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BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN in the Czechoslovak Republic
     
 
  1. Introduction and overview
  2. Pre-Censorship Period of BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN / KRIŽNÍK POTEMKIN
  3. The silent version of BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN / KRIŽNÍK POTEMKIN
  4. The synchronized version of BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN / KRIŽNÍK POTEMKIN
 
     
 

1. Introduction and overview of BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN´s censorship examinations in the Czechoslovak Republic 1926 – 1938

The censorship case BRONENOSEZ POTEMKIN / BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN / KRIŽNÍK POTEMKIN / PANZERKREUZER POTEMKIN - one of the most famous films all over the world – belongs to the group of the most interesting censorship cases which took place in the Czechoslovak Republic in the period 1918 – 1939. On the one hand the “Potemkin case” is not so much complicated as the German one. But on the other hand a huge number of censorship documents and press materials providing detailed information about the case and its social backdrop is available. In the Czechoslovak Republic the film BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN was censored in two versions:

SILENT VERSION

1) Examination number 50918/26
Production company: Goskino, Moskva
Distribution company: Elektafilm, Praha
Length (before censorship): 1440 m; 6 reels
Date of execution: 10.8.1926 ; complete interdiction

2) Examination number 56693/26
Production company: Goskino, Moskva
Distribution company: Elektafilm, Praha
Length (before censorship): 1480 m; 6 reels
Date of execution: 3.9.1926 ; qualified for public screening - ban for young people, exclusion of scenes and titles
Length after censorship: 1394 m

3) Examination number 1326/32 Fc
Production company: Goskino, Moskva
Distribution company: Lyrafilm, Praha
Length (before censorship): 1394 m; 6 reels
Date of execution: 2.12.1932; qualified for public screening - ban for young people, exclusion of scenes and titles as during previous censorship

4) Examination number 1757/37 F
Production company: Goskino, Moskva
Distribution company: Karel Votruba, Praha
Length (before censorship): 1200 m; 6 reels
Date of execution: 7.1.1938; qualified for public screening - ban for young people, exclusion of scenes and titles

Note: Before starting of censorship procedure the film distributing company give notice to Censor Advisory Board that some scenes were cut off because of bad quality of the available film print.

SOUND VERSION

5) Examination number 1738/30 Fc
Production company: Goskino, Moskva
Distribution company: Republicfilm, Praha
Length (before censorship): 1355 m; 5 reels
Date of execution: 20.11.1930; qualified for public screening - ban for young people, exclusion of scenes and titles

2. Pre-Censorship Period of KRIŽNÍK POTEMKIN in the Czechoslovak Republic

The film BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN was screened for Censurní sbor poradní (Censor Advisory Board) 3rd August 1926. But more than three months before this date some references appeared in daily press and film magazines. Several more or less different translations of the original title were mentioned: “Križník Potemkin”, “Pancérový križník Potemkin” (Armoured Battleship Potemkin), “Potemkin”, “Knaz Potemkin” (Prince Potemkin). Articles in film magazines emphasized artistic originality of the film, mostly the style of direction and photography, idea of “collective hero” and the montage. All kinds of periodicals concentrated mostly on informing about the censorship case of BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN in Germany [cf. The affair BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN in Germany]. The revocation of censorship permission by the Censorship Headquarters (Film-Oberprüfstelle) initiated by several local governments and police authorities was mentioned very often, especially by the communist daily paper “Rudé právo” and its evening version [press article]. Globally the reason for the interdiction was seen in the film’s controversial political and revolutionary tendency. The depiction of mutiny and other social continuities were considered a danger for public order.

The rhetoric of articles, of course, was influenced by the political orientation of the journal. Right-wing periodicals agreed with this “strike against the art of Soviet propaganda”. But the approach of German censorship authorities was criticised by communist and democratic press. The majority of articles from the whole spectrum of daily press emphasized the artistic quality of the film and repeatedly spoke for the screening of BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN in the Czechoslovak cinemas. But the press articles did not conceal the political content of the film. Therefore some doubts concerning the approach of the Czechoslovak censorship occurred [press article]. The film was purchased for the Czechoslovakia by one of the greatest film production and distribution company - Elektafilm, Praha. The application for the censorship of BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN under the official distribution title KRIŽNÍK POTEMKIN / PANZERKREUZER POTEMKIN was delivered to Ministerstvo vnitra/Ministry of the Interior on 30th July 1926.

3. The silent version of BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN / KRIŽNÍK POTEMKIN in Czechoslovakia

10.8.1926, examination number 50918/26
BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN was screened for Censor Advisory Board 3rd August 1926. After the screening a long-lasting discussion began. All members of the Censor Advisory Board delivered comments to the global conception of the film. But during the discussion the board’s members divided into two very intensively arguing groups. The first one recommended complete interdiction against the film while the second one suggested to qualify the film for public screening with some restrictions – only for adults and with exclusions of scenes and titles.

The first group was represented by experts from the “oppressive” state authorities:
· Ministerstvo vnitra (Ministry of the Interior)
· Ministerstvo národní obrany (Ministry of Defence)
· Ministerstvo spravedlnosti (Ministry of Justice).

Representatives of Ministry of Justice (Linhart) and Ministry of the Interior (Dr. Kodítek) were the most active participants in the discussion. They argued for complete interdiction of the film most intensively. A representative of Ministry of Defence (gen. Kunz) shared most of their arguments. The representative of the Ministry of Justice was irritated by a “glorification of mutiny which could produce dissatisfaction among the people with existing law and social order and could endanger the military discipline”. The Ministry of Defence’s representative mentioned “offering of instructions for mutiny and creating restlessness in the Czechoslovak army, which must be saved from infiltration by political ideas”.

The opposite group consisted of of educational and cultural authorities:
· Ministerstvo školství a národní osvety (Ministry of Education)
· Masarykuv lidovýchovný ústav (Masaryk´s Institute for National Education)
· Ústrední škola delnická“ (The Central Labour School)

Representatives of “educational” state authority – Ministry of Education (Inderka; Dr. Novotný) – supported the qualification for public screening because “the film was merely showed historical events with the dramatic depiction of terrible conditions of living in Russia. Revolution is the result of long-lasting oppression of the Russian people by the Tsar’s regime”. The representatives of cultural institutions – Masaryk´s Institute for National Education (Dr. Hrudicka) and The Central Labour School (Dr. Vorácek) – also shared these arguments.

The censorship procedure continued with the voting about the qualification for public screening:

PRO – for qualification for public screening voted:
· Ministry of Education (2 representatives)
· Ministerstvo obchodu (Ministry of Commerce)
· Masaryk´s Institute for National Education
· The Central Labors School

CONTRA – for complete interdiction voted:
· Ministerstvo sociální péce (Ministry of Welfare)
· Ministry of Justice
· Ministry of Defence
· Jednota výtvarných umelcu (The Association of the Creative Artists).

The Representative of The Central Labors School suggested an exclusion of scenes of massacre in staircase and the quotations from the book “Svetová revoluce” (A World Revolution) written by the president of the Czechoslovak Republic Tomáš G. Masaryk (1850 – 1937). It was signed as an attempt of shielding the film by the name of the president of the Czechoslovak Republic.

A representative of Ministry of the Interior is not mentioned in this voting. But this authority expressed its opinion in a very detailed statement supporting complete interdiction of the film. Ministry of the Interior refused the arguments of the representatives of Ministry of Education at first. On the contrary, a biased depiction of historical events was pointed out. And finally the Ministry of the Interior filed characteristic elements of this crass misinterpretation legitimising complete interdiction of the film:
· brutality of government authority and soldiers during an action against
mutineers
· friendly depiction of mutineers, emphasised by sympathy of civil inhabitants
· adoration of dead sailor Vakulinchuck
· incompetence, cruelty and ruthlessness of military authorities
· emphasising an easy victory of revolutionary idea and impotence of state
authorities
· depiction of demagogic instigation of dissatisfied people

The public screening of the film could endanger the army discipline, provoke a dissatisfaction of some groups of inhabitants with existing social order, it could give instructions for disparagement of state and army authorities and finally offer support for acts of subversive elements.

All the arguments mentioned above were resumed in the following final report:
The whole structure of the film is propaganda of revolutionary ideas. Suggested exclusions of the thorniest scenes bring no result. They are the essential parts of the film. The film should be completely interdicted. A screening of the film for Extended Censor Advisory Board is not recommended. But in the announcement for the film distribution company, Ministry of the Interior recommended to bring down the film to Extended Censor Advisory Board.

Mostly democratic and communist periodicals commented on the interdiction of the film. They criticised the slow procedure, emphasised “5 pro vs. 4 contras” and argued for a new examination.

3.9.1926, examination number 56693/26
BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN was censored again very soon – one month later. Before the repeated censorship, Ministerstvo vnitra (Ministry of the Interior) asked Czechoslovak embassies in Berlin and Vienna for a general mapping of the censorship procedure in Germany and Austria. The screening for Extended Censor Advisory Board took place on 30th August 1926. At first one important fact should be mentioned: The film print screened for Extended Censor Advisory Board was 1480 m long and modified according to the results of the censorship authority in Berlin.

Before the hearing started, the representative of Ministry of the Interior (Dr. Anders) announced the statement of the previous censorship. After the screening the procedure continued with the voting: Twelve members favoured qualification for public screening, six members voted for complete interdiction – representatives of Ministry of Justice (Linhart; Dr. Neudek), Ministry of the Interior (Dr. Anders, Dr. Novák) and Ministry of Defence (col. Komárek).

Each state authority had 2 representatives in Extended Censor Advisory Board, cultural and educational institution only one. According to the procedure rule of Extended Censor Advisory Board the decision was valid if 2/3 members of Extended Censor Advisory Board voted for qualification of the film for public screening. On the one hand the film was qualified, but on the other hand the changes – exclusions of scenes and titles – were inevitable. So the discussion started immediately…

The members voting for qualification of the film also initiated the discussion about the shortages. They suggested deleting scenes depicting the sailors’ mutiny (reel III) and the massacre on the “Odessa staircase” (reel V). Only the beginning of this scene remained – soldiers going downstairs. All bloody and violent scenes from the “Odessa staircase” were cut out.
Also some titles were excluded:
· title No.114 – “Look, there are our brothers decisive to defend the country according to the oath. But why should they fight against us? We only protect the right thing”
· title No.118 – “We will not defend corruption and fight against the others who decided to resist. They demand only their rights.”

Title No.121 had a new version: Battleship passed around the flagship. The Potemkin crew was interned by the Rumanian government (28th June 1905) in the harbour of Constanza.

Representative of Masaryk´s Institute for National Education (Trnka) suggested to omit text passages referring to the mutiny of sailors in Boka Kotorska in 1917 (reel I). This historical event was caused by completely different circumstances. This suggestion was supported by the representatives of Ministry of Education. Dr. Trnka still insisted on the exclusion of titles containing quotes from Masaryk’s “Svetová revoluce” (The World Revolution). The Ministry of the Interior asked for an opinion of the Office of the President of the Czechoslovak Republic. But there were no objections against using of these quotations.

An important point for qualification was the attitude of Ministry of Interior. Its representative, Dr. Anders, was satisfied with the shortages but he suggested an additional exclusion of the scene in reel VI (Potemkin sails around the flagship and sailors greet each other). The Ministry of the Interior also recommended the qualification of BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN and the film was qualified for public screening with the following restrictions:
· ban for young people
· exclusions of scenes and titles (see above)
· “except Slovakia”- this result has an interesting continuation.

Before première BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN had to be screened to Ministry of the Interior again for controlling the shortages. The film was finally accepted for public screening but the Ministry recommended special observation of the screenings. Subordinate authorities should control all impulses endangering public law and order during showings. If some such impulses occurred, the revocation of permission should be considered.

The reaction of the periodicals was again shaped by their political orientation. There was an agreement with the qualification in most of the democratic press. Journals of the right-wing parties wrote about a shocking approach of the censorship and regarded the film a work of Bolshevik propaganda. The Communist press criticised the practice of censoring Soviet films.

Some disturbance appeared during screening of the film in Prague at the end of October 1926 and daily press reported about the riot – e.g. Rudé právo or Csl. Republika [press article] (both 30.10.1926). The incident happened at the cinema Bio Kapitol on 29th October 1926. A group of young men (probably representatives of ultra right-wing movement) provoked obstructions after the beginning of the screening – roaring, squeaking and singing of the song “Hej Slované!” (Hey, Slavs!). They also started to spread incorrect information about an additional interdiction of the film in the district of Prague. Present police agent stopped the performance and four people were taken to the police station. But after identification they were let off.

Observation activities could be reconstructed from several reports about screenings in Prague, written by police agents. They watched the film between 5th and 11th November 1926 in Bio Kapitol and Hvezda. All supervised screenings took place without any riots but there were also some cases of demonstration of approval. In the “late night screening” organized by the Communist cultural association “Proletkult” great applause was registered especially on the scene depicting the mutiny of sailors. On 9th November 1926 there was some applause during the scene “Mutiny of officers”. But there were no additional restrictions against BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN.

The Ministry of the Interior usually issued censorship permissions for the whole area of Czechoslovakia. But in some special cases - films with the affix “s výhradou Slovenska” (except Slovakia) [cf. Centralised versus localised film assessment in Austria, Czechoslovakia and Germany] - Cenzúrna komisia pre filmy [pri ministerstve s plnou mocou pre správu Slovenska] v Bratislave (Censor Advisory Board [by ministry for Slovakia] in Bratislava) [cf. The film censorship in the Czechoslovakia 1919 – 1940] was authorized to decided about a ban of a film within its sphere of influence.

One of these special cases was BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN. The screening of the film in Slovakia was completely interdicted by Censor Advisory Board [by ministry for Slovakia] in Bratislava in October 1926. On 26th November 1926 twenty-five deputies of the Parliament of the Czechoslovak Republic filed an urgent interpellation addressed to Ministry of Interior. The deputies protested against the complete interdiction of the film for Slovakia. They openly criticized censorship practice and pointed out that films qualified for public screening in Bohemia and Moravia were often banned in Slovakia.

The film was repeatedly censored by Censor Advisory Board [by ministry for Slovakia] in Bratislava and again completely banned on 22nd March 1927. The Ministry of the Interior could not affect these decisions; they were competence of the Ministry for Slovakia in Bratislava. BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN was finally qualified for public screening in Slovakia on 4th April 1929 (length: 1394 m) but banned for young people and without titles containing quotes from the book of Masaryks “A World Revolution”.

2.12.1932: examination number 1326/32 Fc
Censorship permissions were issued for five years. After this period the permission became invalid and distribution companies had to apply for new censoring. The film distribution company Lyrafilm, Praha applied for a new censoring of BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN in November 1932 (examination number 1326/32 Fc). The film was qualified for public screening 2nd December 1926 in the same version as in 1926.

7.1.1938: examination number 1757/37 Fc
Finally the film distribution company Karel Votruba, Praha applied for censoring of BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN in November 1937 (examination number 1757/37 Fc). The film was qualified for public screening on 7th January 1938 with the same result as in 1932.

The screening of the film BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN was completely interdicted on 27th April 1939 at the beginning of occupation of the rest of Czechoslovakia (Bohemia and Moravia) by Nazi Germany.

4. The synchronized version of BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN / KRIŽNÍK POTEMKIN in Czechoslovakia

20.11.1930, examination number 1738/30 Fc
The silent version was not the only one being censored in the Czechoslovak Republic 1919 – 1939, as mentioned above. In September 1930 the film distribution company Republic Film, Praha applied for censorship of the dubbed version of BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN. The distribution title was PANZERKREUZER POTEMKIN/KRIŽNÍK POTEMKIN. However, after a few days the distribution company asked for postponing the censorship procedure. Finally the screening took place on 13th November 1930. The film was qualified for public screening but banned for young people. Some scenes were cut out as women challenging the revolt, the massacre on staircase in Odessa (reel III), sailors from the Potemkin greeting sailors from the flagship (reel V) and following dialogues:
· “Und dann wollen wir sehen, bei wem die wahre Macht ist! Bei uns oder auf der Kommandobrücke! Die Macht die uns gehört und sonst niemanden. Sag nur, wann? Bald! “ (reel I)
· „Schliesst Euch an zu uns- zu uns-. Einer gegen alle, einer gegen alle. Achtung! Fahrt frei für Potemkin. Hurra. Und ohne einen einzigen Schuss hat der Panzerkreuzer Potemkin Admiralgeschwader durchgefahren.“ (reel V)

Thematically the excluded scenes are very similar to the excluded ones from the original silent version of the film.

by Tomáš Lachman

 
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Source Edition urrogat Production Introduction Censorship Regulations Battleship Potemkin Horror Films Conclusion Bibliography Germany Introduction Czechoslovakia Austria Synopsis Local vs. central film assessment Potemkin abroad Russian films