Soviet Film Wednesday: Viy

Viy Poster

Viy is a significant artifact in the history of cinema, particularly in the context of Soviet film. Released in 1967, it is widely regarded as the first horror movie produced by the Soviet film industry. The film is based on a horror novella by Nikolai Gogol, a renowned Russian-Ukrainian author whose work has been foundational to both Russian and Ukrainian literature. The narrative revolves around a young priest who is forced to read prayers over the body of a witch for three nights, during which he encounters various demonic apparitions. The film effectively uses special effects to create a chilling atmosphere that continues to captivate audiences even today.


The production and success of Viy is noteworthy because it challenged the norms of the Soviet film industry at the time. It was during an era when horror was not considered a legitimate genre for cinema in the Soviet Union, a perspective largely influenced by the state’s censorship policies and its emphasis on realism and propagandist themes. Yet, Viy managed to navigate through these constraints to deliver an engaging and terrifying piece of cinema that still holds cultural and historical significance.

Viy‘s influence extends beyond its status as a pioneer of Soviet horror. It also served as an important stepping stone for Soviet film, demonstrating that filmmakers could explore new genres within the confines of state regulations. This has, in turn, paved the way for subsequent generations of filmmakers to experiment with diverse narratives and stylistic approaches. Today, Viy continues to be appreciated for its innovative storytelling and visual effects, standing as a testament to the creativity and resilience of the Soviet film industry.

Soviet Film Wednesday celebrates the artistry of Soviet filmmakers and in no way endorses the war in Ukraine.

Curated by Jennifer