The Nika Film Award (Ника кинопремия) is the oldest national film award in Russia. Established in 1987 by Yuli Gusman (Юлий Гусман), the awards are now presented by the Russian Academy of Motion Picture Arts.
In its early years, awards were judged by the Union of Filmmakers, but winners are now determined by secret ballot of the members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts, which encompasses over 600 cinematic professionals. Currently, the award includes films shot in Russia, other CIS countries (including Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan) as well as Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia. However, in practice, only Russian-language movies win the award. Only thrice have Nikas been given for films that employed other languages — for the films Ashik Kerib (Ашик-Кериб), Faust (Фауст) and Mongol (Монгол), but these movies also used Russian, offered Russian subtitles for any dialogue in other languages, and employed Russian filmmakers.
Winners in each of the 23 categories receive statuettes of the winged Greek goddess Nike, the ancient Greek personification of victory. Originally, the statue was called “Wings of the Soviets” (“Крылья Советов”), and later renamed “Nike” after the heroine of the popular film The Cranes are Flying (Летят журавли). Only after the collapse of the USSR did the award become associated with the Greek goddess. The statue is cast in bronze and coated with gold.
Nika nominees retain the right to withdraw from the competition for any reason. In 2008, director Nikita Mikhalkov (Никита Михалков) withdrew 12, a Russian remake of the American movie 12 Angry Men. Directors Vladimir Khotinenko (Владимир Хотиненко) and Alexander Sokurov (Александр Сокуров) have also withdrew their films, “1612” and “Alexander (Александр),” respectively.
Each of the films were produced under the auspices of “Studio TriTe” (“Студии ТриТэ”), a studio of Mikhalkov’s creation. Mikhalkov is also a founder of the Golden Eagle (Золотой орёл) Film Award, which competes with the Nike. Critics say the rivalry between the two ceremonies is detrimental to the development of national cinema.
A news clip contemplating 2017 Nika contenders: