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‘Red Army’ places Fetisov in the spotlight, but he’s no longer a critic of Russian politics

The ascendancy of the Slava Fetisov-starring documenary Red Army, which has earned rave reviews at the Cannes Film Festival (the Free Press's Brian Manzullo just posted an article noting that the film received 4 stars from the Guardian; the Kremlin-sponsored Russia Today's praising the film, too), places Fetisov in a role which he no longer plays in real life--that of an iconoclast.

While Fetisov staked his career upon earning the right to legally pursue professional hockey employment, Fetisov's post-hockey career has witnessed "Papa Bear" rejoin the Russian political machine. He's worked as the country's Minister of Sport, as a member of the Duma, as CSKA Moscow's president and a member of the KHL's board of directors, and now he's an upper-house parliamentary representative for Vladivostok--a far-from-Moscow region in Russia's Far East that just happened to build an arena named after Fetisov, which quickly landed a KHL team in the Admiral Vladivostok...

The Fetisov who once railed against the Soviet system's done quite well for himself in Putin's Russia, and as such, the Fetisov's tour through the press junket has and will reveal the picture of a complicated man as opposed to a still-liberal critic of a now neo-Soviet government.

The New York Times' Stephen Zeitchik spoke with Fetisov and the movie's director, Gabe Polsky, about Fetisov's status as a central figure...

This captivating film sees Polsky traveling frequently to Russia and talking to players  and experts on both sides of the globe to track the story of Russian hockey and, in so doing, the Cold War itself. What “Red Army” makes clear is that Russia saw its ambitions realized through hockey, not only because it could take pride in its national triumphs but also because the team itself was a crown jewel of its central-planning approach and a reflection of its collectivist mentality.

How the U.S. and the Russians played the game, the film explains — the U.S. focusing on individual achievement and Russia emphasizing a team collective — reflected their divergent ideologies.

It is Fetisov who is the spine of the story, as Polsky builds the film around a three-part interview he conducted with the star, now 56.

"I didn't intend to make this about Fetisov or about politics," Polsky said in an interview. "But the story of the Cold War is the story of Russian hockey, and the story of Russian hockey is the story of Fetisov."

As well as Fetisov's current politics--which don't deviate much from the standard Putinist norm:

Asked about the current situation in the Ukraine, he takes a more pro-Russia position than one might expect from someone who had so often battled with the power hierarchy there. "You have to realize that 96% of the people there speak Russian,” he said. “They want this.”

And queried about a renewal in Russia-U.S. tensions and what he makes of it given his long history with the subject, he says, “I've been trying to understand this for a long time. Ever since the Cold War. Why do Americans care that much? How does the Ukraine affect people in Michigan or Arizona?

"They say the Soviets were really good at propaganda, but look at how the Miracle on Ice is taught: It’s ‘the good guys won; we beat the evil Russians.’ How is that not propaganda? There are people on all sides of politics who will use things like hockey to their advantage.”

Again, here's the trailer for the film:

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DocF's avatar

I remember reading, when the old Soviet Union was disintegrating, that Fetisov had been offered the premiership.  Yes he is well-connected these days and probably could be Putin’s successor.

Posted by DocF from Now: Lynn Haven, FL; was Reidsville, NC on 05/19/14 at 04:33 PM ET

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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.