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Pixart Inc., 1990. VHS cassette, 50:00 min., $360.00
Distributed by Multime­dia Audiovisual Inc., 5210 rue Resther, Montreal, Quebec H2J 2W3

Grades 12 and up/Ages 17 and up
Reviewed by L. Maingon.

Volume 19 Number 1
1991 January

Etat d'ames is a Ruso-Quebecois documentary conceived by Patrice Roy. It attempts to present a comprehensive report on the state of religion in the USSR today. In order to do so it must tackle the twofold problems of the pluralist religious traditions of the USSR and the State's historical and current relations with the various churches. It surveys these various problems from a unique perspective by stressing the State's current vested interest in sup­porting religion in order to renew Russian social values in the wake of the collapse of communism.

The initial perspective from which this video is made is therefore open to question. Indeed, vague concessions are made at the end to "the dangers of Western materialism" after "communist and Marxist materialism" has been soundly trounced. The film presents religion, principally Russian Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism, as the bulwark of social values, although we are told that Christianity and Islam each repre­sent fifty million faithful. By so doing the video fails to take into consideration the fact that "the crisis in values" experienced by the USSR is endemic to all of western society, and that the revival of a union between State and Church in the name of the defence of values is a danger to the benefits of secular freedom.

Beyond this very dangerous limita­tion, the video is very informative. Although the main focus is on Russian Christianity, a quick survey of the links between nationalist groups and the Church in Ukraine and Lithuania is made. There is also an all-too-brief report on Islamic revivalism in Tashkent, together with an interview with Sheikh M. Yusuf, the spiritual leader of Soviet Islam. A very quick report is also made on the plight of the remaining Jews of Moscow and the growing anti-Semitism, although no mention is made of links between religious revivalism and the latter.

Possibly the strongest point of this documentary is its focus on the Russian writer Oleg Volkov. Both Volkov's trials and the sequential presentation of Stalin's systematic destruction of the Russian Church from 1931 onwards to the 1941 pact he made with the Church provide thematic continuity which explains the upheavals of the Russian nationalist psyche. Considered from this angle, the video overcomes its ideological limitations.

L. Maingon, University of Western Ontario, London, Ont.
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