Interview with Vladimir Karasjov

16 mai 1989
03m 15s
Ref. 00157


Summary :

The Estonian filmmaker Vladimir Karasjov - known in Paris as "Vladimir-Georg Karasjov-Orgusaar" - answers Frederic Mitterrand's questions: he talks about the conditions in which he filmed Les Hors-la-loi and the censorship the film was subjected to over the years.

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Broadcast date :
16 mai 1989
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Vladimir Karasjov settled in Paris in 1981, at the age of 50. He is known there as "Vladimir-Georg Karasjov-Orgusaar", notably for his columns at Radio Free Europe. Vladimir "Karassef", as Frédéric Mitterrand calls him, is a faulty and fanciful form, imposed by Moscow in his Soviet passport, when Vladimir Karasjov asked for asylum in France, in 1976.

In 1971, the Estonian director made a four-hour feature length film for the Ersti Telefilm studio, Les Hors-la-Loi, on an underground Estonian group that resisted the Soviet arrival of the 1920s. He was inspired by an eponymous novel by popular writer Eessaare Aadu (1884-1937). After a sold-out screening at the Polytechnic Institute of Tallinn, Les Hors-la-Loi was banned by Soviet authorities (Estonia didn't gain independence from the USSR until the end of 1988). The film, whose majority of reels were destroyed by the authorities, was only shown on Estonian television as early as 1989, during the Perestroika. On this occasion, the filmmaker made a return to French television to talk about this experience.

Since then, Vladimir Karasjov has worked for Radio Free Europe. He published books on Estonia's sovietisation and its consequences.

Charlotte Garson


Frédéric Mitterrand
Vladimir Karassef, what was it like working as a filmmaker for you in Estonia?
Vladimir Karasjov
You could say that in spite of all the difficulties of making this film, I was able to do what I wanted. That is once the theme was accepted, you are really free to do what you want, if the studio trusts you. I do that, but the result was not good for the authorities. And it wasn't only the film that was condemned. All those who supported this work, all were either made destitute, or blamed, or moved to a less important position. And after a great deal of red tape and harassment, the film was banned even before it had been shown once.
Frédéric Mitterrand
Did you ever know why? Was it...who was it that was motivated?
Vladimir Karasjov
Ah, naturally. The problem, the fatal triangle, is the Bermuda Triangle of this film, that is pessimism, ideology and formalism, formal research and naturalism. There, the three mortal sins.
Frédéric Mitterrand
Therefore it was, we didn't say that you were a politically problematic Estonian filmmaker, we accuse you at the aesthetic level.
Vladimir Karasjov
Well, yes, you could say that. But at the same time, there was a two year struggle around this film. There were the forces of the Estonian intelligentsia, even the party intelligentsia that supported the film. But all that was crushed by Moscow who did not want to see the film, let alone accept it. They got to the point where they wanted to burn this film in my absence, and I was in Moscow to fight, to do something to save it. They burned a thousand...because the film is long, it's a four hour movie. There were several double bobbins etc.. They burned a thousand boxes. Everything that they found in my editing studio, they burned it all, thinking that the material and the copies were inside. But my cameraman was able to...let's say, steal, not steal because the film stayed in the same house, but he went up one story and this autodafe avoided two copies and the film negatives. Thanks to that, the film exists. Coming back from Moscow, I was able to transfer it to table archives in Estonia, as a simple audiovisual material, not a film. It was not registered as a movie, it's audiovisual material and was transferred by myself into the archives. And that way they were able to keep it.
Frédéric Mitterrand
Which is terrible...
Vladimir Karasjov
Otherwise it would have been destroyed.