The Corner

More from the Inner Circle

I’ve passed some occasional remarks on the 1991 Stalin movie The Inner Circle.

A Russian friend who knows this territory very well supplies some genealogical background.

The director (and co-author of the script) Andrei Mikhalkov-Konchalovskiy, born in 1937, belongs in a positive sense to the higher circles of Russian (former and present) and Soviet society. He was the great-grandson (via his mother Natalia Konchalovskaya) of Vasilii Surikov, a very good and well-known Russian painter. His grandfather Pyotr Konchalovskiy was another good Russian painter …

His mother Natalia Konchalovskaya wrote good children’s stories and poems. I read several of them in my childhood. Unfortunately she is only on the Russian Wikipedia.

Her husband — the movie director’s father — was Serghey Mikhalkov (1913-2009), a descendant of Russian nobility. He wrote several poems for children, poems that every Russian-speaking person knows absolutely by heart. He also wrote the lyrics of the 1944 USSR anthem and modified the text of the anthem of the Russian Federation (2000), using the same music. During the Soviet era, [Serghey] Mikhalkov and his wife, Natalia Konchalovskaya sometimes worked for the KGB, for example by presenting undercover KGB staff officers to foreign diplomats, as in the case of French ambassador Dezhan who was compromised by the KGB in 1950s. His younger brother Mikhail Mikhalkov was also a notable writer as well as a KGB agent.

The movie director’s full-brother, Nikita Mikhalkov, is a very good (and probably more famous) film director …

Somewhat to my surprise, my Russian friend — a fan of National Review — offered a much-qualified defense of Beria, from some fairly direct personal knowledge:

Beria was a scoundrel, as all of them at the higher echelons of power in USSR were, and also was a womanizer, who used his power for that [i.e. as in the movie — JD]. However, he was a technocratic, cynical scoundrel and a rather effective administrator in the evil Soviet empire; not specifically sadistic, as opposed to Stalin …

As I (dimly) recall from N.S. Khrushchev’s memoirs, the memoirist accused Beria of drugging and raping little girls. By that point in the memoirs I was willing to believe only half of what Khrushchev wrote (the proportion subsequently went down further), but the accusation seems to have stuck — I have heard it repeated several times. Beria of course had no opportunity to refute it …

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