An unknown, bloody battle that left deep scars.
Ever since his early years growing up on Texel, Arnold had been wondering about the island’s Georgian graves. Who lay there and what was their history? How was it that every year Soviet representatives and later Georgian clergy would visit the little cemetery in the middle of Texel? Why did you occasionally hear negative stories about those Georgians whereas every year on 4 May they would be commemorated as heroes? There were enough questions for the first full-length documentary about them to be made at a later date. The DVD is now available for purchase from the webshop.
The Russian War is Prospektor’s first full-length documentary and our first web-based documentary. Although the film, which was developed during the IDFA documentary workshop, was initially meant to tread the familiar path of media funds and broadcaster, the fund and then the broadcaster pulled out. Arnold decided to go it alone. Backed by alternative funds, he managed to finance the film and was later able to find another use for the collection of sources, documents, photos and interviews on the multimedia website.
The Russian War is a documentary, website and educational programme about the previously unexplored wartime past of the Dutch Wadden island of Texel. After a relatively uneventful war, a bloody uprising broke out in April 1945.
During the Second World War, a group of 800 Georgian prisoners of war had served in the German army. They were stationed on Texel and carried out work for the German occupation. It was a tough but acceptable existence, until the Georgians were ordered to go to Arnhem to fight against the advancing allied forces. One of the surviving Georgians interviewed for the film recalls, “We decided that it would be better for us to fight to the death on Texel”.
The Georgian Uprising on Texel started off successfully but it had far-reaching consequences, not only for the Georgians, but also for the population of Texel. The German army sent a large military force to the island to suppress the uprising. Hundreds of Germans, Georgians and residents of Texel lost their lives.
All in all, the Georgian uprising on Texel is a story that has been shrouded in mist. A few books have been published on the subject; in 1979 the Dutch broadcaster NOS made a documentary about it and historically speaking, most details have been summarised. However, on Texel itself, the Georgian uprising is a subject rarely discussed among the islanders. This documentary focuses on those emotionally charged wartime memories; the legacy of a grisly wartime period that has long affected the island of Texel. The causes and the course of ‘The Russian War’ – as the uprising on Texel has come to be known – have been reconstructed using Dutch and Georgian eye-witnesses. It quickly became clear that not all people on Texel share the heroic image of the uprising with the insurgents. A lot of islanders are still angry at what they saw to be ill-thought-out actions by the Georgians. In the film, the interviews, in which the anger and pain that emerges from the usually down-to-earth islanders, interspersed with images of the island of Texel, a peaceful place where this almost forgotten tragedy unfolded.
On 21 November 2009 The Russian War was premiered at the International Documentary Film Festival IFDA Amsterdam. It was subsequently aired on RTV NoordHolland in April 2010 and by VPRO on NPO Doc in 2015. The film was also screened at the Tbilisi Film Festival, where, during the Georgian premiere attended by veterans, Arnold had to sit on the video projector to prevent it from being disconnected and dragged away to a cinema where President Saakashvili wanted to watch a film
The film is still very much in demand at primary and secondary schools as well as among history societies throughout the Netherlands. In 2012, the film was rearranged into chronological order on the website derussenoorlog.nl, enabling us to present all of our valuable interview material and archive papers that did not fit in the film. The interviews from the Russian War and other interviews with eye-witnesses also form part of the Witness Accounts project, a website on which the stories and individual testimonies from the Second World War are kept alive.
You can order an Dutch, German & English subtitled DVD of the Russian War in our webshop).