Prisoner of the Caucasus, or Shurik’s New Adventures (Кавказская пленница, или Новые приключения Шурика; sometimes called Kidnapping, Caucasian Style in English) is a 1966 Soviet comedy produced by Mosfilm and directed by the comic genius Leonid Gaidai (Леонид Гайдай). The film was initially censored (apparently for showing the controversial practice of bride kidnapping in the Caucuses), but then-president Leonid Brezhnev was a fan of Gaidai’s work and reversed the decision. The film became the biggest Soviet hit of 1967 and one of the greatest Russian comedies of all time.

Although they’re never officially named as such, the film is the final installation featuring the Soviet analogue of The Three Stooges – the coward, Georgy Vitsin (Георгий Вицин); the fool, Yuri Nikulin (Юрий Никулин); and the pro, Evgeniy Morgunov (Евгений Моргунов). They, along with main character Shurik  (Шурик – Alexander Demyanenko / Александр Демьяненко), were featured in Operation “Y” and Shurik’s Other Adventures (Операция “Ы” и другие приключения Шурика) and Ivan Vasilyevich Changes Occupation (Иван Васильевич меняет профессию). The Stooges—minus Shurik—also appeared in the musical cartoon The Bremen Town Musicians (Бременские музыканты).

The plot follows the story of Nina (Natalya Varley / Наталья Варлей), a young, beautiful, and athletic woman who comes to stay with her uncle in the Caucasus, and Shurik, a folklorist who falls in love with Nina. Meanwhile, Nina’s uncle’s chauffeur decides to marry her, and purchases her from her uncle for 20 heads of sheep and an imported Finnish refrigerator. Rather than asking her opinion, both uncle and chauffeur kidnap Nina. Shurik is led to believe the arrangement is consensual and helps transport Nina to the kidnappers. He eventually realizes he’s been deceived and embarks on an epic and comic journey to rescue her.

The film is well known to nearly all Russians and is one of the classics (along with Irony of Fate) that is played over and over during the holidays on Russian TV and thus often re-watched by its fans yearly. It is perhaps for this reason that, when the film was remade in 2014, it flopped spectacularly. That film was released under the name Prisoner of the Caucasus! (Кавказская пленница!), and essentially just recreates the original film with look-alike actors and settings.

 

The full-length film is available (with English subtitles!) on YouTube:

 

Katheryn Weaver is a student of rhetoric and history at the University of Texas, Austin. Her primary areas of investigation include revolution and the rhetorical justification of violence against individuals, state, and society. She is currently studying Russian as a Second Language with SRAS's Home and Abroad Scholarship.