Protest action at the preview showing of S. Paradzhanov’s film ‘Tini zabutykh predkiv’ [‘Shadows of forgotten ancestors’]

This was a public demonstration of protest against the arrests of members of the Ukrainian intelligentsia in 1965 (the first wave of arrests).

On 4 September 1965 4.09.1965 in the cinema “Ukraina” there was a preview showing of S. Paradzhanov’s film ‘Tini zabutykh predkiv’ [‘Shadows of forgotten ancestors’] based on the novel by M. Kotsyubynsky. After an address by S, Paradzhanov himself, I. DZIUBA took the floor.  However, instead of speaking about the film, he talked about the secret arrests of members of the Ukrainian intelligentsia at the end of August and beginning of September 1965 and read out the names of those arrested.  The director of the cinema tried to push I. DZIUBA away from the microphone, and there were cries from the hall: “That’s a lie!”. Somebody turned on the fire alarm. I. DZIUBA was supported by V. CHORNOVIL who called out: “Those who oppose tyranny stand up”. A part of the audience rose to their feet. During the interval, V. STUS joined the spontaneous protest. “All of us must protest: today they grab Ukrainians, tomorrow it will be Jews, then Russians”.

The action had not been planned. I. DZIUBA himself had not told anyone what he was going to talk about.  The premiere, planned as a triumph of official Ukrainian culture which was internationally recognized (the film had already been awarded a gold medal at an international film festival in Milan) turned into a spontaneous demonstration of protest. The discussion of the film was effectively disrupted. .  S. Paradzhanov later said that he had no complaints since he himself supported the protest.

This protest action which gained widespread publicity, as well as the “meeting of openness” in Moscow on 5 December 1965 in protest at the arrest of Andrei Sinyavsky and Yuli Daniel were the first public human rights actions in the USSR during the Brezhnev era.  The reaction of the authorities was swift: Ivan DZIUBA and Viacheslav CHORNOVIL lost their jobs, Yury BADZIO and Mykhailyna KOTSYUBYNSKA were thrown out of the CPSU [Communist Party] and Vasyl STUS was expelled from his PhD course.