Mamay / Мамай

Published: December 7, 2016

Mamay (Мамай) is a 2003 Ukrainian drama considered one of the highlights of recent independent Ukrainian filmmaking. It is a new entry in the ancient Ukrainian tradition of stories about the Cossack Mamay. The story of Mamay is one of the foundational legends of Crimean and Cossack culture, and Mamay appears in a wide range of Ukrainian cultural productions, old and new: paintings, poetry, a Soviet fantasy novel, and a song by contemporary Ukrainian band Vopli Vidopliassova.

The film’s plot unites two popular myths from Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar folklore, the Ballad of the Three Azov Brothers and the Dervish’s Song about the Three Valiant Mamlyuks. The first is a sixteenth-century Ukrainian legend, while the second has its roots in Crimean Tatar culture. The two legends tell more or less the same story, that of three brothers, all soldiers, who run away from the service when they hear the call of the Golden Singing Cradle. The cradle, according to the legend, holds the power of the entire Tatar race—without it, the Tatars’ line will die out.

The film also encompasses a third story, this one of the director’s own making—a romance between a Tatar woman and a Ukrainian Cossack man whose life she saves in the desert. This Cossack turns out to be the legendary Mamay.

The film was made through the backing of the Ukrainian Ministry of Culture and Art, and the members of the film’s creative team were awarded the State Prize of Ukraine named for Oleksandr Dovzhenko (Державна премія України імені Олександра Довженка—Dovzhenko was one of the founders of Ukrainian filmmaking). The film was exhibited at a number of international film festivals and was praised in particular for its cinematography.


Director: Oles Sanin (Олесь Санін)
Stars: Eldar Akimov (Ельдар Акімов), Andriy Bilous (Андрій Білоус), Emil Fatimaev (Еміль Фатімаєв), Sergiy Romanyuk (Сергій Романюк), Oles Sanin (Олесь Санін), Akhtem Seytablaev (Ахтем Сейтаблаєв), Nazl Seytablaeva (Назл Сейтаблаєва), Viktoria Spesivtseva (Вікторія Спесивцева)
Production studio: Kinostudio Aleksandr Dovzhenko, Western European Institute, Kinostudio Freski


Official trailer:



About the author

Julie Hersh

Julie studied Russian as a Second Language in Irkutsk and before that, Bishkek, with SRAS's Home and Abroad Scholarship program, with the goal of someday having some sort of Russia/Eurasia-related career. She recently got her master’s degree from the University of Glasgow and the University of Tartu, where she studied women’s dissent in Soviet Russia. She also has a bachelor’s degree in literature from Yale. Some of her favorite Russian authors are Sorokin, Shishkin, Il’f and Petrov, and Akhmatova. In her spare time Julie cautiously practices martial arts, reads feminist websites, and taste-tests instant coffee for her blog.

Program attended: Home and Abroad Scholar

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