Come On, Let's Go.

I Believe In Yesterdays

On a completely random jaunt through YouTube a few weeks ago, I discovered the following:

That piece of copyright-infringing insanity is a clip from a 2002 Armenian animated film entitled Yellow Submaryan (“-aryan” being a common suffix in Armenian names.) It is the
the work of Robert Arshavirovich Sahakyants (Роберт Аршавирович Саакянц/Ռոբերտ Սահակյանց) an Armenian animation producer and director, as well as an animator in his own right. Sahakyants is known throughout the countries of the former Soviet Union for his Soviet-era (and, naturally, Russian-language) cartoons based around Armenian folk tales and literature.

(Fair warning: both cartoons below are mildly-NSFW, depending on how your job reacts to roughly three seconds of animated nudity.)

This apocalyptic cartoon was a reaction to “the confused and sad Perestroika period [and the] events, moods [and] atmosphere prior to the August Putsch of 1991.” Entitled "Knopka" ("Кнопка", "Button") it is decidedly darker than the lighter folk-tale cartoons for which he was known. The distinct lack of dialogue in this film, along with the presence of an issue of ubiquitous party broadsheet Pravda (Правда, "Truth") and the dual-language credits indicate the difficulty the Armenian people (and by extension, all non-ethnically-Russian peoples in the Soviet Union) had to retain their own culture under Soviet rule and occupation.

Going further back in time, the last thing I wanted to show is the 1987 science-fiction cartoon "Urok" ("Урок", "Lesson"). Featuring early ambient electronica and cyberpunk themes, it is unlike anything I've seen come out of the Soviet Union before. I can almost assure you Peter Chung saw this before creating Aeon Flux; the surrealistic imagery, music and stylization all match his own. One of the odder things about this film is its post Cold-War attitude. While this cartoon was created during the Reagan era, it is still pretty shocking to see this sort of forward-thinking at a time when Americans were watching Red Dawn (not that the USSR didn't have plenty of anti-American propaganda, of course.) The written signs tend to be in both English and Russian, and there is a proliferation of branded Western items: a pack of Marlboros, a ray-gun marked “SONY.” (An aside: these little set-dressings remind me of one of US television's first science fiction-based goodwill move toward the USSR: including Chekhov, a Russian, on the bridge of the USS Enterprise in the original Star Trek series.) Even the non-ambient music is western: at 2:15 in Part 1 you can hear Herbie Hancock's “Rock It” and the film ends to John Lennon's “Imagine” (FYI: the blurry text at the end is the lyrics, translated into Russian.)


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