Doctor Zhivago is a historically accurate movie. It is a love story that takes place during the Russian Revolution, World War One, and the Russian Civil War. Doctor Zhivago is historically correct because of the events it represents, the people the actors portray, and the level of detail put into the setting.
At the beginning of the movie, there is a scene showing a man handing out flyers asking workers to join him in a peaceful march to protest against the Tsar. The man’s name is Pasha. He is an ordinary worker who believes to reform Russia there must be a complete revolution of thought and action. Pahsa, when asked if he was part of the Bolshevik party, claims no allegiance. The Bolsheviks were people who were attempting to gain a much more favorable lifestyle for the working class. The Bolsheviks were lead by Lenin, who would end up leading Russia. Since someone questioned if Pasha was a Bolshevik because of his actions, one would believe that the Bolsheviks were doing the same thing; trying to get people to revolt against the Tsar.
When the workers who received the flyers join Pasha in the peaceful march, they are attacked Russian soldiers. The soldiers charge at them and the people turn and run. Those unable to escape are killed or injured. In the movie, this event took place in Moscow, but it was representing “The Bloody Sunday Massacre” which took place in St Petersburg, January 22, 1905.
Doctor Zhivago portrayed this event very well. They have the march during the winter of 1905, which is the actual time that the “Bloody Sunday” event took place. Also, both the people marching in the movie and the people marching in real life wanted the same things. They wanted bread, better working conditions, and eight-hour days. The setting of the massacre scene in front of the Russian palace is correct because in actuality, the massacre took place in front of the Winter Palace. Doctor Zhivago also uses one of its characters to represent one of the historical figures who was involved in the “Bloody Sunday Massacre”.
After the massacre, Pasha escapes with only a cut to his face. He goes to his fiancee, Laura, to ask for help. She asks how he got injured and he tells her about the massacre. He describes how the soldiers slaughtered women and children who only asked for bread to eat. Since he was the leader of the march, he feels responsible to take action against the Tsar. This is very similar to George Gapon. Gapon was the organizer and leader of the “Bloody Sunday” march. He too escaped with his life. After “Bloody Sunday”, he sent a letter the Tsar of Russia saying, ” The innocent blood of workers, their wives and children, lies forever between thee.” After the massacre, Gapon became very violent and became one of the leaders of the uprising. In Doctor Zhivago, Laura’s fiance changes his name from Pasha to Strelnikauf and becomes a leader of the uprising too. Gapon and Strelinkauf are quite similar in their actions and beliefs.
Nine years after the “Bloody Sunday Massacre”, Russia becomes involved with World War One. In the movie, there is a scene where Russian troops are marching through Moscow and the town’s people are cheering for them. During this scene, the narrator describes how when he entered the war, the party gave him the job the recruit troops. Bolsheviks, now referring to themselves as the party, wanted the Tsar removed and the power placed in the hands of the people. The Bolsheviks believed that the troops fighting in the war would soon become tired a weary, and would be easily convinced to come join the party. The narrator in the movie mentions this tactic by saying that the soldiers’ boots were new, and by the time they would wear out, they would join the party.
The narrator of the movie described how Russians looked at the war. It was the Germans verse the Russians. This is very historically accurate. During World War One, Russian troops mainly fought German troops. Also, in World War One, the main style of battle was trench warfare. There were two scenes with Russian soldiers waiting in trenches before they would rush the Germans.
There is a scene showing frontline Russian deserters heading back to Russia and on their way home, they run into Russian troops that are heading to the front line. While the troops march through the crowd of deserters, the deserters separate the troops from their generals. One of the generals gets up on a barrel and tries the get the troops and deserters to join together to fight the Germans. He is unable to convince anybody to join him and ends up getting shot along with the rest of the generals. The soldiers and deserters cheer and join forces. This was an example of how the party would get troops to join the party. These troops would end up becoming part of the Red Army. This process of troops becoming part of the Red Army is factual. Although that scene was fiction, it represented what true reality.
The start of the Russian Civil war was also represented in the movie. While
Doctor Zhivago is with the Russian troops; a carriage comes by and gives newspapers to all the troops. The newspaper says that the Tsar was arrested, Lenin is in Moscow, and civil war has started. This is all true except for the location. Tsar Nicolas was arrested and the civil war had started, but Lenin was not in Moscow, he was in St Petersburg. In the movie, they switched all the real life events that happened in St Petersburg to events that happened in Moscow.
Later in the movie, Doctor Zhivago and his family hear that the Tsar and his family were killed. Never in the movie did they mention the Tsar’s name, but it is obvious that they are talking about Tsar Nicholas II. This point in the movie is true, the Tsar and his entire family were killed. They do not mention all of the reasons the Tsar was killed, but Doctor Zhivago does tell his wife that the tsar was shot to show that Russia was never going to return to a monarchy.
There are many references to the Russian Civil War. It is just minor talk about Red and White movement through the country, but it gives the viewer a good sense of what is happening historically. The Red Party were the Bolsheviks. The White army were anti-Bolsheviks who were fighting to return Russia to the way it was. The movie shows who won the conflict by having scenes take place a decade later. Theses scenes have the red star poster on top of a tunnel, a symbol of the Red party. They also show whose in power by having pictures of Lenin posted all over Moscow. These things actually happened. The Red Star was a symbol of communism that could be found in all of Russia.
One of the characters in Doctor Zhivago represents the real life figure Victor Chernov. The character in the movie is Victor Camorofsky. The first thing they have in common are their looks. A picture of Chernov next to Camorofsky’s face in the movie is identical. Second of all, they hold similar positions in the party. Chernov was the leader of the Social Revolutionary Party and Camorofsky was minister of justice. Both of these positions are in the party. Chernov dealt with Russian exiles and Russians with ties to the British and the French. In the movie, Camorofsky talks to Doctor Zhivago about how his family isn’t safe because of their ties with the French and that he can help them. He also says that Doctor Zhivago and Laura are exiles and he wants to help them.
Doctor Zhivago is quite accurate in it’s portrayal of the facts. Everything from the ideas about the revolution to details on the buildings were historically correct. Names and locations might have been changed, but what they represented is factual. Even though the movie’s focus is on the love story and not the revolution, the details for the revolution seem to be accurate.
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