Adam Curtis sets sights on Russia in new iPlayer series
James R | On 22, Sep 2022
Adam Curtis is setting his sights on Russia in a new project that arrives on BBC iPlayer this month.
The series of seven films – entitled Russia 1985-1999 TraumaZone: What It Felt Like to Live Through the Collapse of Communism and Democracy – will take viewers from inside the Kremlin to the frozen mining cities in the Arctic circle, the tiny villages of the vast steppes of Russia and the strange wars fought in the mountains and forests of the Caucasus.
The journalist and Bafta award-winning filmmaker says: “This project is an immersive history that takes you through Russian society as it lived through a cataclysm that wrecked the lives of millions of people and tore apart the foundations of the whole society. Because what the Russians lived through in the 1990s was not just the end of communism, but the failure of democracy too. They experienced the collapse of the two great ideologies of our time in a period of less than ten years.
“By 1999 the word democracy was used as a curse. A curse against your enemies. To understand Russia now – and what might happen in the future – you have to understand what happened back then. For it is out of that rage, the violence, the desperation and the overwhelming corruption that Vladimir Putin emerged.”
Since the late 1980s BBC crews have filmed all across USSR/Russia, but only a tiny fraction of their material was used for news reports. The rest lay unseen in cupboards in Moscow. Curtis’ hour-long films are based on the raw footage recorded in Russia during that time, capturing the lives and experiences of Russians at every level of society in a collapsing empire.
Here’s the official synopsis:
At the start of the 1990s the Soviet Union – one the largest empires in the world – imploded. It was not a slow collapse like the British Empire, but one that collapsed suddenly – in just a few months.
In the west we didn’t really see or understand what then happened because we were blinded by victory in the cold war. In reality what the Russian people experienced was a profound disaster which left behind it deep scars and a furious anger – that led to what is happening in Russia now and in Ukraine.
This series of films is a record of what it felt like to live through that catastrophe. It is also the story how a society of millions of people stopped believing in all politics. Not just communism, but democracy too. Something that no-one else has experienced in the modern world. Yet.
Russia 1985-1999 TraumaZone follows a string of projects that Adam Curtis has debuted on BBC iPlayer, including Can’t Get You Out of My Head, HyperNormalisation and Bitter Lake.
All seven parts of the series will premiere exclusively on BBC iPlayer on 13th October 2022.