7

After the war, many German films were shown in the USSR, popularly known as "trophy films", this included the 1944 "The Woman of My Dreams" which was shown until mid-1950s.

At the same time the Soviets staunchly insisted on international ban on "Munchhausen".

The official pretext I believe was that it showed Munchhausen to have an adultery with Russian empress Catherine the Great which was perceived as anti-Russian. But this is quite surprising given that

  • The Soviets anyway had negative attitude towards Russian monarchy.

  • The empress anyway was known for adultery and having many lovers and favorites.

  • The story is told from the person of Munchhausen who is a known liar and exaggerator which hints the story may be an invention by Munchausen similarly to flying on a cannon ball and travel to the Moon.

The other version or real motives may be that of anti-Semitic overtone regarding Jewish-Italian count Cagliostro. Cagliostro is portrayed with a vampire-like face and the hint that he is Jewish is quite transparent, although never mentioned directly. In one scene he even says that Munchhausen's nose profile is better suitable for printing on coins.

But this scene could be easily cut off and in the second encounter with Munchhausen Cagliostro is portrayed differently: as a talented medic and scientist, expert in art and man of honour. The plot features a deep friendship between Munchhausen and Cagliostro so that Munchhausen even came to his friend to warn him about threat of arrest by the authorities. Cagliostro says "the Kanzler himself pursuits me". Although the Russian Empire had an office of State Kanzler at the time, this is a transparent hint at Hitler. Cagliostro thanks Munchhausen, gifts him an eternal youth and a ring of invisibility, becames invisible himself, pushes the Kanzler's soldiers who came to arrest him and disappears.

That said the film in general does not seem to contradict the Soviet ideology very much. Other scenes feature a corrupted Venetian doge which remarkably resembles Mussolini and uses inquisition secret police in an attempt to kill Munchhausen. In one scene he talks to a scientist who says that he serves only the science and not politics. The doge replies "keep this misconception, it will be our trump".

In one scene the Munchhausen's lover gets be imprisoned in a monastery by her brother, which is perceived as a tragedy. It adds some an anti-religious feeling to the film. In another scene the sultan secretely drinks alcohol and says to Munchhausen that he does so when nobody sees.

In yet another scene when the new wives to the sultan's harem are tested in military conscription like manner a black woman is shown to have better teeth than a white one, so that the white one is envy.

One more reason may be that Munchhausen explains his own theory of subhumans. According to him, anybody who does not know the principles of the universe, how the stars move and other scientific truths can be called a subhuman. This does not convey any racial meaning and shows a pro-scientific attitude which was very characteristic for the USSR propaganda as well. So I doubt this could be the reason.

So what was the actual reason and why?

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    What is the source of the said Soviet Nuremberg proposal? I've been unable to confirm it. – kubanczyk Apr 18 '12 at 21:44
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    My dad is Russian, he loves Baron Munchausen. When I was a kid he gave me a book of Munchausen stories that he said he loved as a kid. Not really relevant, just thought it would be kind of interesting. – Elliot Gorokhovsky Sep 20 '16 at 2:37
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    Was it really banned? I can't find any mentions of that, and "Munchhausen" is missing from the lists of movies banned by Allied censorship. – Danila Smirnov Nov 15 '17 at 10:24
  • I'm not sure whether or not any movie involving Baron Münchhausen was censored immediately after the war. What we do know: At least two cartoons on the topic were created under Stalin's rule (one in 1929 and another in 1941). In 1967 there was another cartoon and a separate series in 1972-1974). – Franz Drollig Jul 31 '18 at 14:10
  • Finally, in 1979 a feature film was shot and had high ratings. Note that every single of these works passed the censors. – Franz Drollig Jul 31 '18 at 14:10
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From Simon Sebag Montefiore's Stalin: Court of the Red Czar:

After the war, Stalin's tsarist tendencies became even more pronounced. [...] He called Sergei Eisenstein to tell him how to improve his latest installment of Ivan the Terrible. It is certainly not difficult to see in his advise that Stalin considered himself some sort of reincarnation of the historical figure.

"Historical figures", added Stalin, "must be shown correctly... Ivan the Terribe kissed his wife too long". Kisses, again. "It wasn't permitted at that time". Then came the crux: "Ivan the Terrible was very cruel", said Stalin. "You can show he was cruel. But you must show why he needed to be cruel." Then Zhdanov raised the crucial question of Ivan's beard. Eisenstein promised to shorten it. Eisenstein asked if he could smoke.

"It seems to me there's no ban on smoking. Maybe we'll vote on it". Stalin smiled at Eisenstein. "I don't give you instructions, I merely give you the comments of a viewer".

[...]

Stalin now possessed a new library of American, English and German films that had until recently been the property of Goebbels. If Stalin was in a bad mood, one of the Goebbels films would please him. He liked detective films, Westerns, gangster films—and he enjoyed fights. He banned any hint of sexuality. When Bolshakov once showed him a slightly risqué scene involving a naked girl, he banged the table and said: “Are you making a brothel here, Bolshakov?” Then he walked out, followed by the Politburo, leaving poor Bolshakov awaiting arrest. From then on, he cut even the slightest glimpse of nudity.

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    Interesting information, but the original question is still open. – Felix Goldberg Dec 15 '12 at 13:05
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    My answer doesn't show direct documentary evidence, it's true. But it does show that Stalin abhorred sexuality in film and sought Soviet film to portray great Russian monarchs from history in a positive light. Which seems very likely relevant to why his government banned a film that slandered Catherine the Great in crude sexual terms! – Evan Harper Dec 16 '12 at 15:49
  • At any rate the Soviets had negative attitude towards the Romanovs dynasty. If they had positive feelings, it only could be in regard of pre-Petrine tsars. – Anixx Dec 25 '12 at 19:53
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I think you're reading far too much into this film; its actual content is merely pure escapism for the masses, without any intentional ideological or propaganda significance, other than Goebbels commissioned the film to demonstrate that Nazi Germany was capable of producing sumptuous cinematic fantasies in glorious technicolor the equal of anything Hollywood could produce. It was probably banned in the USSR simply because the nudity in the film offended Stalin.

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