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White Sun of the Desert

9.October 2011

Белое солнце пустыни” (White sun of the desert) is a cult film in Russia. It’s a mixed film between action, comedy and drama. It was produced by Mosfilm in 1969 and directed by Vladimir Motul. The lyrics of the main song “Ваше благородие, госпожа Удача” (Your Honor Lady Luck) were written by Bulat Okudzhava and soon became a hit.

The plot

Red Army soldier Fyodor Shukhov is on his way home after many years of fighting in the Central Asian desert. He finds Sayid, a Central Asian man, buried in the sand and help him out of this situation. Soon after, being caught in a fight between a Red Army unit and the Basmachi leader Abdullah, he is left to guide and protect Abdullah’s harem while the Red Army is pursuing him. Shukhov and the group of women find refuge into the museum of a small village by the Caspian Sea, but Abdullah is not far behind, and he soon have to organise the defense of the site.

Quotes from the film

The film contains many sayings that are now widely used in Russian language. Here the main ones:

  • Вопросы есть? Вопросов нет! (Are there any questions? No, there aren’t!) This expression is used when you don’t want to hear any objection.
  • Восток — дело тонкое (The East is a delicate matter) When a difficult matter occur, not necessary link to Eastern part.
  • Таможня даёт добро! (Customs gives the green light) for any type of approval.
  • За державу обидно (I feel bad for my country) is usually used as a defensive argument when talking about someone’s homeland.
  • Гюльчатай, открой личико (Gyulchatai, show your sweet face) is a popular saying for boys to say to girls.
  • Махмуд, поджигай! (Mahmud, set the fire!) is used when starting off for an unkown and potentially dangerous mission.

 

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  1. Many thanks for this short primer. I’ve heard a ton about this movie—including that cosmonauts traditionally watch it together before shooting into orbit—but have never managed to see it. The list of expressions the film made popular is very useful. “Are there any questions? No questions!”
    It’d be terrific if you could do the same for other Soviet/Russian movies that have influenced pop culture and current Russian speech.
    Warm regards to snowy Moscow from Miami.
    John

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