our first satellite dish in '93 and I discovered cartoon network, oh happy days:) I was about 8 years old.
But I had to spend my summerdays in a village near Viljandi where we had only black and white TV, so I never wanted to go there...

If we weren't playing outside, we watched "Hunt Kriimsilm", or "Vembu ja Tembu" or other children plays what were shown on ETV every day.

plasma-jack ütles ...

"Did you understand what they were saying back then?" I asked her. "Muidugi," she replied.

All the Russian movies and cartoons shown on ETV were of course translated to Estonian.

And there is no controversy in loving the Russian culture and hating their political system. The intellectuals from both sides of the border had similar views and they still do: look at Veller, for instance. By the way, Ilves's interview had only two comments on NG, both were something like 'we really need more politicians like that over here". Oh, dear Russians... so do we.

à propos, read Lyudmila Ulitskaya's 'interview' with Khodorkovsky in English (or in German) here, if you want to know how some Russian intellectuals feel about things.

Doris ütles ...

Vembu ja Tembu... the A-Team cartoon (!) dubbed in Russian, Biker Mice from Mars, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Hunt Kriimsilm, Klaabu, the Pipi Piksukk and Tjorven movies made in Sweden but dubbed in Estonian... The adventures of Lolo and Pepe (penguins), The Tzar Saltan fairy tale, which was dubben in Estonian and rhymed (as the original did). I think I still remember part of the text, the bit about the squirrel... and the bit about the 40 warriors emerging from the sea, the mighty Grigor (???) leading them.

Siil udus used to bore me. To this day, that's what "siil udus" means to me: someone who's boring. (as opposed to what it means to most people: someone who's lost)

Oh, and there used to be this really scary space-cartoon, I dont' remember the name. But it was all red and the music was very scary.

Brüno ütles ...

"Siil udus" is a wonderfully trippy cartoon. It's a cult classics. So was Cheburashka and Crocodile Gena. Noo-pogaidi was great. Then there was this cartoon about the Crow and Black and White Dog. Me and my brother loved that the most. Is this up on the internet somehwere? I'd really appreciate, if somebody could give a link to it here.

Giustino ütles ...

We have the DVD for Must ja Valge Koer. I think it's a Czech cartoon.

Brüno ütles ...

I wish I had this on a DVD. Maybe it is on Amazon.com in NTSC? How to find it? What is it titled in English? Has anyone found it on youtube?

Lingüista ütles ...

I agree that there is no contradiction between disliking the Soviet regime and liking cartoons. Especially (as in the case of Siil udus) when there is really nothing very political at issue, just a trippy cartoon.

When I grew up in Brazil we picked up lots of English words from American cartoons. Then during adolescence came American serials, which are still around. (I've met Americans who were really surprised to know that Brazilians watched, say, Magnum or Charlie's Angels -- as if these things contained some sort of American secret that couldn't be understood south of the Rio Grande).

I quite like Russian movies ("Moscow does not believe in tears"). The comedies were funny (Osip Bender: "This is not Rio de Janeiro!...") Hey, when I say I'm Brazilian to the Russian oldtimers, they still give the old line, "I'm your aunt from Brazil, where there are many wild monkeys!..."

I think there was an art about saying interesting stuff even though you had to (officially) abide by Soviet Realism. That was probably part of the fun. And I do agree that Russians have a certain philosophical depth to their cultural production that makes it quite attractive. (Gorin and his magical-etherial movies also come to mind -- "Baron Münchhausen", "The Home that Swift Build", "Simply a Miracle", "The Dragon"...). From "Kot Leopold" to "Dyadya Fyodor", there was lots of stuff worth watching for people of all ages.

stockholm slender ütles ...

Tove Jansson was a Swedish speaking Finn, an excellent writer all around and even those Moomin books are not atrocious (even though children's literature). The Japanese animation was quite awful though.

Myst ütles ...

I agree that there is no contradiction between disliking the Soviet regime and liking cartoons.

Another side of it is that many of us here haven't been adults in the Soviet Union. We didn't get a feel of it. Life in the USSR was just fun and games and... cartoons. Yes, we knew we were poor 'cause we saw Finnish TV, but there was still food on the table and a roof overhead, so... no probs. :)

Mette ütles ...

The Czech also had nice cartoons.
Besides the black and white dog, later on there was a Maksikoer Fix (still remember Raivo Järvi doing voiceovers for it) and I remember being impressed by full length "Krabat". http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0075811/
Does anyone remember that one?
Oh and when already mentioning Raivo Järvi, then Onu Raivo doing Saturday spent with dad or Cat Arthur and Postal Chicken from the Biggest Friend?
(Hmm, and next I start thinking of the Muppet Show that was broadcast from Finnish TV and many others.. At the age of 10 I was an avid fan of Sapphire & Steel, which wasn't meant for children... Oh and I must admit, I also feel a bit nostalgic whenever I see the Thames Television classic London skyline logo or hear the theme of Benny Hill - now I couldn't care to watch it, but back then... )

Another full length one that I still remember was the Flying Ghost Ship - http://ghiblicon.blogspot.com/2008/12/posters-flying-ghost-ship.html - a Russian-Japanese joint project.

As for the ones mentioned in previous comments: incidentally Pealtnägija showed last week excerpts from Soviet era cartoons and movies dubbed into Estonian and kids (5- and 9-year old) were suddenly both glued to the screen, their eyes lighting up and now they keep pestering me about getting them these DVDs.
So, I did some research and found out that some of the DVDs published by Sonatiin and sold for example in Lasering chain stores do indeed have the original Estonian dubbing I remember from my childhood and some of the DVDs have a new one. So I'll have to take time and find the ones with original nostalgia evoking dubbing and buy them and then perhaps I shall share these with the kids! :P

I mean cartoons like the Russian Winnie the Pooh, Three friends from Prostokvashino, 38 parrots and so on :)

Oh, and although the Hedgehog in the Fog was slow, it was "deep" and trippy at the same time.. So when someone mentions it to me, my first association is about true friendship and zen attitude. ;)
Not as much about being lost, but about being found. It is good to have someone on your side to gaze at the stars together, without having to say a word, isn't it?
M.

Jim Hass ütles ...

All your life is channel 13, sesame street, what does it mean?

Timbu ütles ...

My kid (age 4) s a fan of both Hedgehog in the Fog, Thomas the Tank Engine (British) and the Mole (Czech), besides a lot of other things. I love the Mole for being non-violent.
links to the last two:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ojRh15Gqtxs&feature=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G8gUPlP1E6E

plasma-jack ütles ...

for brüno

Troels-Peter ütles ...

Czech cartoons were great in those days, and many of them were also broadcast west of the Iron Curtain. I especially remember the mole. It was practically without words (except for "ahoj" when it popped out of the ground) so we could watch it both on Danish and West German tv. The souvenir shops in Prague still sell loads of soft toy moles to all Europeans.

Does anyone know what that great Thames Television children's series about time travelling people from the future is called in English?

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

Even West German tv related heavy on Eastern European productions before 1990 (for children): Chech mainly.
But there is a different experience for the East Germans. I don't know about tv but writers like Erno Raud were published.

straight ütles ...
Autor on selle kommentaari eemaldanud.
bunsen_lamp ütles ...
Autor on selle kommentaari eemaldanud.
bunsen_lamp ütles ...

... because Buratino had a whopping red star on his nose, dripping wet with protariat's enemies blood?

Inita ütles ...

Hay straight ... a question for ya, a little logical thinking test for you. What does being an anticommunist have anything to do with russophobia? Hmh?

What if I do not like baggy pants, does that make me also a racist?

straight ütles ...
Autor on selle kommentaari eemaldanud.
Giustino ütles ...

Only a russophobe could say it.

The Communists killed the tsar and his family, Straight. They weren't able to identify the Tsarevich until two years ago. And that was their symbol, a symbol all Soviet school children had to wear. Except Buratino.

is it an anticommunism, Inita?

Thank you for referencing my post on Sillamäe. You forgot to include the following sentence:
These expectations were not to be met.

Sharon ütles ...

I'm with Myst. It doesn't matter where you live or what you grow up watching - it's magic. It's that show you saw when you were three that fueled your dreams for years afterwards.

It's that image in that cartoon that sits in the corner of your mind and haunts you to this day.

Who cares if it was in a 'foreign' language? Who cares if it made no sense at all? It's still magic.

I often maintain that I grew up in England's Home Counties in the 1970s (even though I'm an Australian kid born in 1980). That's what was on the ABC when I was young. That Thames logo does it for me, too.

Lingüista ütles ...

straight,

you pick and choose, and you don't ask; you just throw and claim. Hmm. Maybe you need a course on politeness? Like, asking people's opinions before vomiting claims about 'what they think' to them? You know, it's the kind of thing my mother-in-law calls "вежливость", and which you should have to avoid being, you know, "некультурный"...

I hope other treat you better than you treat them.

夏文宏 ütles ...

生活是鍛鍊靈魂的妙方~~^^ ....................................................

straight ütles ...
Autor on selle kommentaari eemaldanud.
Brüno ütles ...

One would THINK that Giustino was joking, but on the other hand, maybe my dentist jokes betray me as a rabid anti-dentite, I do not know.

The bitch with all sorts of humour is that somebody somewhere always gets hurt.

Maybe that's why Americas Funnisest Movies are so funny?

Are we all some kind of phobes?

Where is puu when you need a convoluted argument?

We have an emergency here. We need more people to tell the other side of the story. The story of those who never get it.

Lingüista ütles ...

But that's exactly what Giustino didn't do, straight.

Brüno ütles ...

Straight - Giustino, on zhe nerusski. Znachit fashist. Shto zdes eshjo ne ponyatno?

Lingüista ütles ...

Брюно -- в том-то и дело. Ах, наши западные враги, которые желают видеть Великую Россию на коленах...

Brüno ütles ...

Thank you Plasma.

Gosh, kids like the stupidest crap. I cannot believe I used to love this cartoon.

I have to direct my kid back to Thomas the Train. At least he could learn some words and grammatical constructions.

From the Black and White Dog one would only learn how to screw somebody over. Also a useful skill.

Anyway, thanks, man.

Doug0212 ütles ...

How about SpongeBob SquarePants? A sponge named "Bob" who wears square pants and lives under water. I saw one episode with a child of a friend. The child was spellbound and I felt like getting some air.

Has anyone ever seen the Three Stooges dubbed in Estonian? Now there's some classic kids comedy.

plasma-jack ütles ...

Anyway, thanks, man.
I have a black belt in Google, always glad to help the less proficient. I also recently found out (probably) where the famous drunk Russian diplomat was assigned next after Narva: Karachi, Pakistan. Or there is another Russian consul with the same name, I don't know. Completely off topic, I know, but otherwise nobody would have asked.

straight ütles ...
Autor on selle kommentaari eemaldanud.
Brüno ütles ...

Plasma, to this I can only say täitsa perses! I am sure straight now labels me as a russophobe for saying it.

It hurts.

Me, a russophobe?

Wow.

Should I trash my Vyssotsky records and Dostoyevsky books?

As a nonrussian, and a bona fide fascist, I think I am obligated now.

Brüno ütles ...

I meant that diplomat story.

What a hoot.

Giustino ütles ...

I don't feel any special animosity towards the Russians, though I definitely used to when my knowledge of Estonian history was fresh. It's quite a simple feeling -- Estonia is small and vulnerable and located next to a neighbor that has waged scorched earth wars on its territory several times. The hot anti-Estonian propaganda in the Kremlin media is not comforting.

But Russians, actual Russians? I have no special dislike of them, but no great affinity either. The Russians in my study programs were always interesting, easy to talk to; but, no, I never really wanted to learn Russian or go to that country, I was never impressed by its "greatness." I found its music exhausting. Some people love Russian, they think its wild, they are so impressed with its enigmatic soul. I like geopolitics, but if Putin served me some beluga at his dacha, I don't think I'd feel especially honored.

But Russia is a country, like all others. Estonian music, for instance, can also be frustrating -- the flat, bored tone with which some of these "poets" sing is irritating. And it goes on and on and on. If the Russians need to simmer down, the Estonians need to wake up.

But, no, no special problem with Russians, no more than the Germans or French or Nigerians or the Chinese or the British. For some reason, the friendliest ones were from St. Petersburg. I liked them: Marina, Jevgeni, Vladimir. They seemed entirely European to me.

Why don't I learn Russian? Because I am realistic. I have already started learning Danish, Swedish, Italian, and haven't got very far. What sane person would tackle Russian then, only to fail more spectacularly? My daily life calls for Estonian, it's the language of the city where I live, the language my wife and daughters speak. It's the language I use at the shops, to communicate with teachers, taxi drivers, bankers. If I am to learn any other language, it is that language. And if you happen to speak another language other than Estonian (or English) to me in the store, then that's your problem, not mine. Ask someone else instead. I did once help an Italian couple in Tartu, though. They went to the Postimees building. They thought it was the post office!

Lingüista ütles ...

Straight, на здоровие. Не забуд толка и мозгов... ))

Lingüista ütles ...

Straight, на здоровие. Не забуд толка и мозгов... ))

straight ütles ...

I was wrong. I'm sorry