Tolstoy’s War and Peace as BBC TV series


This video series says about itself:

The BBC’s War & Peace

Twenty part drama of Leo Tolstoy’s classic novel. The Rostov family prepares to celebrate the name-day of Countess Rostova and her younger daughter, Natalia, nicknamed Natasha.

First broadcast in 1972/3 this was one of the BBC’s earliest historical drama series for colour television. Stretching into a mammoth 26 episodes if memory serves, it received only a luke-warm reception and never really garnered much interest from the viewing public. The original series was heavily edited into 20 parts and re-broadcast a few years later, but it never really caught on.

This upload is the 20 episodes version. Very much a novelty at the time, colour TV across our measly three television channels in the UK was all the rage. The broadcast of episode 1 coincided with the arrival of our first colour TV at home. War & Peace became something of an obsession with me at the time and I could never understand why it had such a dismal reception. The modern viewer might spot a few familiar faces and wonder what ever happened to them. There might be one or two faces that went on to find greater fame and fortune.

By Joanne Laurier in the USA:

Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace dramatized in a new television series

11 February 2016

Leo Tolstoy’s titanic novel War and Peace has received a new adaptation by the BBC and is now airing globally. Directed by British filmmaker Tom Harper, the serialized television production stars American actor Paul Dano and British actors Lily James, James Norton, Jim Broadbent and Stephen Rea in leading roles as part of a large, predominantly UK cast.

This video from Britain says about itself:

Lily James: New BBC drama the best adaptation of War and Peace

14 December 2015

Former Downton Abbey star Lily James has swapped one period drama for another, as she plays Natasha Rostova in what the Cinderella actress describes as the most truthful and faithful adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace. Lily stars alongside James Norton and Jim Broadbent in the six part drama of the Russian writer’s depiction of the Napoelonic wars.

The Joanne Laurier article continues:

Tolstoy, one of the greatest of the great Russian fiction writers of the 19th century, was born in 1828, three years after the Decembrist Revolt in which a group of officers rose up in one of the first open struggles against tsarism. He died November 20, 1910, five years after the 1905 Revolution in Russia and seven years before the October Revolution. Tolstoy’s other great works include Anna Karenina (1877) and Resurrection (1899).

His epic War and Peace, first published in its entirety in 1869, is set during the period of the Napoleonic wars (1803-1815) and the French invasion of Russia. It follows the members of several Russian aristocratic families as they seek to survive the confusing, frenzied, bloody times.

The eight-hour miniseries opens in 1805 in St. Petersburg, as Napoleon’s victories and his army’s conquest of significant portions of western Europe are having an increasing impact on Russian life. Many of the central characters are introduced at an upper crust social gathering. Among them is Pierre Bezukhov (Dano), awkward but amiable, and initially a supporter of the French leader: “Napoleon’s a great man! He stood above the revolution, he put an end to its abuses and kept all that was good about it! You see good in revolution, sir? The equality of all citizens, freedom of speech, liberty, equality, fraternity, these are ideas we could learn from in Russia.”

Pierre looks on with disgust at the room’s “overfed aristocrats.” The illegitimate son of a wealthy count, he will soon become the object of intrigue for the sinister Prince Vassily Kuragin (Rea), who makes an unsuccessful attempt to suppress the will that names Pierre the inheritor of his father’s vast estate.

Another guest at the party is Pierre’s friend Andrei Bolkonsky (Norton), the intelligent and ambitious son of retired military commander Prince Nikolai Bolkonsky (Broadbent). Also present are the Rostovs, a noble, but down-on-their-luck Moscow family that includes a vivacious daughter Natasha (James), a quiet niece Sonya (Aisling Loftus) and a son Nikolai (Jack Lowden), who has just joined the army commanded by the veteran General Kutuzov (Brian Cox) (“He’s about the only man in Russia who knows what the war’s about and that includes our glorious Emperor.”). Nikolai’s parents (Greta Scacchi and Adrian Edmondson) are depending on their son to reverse the family fortunes.

Russia is in alliance with the Austrian Empire at this point (in the Third Coalition against Napoleon) and a restless, unhappy Andrei (“I can’t bear this life”)––whose young wife is pregnant––and Nikolai set off for the front. Meanwhile, Kuragin maneuvers Pierre into marrying his morally loose but beautiful daughter Helene (Tuppence Middleton). Her incestuous relationship with her dissolute brother Anatole (Callum Turner) is one indication of her manipulative, deceitful character.

Thus the stage is set for the various personal and political stratagems, unions and disunions, as the epoch of war heads toward its denouement following Napoleon’s fateful invasion of Russia in 1812 and the declaration of war by a reluctant Tsar Alexander I (Ben Lloyd-Hughes). On the eve of the invasion, Napoleon (Mathieu Kassovitz) brags that he has 600,000 men while the Russian army has only one-third that number and lies in shambles.

The mini-series

War and Peace has been adapted by Andrew Davies, best known for his reworking for television of such classics as Pride and Prejudice (1995), Vanity Fair (1998) and Sense and Sensibility (2008). He also wrote the popular British political thriller serial House of Cards (1990). His work on the current production results in a credible condensation of Tolstoy’s massive, complex story, some 1,400 pages and more than half a million words long.

Visually graceful and aided by numerous accomplished performances, this large-scale, high-quality production is, on the whole, a gripping experience.

The series paints a picture of a Russian aristocracy in which petty and selfish motives predominate. Andrei Bolkonsky goes off to war primarily to escape a vapid, stuffy life. Nikolai Rostov has other motives: his gambling debts have nearly bankrupted his family. He considers it more honorable to turn soldier than remain in the clutches of a nasty, egotistical mother and kindly, but ineffectual, father. In the end, under pressure from his parents, Nikolai breaks his engagement to the impecunious Sonya in favor of a more advantageous liaison.

Andrei Bolkonsky’s sister, the modest Marya (Jessie Buckley), shows her spiteful landlord coloring when she deals with the serfs on the family estate who refuse to help the household escape from the invading French army. Bellows one angry peasant: “The French will set us free and give us land! What have you ever done for us?”

Unfortunately, the production seems to side with Marya and her self-centered concerns. She is soon rescued from the legitimate wrath of the peasants by the timely appearance of Nikolai and his regiment. It is the one major scene that points to the fact that this parasitical social layer lives off the exploitation and enslavement of the peasantry.

Pierre, the moral conscience of War and Peace, tries to be honest when he sadly admits that “my life is one mistake after another … I wanted to change the world for the better, help my fellow men and look at me a fat, drunken aristocrat who makes a bungle out of everything.” To make amends for what he considers his mistakes, Pierre becomes obsessed with assassinating Napoleon.

In a relatively modest way, the mini-series does provide some sense of the great events that shaped the Tolstoy novel—namely, the aftermath of the world-altering French revolution. The depiction of the Battle of Borodino in September 1812, the bloodiest single day of the Napoleonic wars, with some 70,000 Russian and French casualties, is one of the series’ strongest sequences. Here, at least for a moment, the aristocratic lifestyle is left behind and we see something of the horror of war: men cut in half, doctors sawing off legs, the misery of the wounded and dying. And later there are the horrific consequences for Moscow’s population.

A duality exists in Tolstoy’s work between sharp condemnations of the aristocratic life and his acceptance of the inevitability of that life. In his remarkable 1908 tribute to the novelist, Leon Trotsky observed that, despite everything, Tolstoy continued to place in the center of his artistic attention “the one and the same wealthy and well-born Russian landlord” as though outside this universe “there were nothing of importance or of beauty.”

The mini-series tends to adopt the same standpoint, which is far less defensible given the subsequent course of Russian and world history. Trotsky noted that at the end of the novel, Tolstoy showed Pierre Bezukhov, “the restless seeker of truth,” as “a smug family man,” and “Natasha Rostova, so touching in her semi-childlike sensitivity,” as “a shallow breeding female, untidy diapers in hand.” The present series does the same, only more so. The final scene grates with its complacency and suggestion that contented family life offers some consolation for the massive destruction and loss of life.

That being said, Davies is genuinely skilled at choosing and adapting enduring, classic works. True, his genre of intelligent costume drama is not the be-all and end-all of artistic effort. One might even say that stylish adaptations like War and Peace have a certain soothing effect on an audience (with the exception of the battle scenes). If we were currently flooded with challenging artistic evaluations of the status quo, it is unlikely that such series would receive quite the attention they do. However, given the actual state of cultural affairs, this version of the Tolstoy epic attracts attention for its general intelligence and pleasing aesthetic qualities.

To their credit, the makers of the miniseries have tried to capture certain crucial features of the novel. A naturalness and elegance underscore and heighten the emotional intensity. As in Tolstoy’s narrative, there is truthfulness, a lack of pretension and artificiality: the viewer is engaging with real people, who have real, complex lives and feelings.

In dozens of essays the leading Russian Marxists, Plekhanov, Lenin, Trotsky and others, pointed to the great contrast between the immortality of Tolstoy’s artistic achievement and the poverty of his philosophical and social ideas. …

Nonetheless, as an indefatigable social critic, an enemy of cruelty and oppression, Tolstoy played an enormous role in undermining the tsarist regime and the entire Russian social order. Reactionary forces in the former Soviet Union have not forgiven him to this day.

In an obituary, Trotsky magnificently paid tribute to the great writer: “Truth in and of itself possesses a terrible, explosive power: once proclaimed, it irresistibly gives rise to revolutionary con­clusions in the consciousness of the masses. Everything that Tolstoy stated publicly… seeped into the minds of the laboring masses … And the word became deed. Although not a revolutionary, Tolstoy nurtured the revolutionary element with his words of genius. In the book about the great storm of 1905 an honorable chapter will be ded­icated to Tolstoy.”

It would be misleading to suggest that Tolstoy’s fierce indictment of Russia’s institutions is sufficiently present in the War and Peace mini-series. However, its honest presentation inevitably communicates elements of the social critique, and also may lead the viewer to investigate Tolstoy’s work further. That would be all to the good.

‘Feed hungry Syrian civilians? We’ll kill you’, al-Qaeda ‘moderates’ say


This video says about itself:

Syrian refugees face roadblock in Hungary

31 August 2015

Refugees from Syria and North Africa face uncertainty and hardship as they try to enter Europe. Charlie D’Agata reports from the border between Serbia and Hungary, where the Hungarian government has been building a fence to hold back the influx of desperate immigrants.

By James Tweedie:

Moderates‘ vow to kill food smugglers

Thursday 11th February 2016

Islamists ‘will execute’ anyone breaking rebel siege

WESTERN-BACKED “moderates” in Syria are threatening to publicly execute anyone supplying food to besieged government-held areas.

The edict from the self-styled Judicial Council of the Jaish al-Fatah (Army of Conquest) was posted on the Twitter account of the web-based Terror Monitor and translated for the Morning Star.

The group’s decree, issued on Monday, said that it must be circulated to all mosques and imams in the areas under its domination by today.

It orders that anyone caught smuggling food, fuel or other human necessities into the besieged villages of Kafarya and Fu’ah, north-east of Idlib city, will be executed in the square of their home town.

The statement is peppered with fundamentalist and sectarian language, referring to President Bashar al-Assad’s government as the “criminal Alawite regime” — a reference to the Shi’ite sect that the Assad family belongs to and those who help it as “defectors in the army of Satan.”

The Army of Conquest, which occupies the northern Syrian city of Idlib and most of the surrounding province, is an alliance of extremist factions, with the two most prominent being the al-Qaida-affiliated Nusra Front and Ahrar ash-Sham, which boasts 10,000-20,000 guerillas.

Ahrar as-Sham’s inclusion in the Saudi-backed High Negotiations Committee (HNC), along with the equally brutal Jaish al-Islam (Army of Islam), provoked protests from Syria and Russia that terrorists had been invited to the Geneva negotiating table.

While the governments of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, and the religious fundamentalist fighters paid by them were invited to the Geneva negotiating table, the Syrian Kurds, the only effective force fighting ISIS on the ground, were excluded. At the request of the Turkish Erdogan government and their NATO allies, of the Saudi Arabian government, etc.

But the HNC refused to enter the UN-mediated talks until the government agreed to their precondition of a unilateral ceasefire and the free flow of supplies to insurgent pockets.

Crucially the decree speaks of “liberating the Islamic State of al-Sham” (Isis).

The HNC finally abandoned any pretence of negotiation last week after the Syrian army, backed by Lebanese Hezbollah guerillas and Russian air strikes, cut their main supply line from Turkey north of Aleppo.

Monday’s edict claims a humanitarian motive for starving the population of the two villages into surrender or death, declaring that the aim is to end the army’s sieges of militant-held areas.

One of those areas is the town of Madaya, where Ahrar ash-Sham gunmen opened fire overnight on Wednesday on a Red Crescent convoy evacuating three sick people. Fortunately, no injuries were reported.

British government deports child refugees to war zones


This video from Canada says about itself:

Syrian Children Experience Snow

19 January 2016

Snow is a new experience but fun in any language looks the same.

Unfortunately, not all refugee children have the luck of the children in this video (and if the previous Stephen Harper government in Canada would not have been defeated by the voters, then the children in the video might never have seen snow either.)

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Refugee crisis: Thousands of child asylum seekers deported back to war zones, Home Office admits

Exclusive: Hundreds sent back from UK to countries where Isis and Taliban are rampant

Maeve McClenaghan

Tuesday 9 February 2016 21:44 BST

Thousands of young people who sought refuge in Britain as unaccompanied child asylum-seekers have been deported to repressive regimes and countries partly controlled by Isis and the Taliban, the Home Office has admitted. Over the past nine years 2,748 young people – many of whom had spent formative years in the UK, forging friendships and going to school – have been returned to countries including Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Libya and Syria.

The figures were finally published by the Home Office minister James Brokenshire this week. Previous Home Office figures significantly understated the scale of the deportations.

The bulk of those deported – some 2,018 – were sent to Afghanistan, but around 60 young people have been deported to Iraq since 2014, the year Isis seized control of swathes of the country. The findings, which were triggered by questions from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and the Labour MP Louise Haigh, raise serious concerns about what happens to child asylum-seekers when they turn 18, and at a time when Britain is being urged to help thousands of orphaned child refugees from Syria.

Unaccompanied child asylum-seekers arriving in the UK are given temporary leave to remain. But this expires when they become adults, at which point many are sent back to their home country – even if they have taken GCSEs and A-levels, integrated into British society and lost touch with their homeland. They often struggle to start new lives, because their Westernised mannerisms mean they are regarded with suspicion.

Ms Haigh said: “These shocking figures reveal the shameful reality behind our asylum system.

“Children who flee countries ravaged by war in the most appalling of circumstances are granted safe haven and build a life here in the UK, but at the age of 18 can be forced on to a flight and back to a dangerous country they have no links to and barely any memory of.

“With many more vulnerable young children due to arrive in the UK over the next five years the Government needs to answer serious questions and provide a cast-iron guarantee that vulnerable young people will not be sent back to war zones.”

She now plans to bring a parliamentary debate on the issue, while the Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron is to chair an emergency cross-party summit on 10 February to explore how Britain can support future intakes of child refugees.

Mr Farron said: “It is a sad state of affairs that the Government is stripping the protective blanket of safety we have offered these children on their 18th birthday. Many will have integrated into their communities.”

As he released the figures, Mr Brokenshire was forced to apologise for previously providing the Commons with inaccurate numbers in November that said just 1,040 former child refugees had been returned to Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Syria and Libya since 2007. He blamed the inaccurate data on “an error during the extraction process”.

Ms Haigh said: “Ministers have been basing their confident assurances on protecting these extremely vulnerable young people on a calamitous guesstimate.”

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism explored the cases of several Afghan teenagers last year as they battled deportation orders. Some who were returned claimed they had been left homeless, chased by the Taliban, kidnapped, ransomed and beaten.

The latest Home Office figures show that in 2015, 57 former child refugees were sent back to Afghanistan, where the Taliban still controls many districts. Removals to the country have now been temporarily halted as lawyers argue that the security situation is so unsafe that no one should be returned.

However, earlier this month lawyers for the Home Office argued in a Court of Appeal case that removals should continue. The judgment is expected imminently. The latest figures also show 657 former child refugees have been returned to Iraq since 2007, including 22 last year and 38 in 2014 when Isis began to take territory in the region.

The Foreign Office advises against “all but essential travel” to half of Iraq, and against any travel to the north-western areas. …

Explainer: Child asylum claims

Children can apply for asylum when they first arrive in the UK, but the likelihood of getting refugee status at this point is low, and even less likely for Afghan or Iraqi children.

The UK Government does not generally deport unaccompanied children – so instead they are given temporary leave to remain, which lasts until they turn 17-and-a-half.

At this point, teenagers must apply to extend their leave. But the BIJ’s analysis of appeals from Afghan teenagers found just one in five was granted asylum at this point. Thousands of teenagers are deported after years living in the UK.

Refugee crisis: Welfare cuts and anti-migration policies ‘will not stop’ asylum seekers coming to Europe – report. New laws might change the countries where refugees end up but they will not stop them arriving, a report found: here.

Dutch Auschwitz survivor blasts Pegida racists


This video shows a mass meeting in Amsterdam in the Netherlands against the extreme right refugee-hating Pegida organisation, on Saturday 6 February 2016.

Max van den Berg is a Dutch Jewish survivor of Adolf Hitler‘s mass murder camp Auschwitz. After the second world war, he helped to found the Dutch Auschwitz committee for commemoration.

Here is a translation from the speech by Max van den Berg on that Saturday 6 February 2016, at the statue De Dokwerker, commemorating the general strike in February 1941 against the German nazi occupiers’ anti-Jewish violence in the Netherlands. Max van den Berg was then fourteen years old. He participated in the general strike at his school: school students struck along with the workers.

This video shows Max van Den Berg’s 6 February speech.

Mr Van den Berg addressed the 6 February 2016 mass meeting against the extreme right refugee-hating Pegida organisation:

Max van den Berg spoke on the demonstration on February 6: Refugees are welcome, racism is not!

Here, along the wall of the Portuguese synagogue was then a row of German trucks. That was on Sunday, February 23, 1941. One hundred meters further on the Waterlooplein square Jews were herded with clubs and rifle butts. When there were more than 400 they were driven into the trucks and taken away. All were murdered in the concentration camp Mauthausen.

On Monday 24 February, the communist party gathered at the Noordermarkt [Northern Market] to spread the watchword: Strike! Strike! Strike!

75 years ago the February strike broke out. The city was in solidarity with their persecuted Jewish fellow citizens and revolted against racist violence. The commemoration of this strike is more relevant than ever.

Again in the city there is solidarity with those who flee war and violence. Again, the city resists, now against racist hate mongers of Pegida. In Amsterdam there is no place for these people.

How did this war and refugee misery arise? Then we must go back in history. On February 4, 2003 at 16.30 Colin Powell, an American government minister, appeared at the UN, and displayed photos that supposedly proved conclusively that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. There had to be intervention quickly. A war based on a lie started. Later complemented by a Syrian civil war and the whole Middle East becoming ablaze.

Men, women and children fleeing the war which has lasted for 13 years. A fight with front fighting, guerrillas, attacks, terrorist attacks, hunger, phosphorus grenades and poison gas bombs. A fight that ended in a civil war. Nothing is more traumatic than a civil war. Village and neighborhood communities are torn apart and family ties torn asunder. Millions leave the battlefield hoping for a safe place in Europa. They fled by sea, more than 3,000 men, women and children drowned. They fled across the muddy paths of the Balkans during heat and during icy cold. They went to the Arctic Circle hoping to reach Sweden and Norway. Along the way there are now 10,000 children without parents who became lost and are wandering in groups across our continent. Easy prey for pickpocket gangs and prostitution.

Meanwhile, forty thousand refugees have found housing in our country. They were traumatized, and housed in large centers. …

Citizens wonder whether those refugees do not exceed the carrying capacity of society. [European Union authorities in] Brussels also question whether European society can support this financially. But that is a travesty, hypocritical. The same Brussels people refuse to tackle the tax dodging by big corporations, so that society is missing out on an amount of 80 billion euros.

Citizens have questions about unemployment, now there are refugees. But at the same time, the government’s statistics office states that the economy is picking up and may result in a shortage of workers in white-collar jobs and construction early next year. We may start to ask ourselves then whether too little refugees have come.

And then came Cologne and sexual violence and the so-called “testosterone bombs“. But then I think of the [murdered] girl Vaatstra, the Putten murder, about the Utrecht serial rapist [all crimes by non-refugee white Dutchmen], the massive child abuse within the Catholic Church and I think for just once: Our own people first [extreme right nationalist slogan, turned upside down here]. It is dirty to misguide worried citizens with hate speech.

Nothing is more dangerous than to mistake concerned citizens for racists. The hate mongers of Pegida would like that. We won’t be tricked by that.

And now the reception of refugees should be made a success. Refugees have to go from large centers to smaller more intimate and better shelters scattered across the cities and the country. Now there should be more government workers, making it possible to shorten the asylum procedure from seven months to a maximum of seven weeks.

Now there should be warm humanistic support in the areas of food, education and leisure. In this context we want to pay tribute to the thousands of workers, including many Dutch men and women with a Turkish or Moroccan background, who are doing that.

Some governments and politicians want to stop the flow of refugees. They want to close all borders. Europe should be made into a fortress with as its slogan: Me, me, me, and let all others die. Others want to take away the refugees’ money and jewelry (they can keep only their wedding rings! Aren’t those politicians ‘humane’, right?). Still others have developed illegal plans. Send them back to dictatorial Turkey, a country which itself bombs Kurds from the air. Creating a wave of Kurdish refugees.

No, there is no end to the flow of refugees as long as the war continues. 58,000 in January have braved the wintry chill and yet moved into Europe.

But there is a perspective. Through trial and error the first peace negotiations began and there is a chance to let the war end with joint forces. But just as these negotiations begin the Dutch parliament threatens to approve Dutch bombing in Syria (‘precision’ bombing – ridiculous). The English foundation Body Count and the BBC have calculated together that only because of the US bombing, apart from Russian and Syrian bombing, 1051 civilians have lost their lives. Collateral damage this is called and a little bag of dollars is ready, wrapped in a cloth of hypocritical ‘philanthropy’. But this breeds new hatred and terrorism. There are in the [ISIS] ‘caliphate’ no more military targets, say the experts. Dutch bombs may turn a desert into a Swiss cheese. That’s all.

We therefore call on parliament: no bombing in Syria! Stop arms exports to conflict areas! No drones dropping bombs but a blow against hate speech!

Dear people. Let us be aware of the serious political and moral crisis in which Europe finds itself. The contradictions are increasing, democratic freedoms are under pressure. Everyone has an interest in ending the protracted war with its destruction and waves of refugees.

Join the fight for the restoration of peace. Join the newly founded Amsterdam Peace Initiative.

Fight the racists of Pegida.

Long live solidarity with the war refugees.

Long live the people rescuing refugees!

Long live the struggle for peace!

This video shows another 6 February 2016 speaker, Anousha Nzume.

Refugee crisis: Angela Merkel appeals to Turkey for border controls to stop fresh wave of Syrian refugees: here.

Canada will stop bombing Syria and Iraq


This video says about itself:

21 April 2013

This video shows Syrians, Lebanese, Canadians, and others in the Canadian capital of Ottawa demonstrating and asking the [then Stephen Harper] Canadian government to stop supporting al-Qaeda in Syria.

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

Canada will stop airstrikes on ISIS in two weeks’ time

Today, 18:47

Canada will not participate in the air strikes on targets of IS in Syria and Iraq from February 22 on . In this way, Prime Minister Trudeau keeps his election promise of last year.

Since April 2015, when the country was still ruled by the Conservative Harper government, six Canadian warplanes have been participating in the bombing raids of the international coalition against ISIS.

The Canadian decision is opposed by the US government and the rest of the coalition.

Training mission

Two Canadian reconnaissance aircraft and a tanker aircraft will remain stationed in the area. Furthermore Trudeau will send another 130 troops to northern Iraq to train Kurdish militias. There are already 70 Canadian trainers in that region.

According to the Liberal prime minister, the region is more helped by strengthening its own military force then by military intervention from outside. He said this was the lesson that Canada had drawn after being active for ten years in Afghanistan.

The people who are terrorized by ISIS are not served by our revenge but by our support,” Trudeau declared to the Canadian press. The mission in Afghanistan has cost the lives of 158 Canadian soldiers.

Many media outlets have responded to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s plan to expand Canada’s role in the US-led Mideast war with scathing criticism, taking the three-month-old Liberal government to task for the supposed inadequacy of Canada’s military engagement in the region and internationally: here.