Released on January 1, 1971, The Battle of Kerzhenets is based on the mythical underwater city of Kitezh. According to legend, the Russian town “Little Kitezh” was built on the Volga River in the early 13th century. The Mongols had been invading nearby territories during this time, and when they reached Kitezh they started to attack the citizens, but the people did not flee, and instead prayed for salvation. Suddenly, water sprang from the ground, flooding the area, and the Mongols watched as the city sank, with the cathedral steeple as the last thing to disappear underwater.
It has been the subject of much art and storytelling, including a famous opera of the Invisible City of Kitezh written by composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov in 1907, The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh and the Maiden Fevroniya. The film The Battle of Kerzhenets is set to the music of Rimsky-Korsakov as a tribute to the composer.
The Battle of Kerzhenets uses Russian icons and art with stop-motion animation to loosely tell the story of Kitezh. It was directed by Ivan Ivanov-Vano and Yuri Norstein, written by Ivan Ivanov-Vano, and produced by Soyuzmultfilm.