“Чапаев”, the film that I invite you to watch today is based on a book about Василий Иванович Чапаев (Vasily Ivanovich Chapaev, 1887-1919), who was in real life командир Красной Армии (a Red Army commander) during Гражданская война (the Russian Civil War). The book was written in 1923 by Dmitry Fumanov who served as a commissar in Chapaev’s division. The novel was very popular and in 1934, it was made into a film by the Vasily brothers.
Vasily Chapaev was born in a peasant family in Чувашская Республика (the Chuvash Republic), a republic situated between Nizhny Novgorod and Kazan.
During Первая Мировая война (World War I), he enrolled as a soldier of the Red Army. He was awarded Георгиевский крест (the Cross of St. George) three time for his military exploits.
But on September 5th, 1919, his headquarters were ambushed by White Army forces and Chapaev disappeared while trying to escape by swimming across the Ural River. He was never seen again and his body was never recovered.
Though Chapaev is currently described as a minor hero during the war, the novel and the film was highly popular during the Soviet era, and the commander of the 25th division became a revered figure among the people.
But Chapaev gained another popularity in the 1960s-1970s by becoming a recurring character in Russian jokes.