Turkish Gambit

The Turkish Gambit (Турецкий гамбит) is a 2005 Russian historical spy film directed by Dzhanik Fayziev (Джаник Файзиев). The film is based loosely on Boris Akunin’s (Борис Акунин) novel of the same name.

The film is set in Bulgaria in 1876, during the Russo-Turkish war. The story begins when titular councilor Fandorin’s (Yegor Beroev/Егор Бероев) detachment encounters a Turkish force of superior numbers. Attempting to rescue refugee families from the Turks, Fandorin allows himself to be taken prisoner. Fandorin is eventually able to escape captivity and winds up in the town of Vidin, where he witnesses the local governor meeting a mysterious guest on a secret mission from Istanbul. Fandorin gets into the governor’s house, but he still fails to see the face of this strange guest. On his way home, Fandorin meets Varvara Suvorov (Olga Krasko/Ольга Краско) in a Bulgarian tavern and ends up taking her with him on the road home. On the way he meets a gang of bandits, but he is saved by a Cossack detachment. From information he gleaned earlier, Fandorin warns the Cossack leader that the Russians need to get to the town of Plevna quickly to defend against the Turks, but no one believes him. Back at the Russian camp, the Russians learn that Nikopol, not Plevna, has been taken by the Russians, upon which the military police arrest another office, Yablokov, because his encryption keyword “Plevna” was replaced by “Nikopol.” Determined to find the spy within the ranks of the Russian army, Fandorin and Varvara begin to investigate this strange turn of events. The Russians go forward with the assault on Plevna, but the Kostroma regiment falls into an artillery ambush, which Fandorin suspects is the work of betrayal by Romanian colonel Lukan (Viktor Verzhbitskiy/Виктор Вержбитский). Continuing the general assault on Plevna, general chaos ensues as communication breaks down between headquarters and the various detachments of troops trying to take the city. Captain Zurov’s (Dmitri Pevtsov/Дмитри Певцов) body is found by a search party. To Fandorin’s skepticism, Turkey surrenders. Fandorin is sent to London to inform the British government that a Turkish spy—McLaughlin—has infiltrated the Russian army. Upon his arrival, Fandorin discovers the plot: the mysterious stranger from Vidin is a Turkish spy and master of disguise who has hatched a plot to get England to enter the war on the side of Turkey. Fandorin stops the plot, but the spy captures Varvara and locks her in an armored vault. In the end Fandorin is able to rescue her, but after the fighting is over he is exiled to Japan, removing any chance of romance between the two.

The film was a box office success but received mixed reviews from critics, especially in Russia.

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Director: Dzhanik Faiziev (Джаник Файзиев)
Stars: Yegor Beroev (Егор Бероев), Olga Krasko (Ольга Краско), Viktor Verzhbitskiy (Виктор Вержбитский)
Production company: Channel One Russia
Box office take: $18,461,000

 

Official trailer:

 

 

Turkish Gambit

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Zach Hicks is a PhD student in Comparative Literature at the University of Oregon. He is currently participating in SRAS’s Home and Abroad scholarship program. His main areas of interest are twentieth-century Russian and Soviet literature, socialist modernism, and critical theory. Outside of academics his major interests are martial arts, the outdoors, and music. In Russia, he plans to continue to increase his language proficiency, to learn as much as possible about the Russian underground music scene, its tattoo culture, and to become a student of Russia’s native martial art, SAMBO.