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Seventeen Moments of Spring ( ), also Seventeen Instants of Spring is a Sovietmarker TV miniseries. It was filmed at Gorky Film Studio, directed by Tatyana Lioznova and based on the series of books by the novelist Yulian Semyonov. It is divided into 12 episodes, with each part being 70 minutes and the whole series being 840 minutes long.

The series is about the life of Sovietmarker spy Maksim Isaev operating in Nazi Germany under the name Max Otto von Stirlitz, played by the Sovietmarker actor Vyacheslav Tikhonov. Other leading roles were played by Leonid Bronevoy, Oleg Tabakov, Yuri Vizbor, Yevgeniy Yevstigneyev, Rostislav Plyatt, Vasily Lanovoy, and Mikhail Zharkovsky.

In 2009 remastered version in color was released.


The plot is driven by Stirlitz's (ultimately successful) attempts at thwarting negotiations between SS General Karl Wolff, representing Walter Schellenberg and Heinrich Himmler, and American intelligence operative Allen Dulles in Bernmarker, Switzerlandmarker during the final months of World War II. The Dulles portrayed in the show, acting without the authorization of the President, is interested in reaching a peace agreement with Nazi Germany that would leave many Nazi institutions in place in order to prevent the rise of "Bolshevism" in Germany and Northern Italy. The negotiations are conducted in secret and behind the back of Hitler and, more importantly for Stirlitz, the Soviet Unionmarker. The tension isn't easy since right from the very beginning of the series, Obergruppenführer Ernst Kaltenbrunner opens up an investigation on Stirlitz, led in part by Stirlitz's role in delaying the German atomic research program and his otherwise almost-too-impeccable record of loyalty and devotion to Hitler, even as other German officers had begun to grumble in private about the leadership. There is one scene in the third episode where Stirlitz attends a funeral and sees Kaltenbrunner there, not knowing that Kaltenbrunner is the very man who opened the investigation against him. A man next to Stirlitz fearfully utters Kaltenbrunner's name to him, portraying a powerful climactic moment.

Near the end of the 12-part miniseries, Ernst Kaltenbrunner and Martin Bormann both get together and send the Gestapo to arrest Karl Wolff for his negotiations with the Allies. However, Wolff is saved in the nick of time when Schellenberg intervenes. Upon the arrival of Wolff's plane, Schellenberg stops the Gestapo forces from capturing Wolff and allows for the negotiations to take place.

Historical background

The negotiations between Dulles and Wolff did take place in reality on March 8, 1945, codenamed both Operation Sunrise and Operation Crossword ("Sunrise Crossword" in the film) and Soviet agents supplied information on them to the USSRmarker. One of them was Kim Philby. Another agent of the Soviet Military Intelligence, dubbed as "a fantastic source, who received the first-class information from Germany" by Allen Dulles, was Rudolph Rassler, working in Switzerlandmarker during secret negotiations.

Inventing the image of Isaev-Stirlitz, Yulian Semyonov worked with the biographies of well-known Soviet intelligence officers: Lev Manevich, Nikolai Kuznetsov, Sandor Radó. But no one of them became a prototype of the film's main character. Stirlitz is the collective image, in which the author embodied all the best features of the intelligence officer.

Stirlitz is sometimes referred to as a Russian James Bond, even if the comparison is not entirely warranted. Although the show contains some relatively unbelievable elements (i.e. a Russian passing for a German for twenty years) and it may even have served a somewhat similar ideological role as the James Bond films did in the West, Seventeen Moments of Spring is based, even if only loosely, on actual historical events. Moreover, the show also strives for a much more realistic version of foreign espionage than the James Bond films do, with Stirlitz carefully playing on rivalries within the SDmarker and SSmarker, cautiously seeking out friendly contacts, prudently developing alibis for his covert activities and very rarely resorting to force or gadgetry. It is also notable that one hardly gets the impression that many of the Nazis were the incarnation of evil: while the show does remind the viewer of the horror of Nazi death camps through the use of some original footage, one nonetheless finds it hard not to take something of a liking for Heinrich Müller and some of Stirlitz' other adversaries. This is a contrast to the Bond films, where the Russian generals and leaders are either brute vodka-guzzling stereotypes, calculating evil geniuses, or just greedy people involved in schemes for money.

The music for the movie was written by Armenianmarker-born composer Mikael Tariverdiev.

The series was immensely popular in the Soviet Unionmarker and it originated many popular phrases as well as an entire genre of anecdotes, the latter having seemingly taken a life of its own. The show is still frequently aired on Russian television. Plans were discussed to build a monument to Stirlitz in the city of Gorokhovetsmarker, his birth place in the series. It's been said that "for older generations, the series is little more than a factual retelling of an actual historical event - a behind-the-scenes look at a war painful to remember." "But for younger people raised from childhood on yearly showings - the film was shown one hour-long serial at a time, 12 days in a row - "Spring" became more famous for its quirky lines and surreal shots than its cinematic whole." "But "Spring's" most lasting claim to fame is the legion of anecdotes that have entered Stirlitz, Isayev and Tikhonov in the permanent annals of Russian folklore."

A Polish television series with a very similar theme, More Than Life at Stake ( ) (with Captain Kloss being the analogous character to Stirlitz) was made in 1967-1968.

Inaccuracies in the movie


The main theme to the movie, titled "Mgnovenia" (or "Moments"), was composed by Mikael Tariverdiev and performed by Joseph Kobzon.


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