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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Military Arms Itself With TV, Radio and Film

MTSoldiers marching over to Culture Minister Mikhail Shvydkoi with the agreements to kick off cooperation Thursday between the armed forces and the country's cultural figures.
The army -- tarnished by hazing, draft dodging and underfunding -- is not as bad as it is cracked up to be, military officials declared Thursday.

To prove it, the army is going to work hand in hand with the cultural elite to revive a Soviet-era tradition of making movies, television shows and radio programs dedicated to the machine gun-toting boys in fatigues.

And to make sure that there is no doubt left in the minds of those in the armed forces, the country's top performers will tour barracks across the nation to bolster morale.

"The 1990s have been difficult for both the army and culture, but now it has become clear that we need each other," Culture Minister Mikhail Shvydkoi said Thursday at ceremony where he signed a cooperation agreement with the Defense Ministry.

"This is a return to a tradition that was dumped for no good reason," said Deputy Defense Minister Igor Puzanov, surrounded by a small army of renowned personalities including Lyudmila Zykina, darling of the Politburo, actors Elina Bystritskaya and Vladimir Zeldin and composer Alexandra Pakhmutova.

The tradition Puzanov was referring to started during World War II when some 42,000 performers -- orchestra members, folk singers and actors -- toured the front to boost the morale of the Soviet Army.

Puzanov said the first fruits of the drive to put the military in a better light -- a few television and FM radio programs -- will appear as early as Feb. 23, the Defenders of the Fatherland Day public holiday. More television and radio shows, along with movies, will be prepared throughout the year, he said.

One of the television productions will be a weekly series similar to "Sluzhu Sovetskomy Soyuzu," or "Serving the Soviet Union," which ran through the 1970s and 1980s.

"Remember how the entire country watched it every Sunday between 10 and 11 in the morning?" Puzanov said.

Vladimir Filonov / MT

Singer Lyudmila Zykina, a favorite of Brezhnev's who toured Soviet military bases, attending the signing ceremony Thursday.

The program consisted of upbeat reports about the everyday lives of different troop divisions.

Puzanov was scarce on details about the radio shows and movies.

On Soviet-era radio shows, letters were read from soldiers and their relatives between the playing of popular songs. Movies included the much-loved "Officers," which followed a family whose children and their children proudly joined the army.

Puzanov refused to say how much the military plans to sink into the ventures.

He did say, however, that he was confident the army's reputation would grow stronger in the public's eye, particularly among a younger generation that lacks the respect their grandparents had for the military.

Moreover, the morale of soldiers and officers stationed in remote regions in Siberia and the Far East and volatile areas such as Chechnya would be boosted by the performances of popular singers and actors.

The army is ready to offer its resources to ferry performers to remote locations and to provide settings for movies, Puzanov said.

Boris Morozov, artistic director of the Russian Army Theater, said that the thousands of troops and their families stationed in far-flung areas should be the main target.

"We are indebted to these people who are isolated from the cultural life and from everything else," Morozov said.

Zykina, a favorite of Leonid Brezhnev's who toured the Soviet Union numerous times singing folk songs to the troops, was enthusiastic about the projects.

"It's a shame what we have to watch on television these days. From morning to night we are shown people on top of each other," Zykina said, sniffing in disgust. "Humph!"