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How “White Sun of the Desert” and other famous films were shot in Turkmenistan


In the times of the USSR, Turkmen views were sometimes used as a location for filming various films - historical, fantastic and even humorous. At the same time, according to the script, the action in these films did not always take place on the territory of Turkmenistan, it was just that the landscape was the most suitable for the realization of the idea. Many of the films shot in the Turkmen SSR entered the “golden fund” of Soviet cinematography.

Perhaps the most famous film in this regard is the “White Sun of the Desert” by Vladimir Motyl. The action in it takes place in an abstract area on the territory of Turkestan (as the republics of Central Asia were called at the beginning of the XX century). Marine field shooting was carried out on the other side of the Caspian Sea, in Dagestan, including the scene of Said's rescue (and not in the Karakum Desert, as many people think). But the views of the non-existent village of Pendzhent are familiar to all residents of Turkmenistan from childhood, these are the ruins of Ancient Merv - the mausoleum of Sultan Sanjar, the remains of the Gyz-gala fortress, the surrounding desert around Bairam-Ali.

Filming began in May, when the desert blooms wildly in the spring. Since the winter of that year was cold and snowy, in the spring the desert was covered with an abundant carpet of flowers and grass, and the director needed a more “desert” landscape, with a minimum of greenery. To combat the excess grass, soldiers from the nearest military unit were invited - and in a few days they weeded the dunes so thoroughly that the area became similar to the Karakum in the midst of summer.


Scenes of battles with the basmachis and a dynamic chase in the mountains in the film “Officers” by Vladimir Rogov were also filmed in Turkmenistan, but already near Ashgabat. More precisely, in the Glubinka gorge near Dushak mountain - one of the most popular places for climbers and mountain hikers. There are climbing walls, picturesque hiking trails inaccessible to vehicles and small mountain rivers.

In this film, in addition to professional actors, the well-known Turkmen artist Shamuhammed Akmuhammedov also starred - he played the role of Kerim. Akmuhammedov's works can be found in Turkmen museums, as well as in Russia, Kazakhstan and in private European collections. In addition to “Officers”, he also starred in the films “There is no death, guys!” and “Lighthouse Light”.


The third widely known Soviet film, filmed mostly in Turkmenistan, is the fantastic tragicomedy-farce “Kin-dza-dza” by Georgy Daneliya. Naked, deserted and absolutely smooth, without vegetation, the area near Balkanabat was the best suited for the embodiment of the post-apocalyptic landscapes of the planet Plyuk.


Filming was in the summer, at the height of the heat. The cast and crew members, unaccustomed to such high temperatures, were exhausted, walked around nervous and almost quarreled with everyone and everything. The situation was saved by Yevgeny Leonov - only he could distract and amuse people with a joke or a funny story. In addition, due to an error in the documents, part of the props and scenery mistakenly flew to Vladivostok instead of Ashgabat, including the famous pepelats - an intergalactic spacecraft. But next to the filming site was an abandoned military airfield, and there was a dump on it. The props found on it a lot of all sorts of rubbish, which they very successfully adapted as elements for the costumes of chatlans and patsaks.


The film “The Golden Calf” in 1968 (directed by Mikhail Schweitzer) starring Sergei Yursky was also partially filmed in the Karakum desert - that short episode where Ostap Bender catches up with the underground millionaire Koreiko. Moreover, the action according to the plot, again, was not in Turkmenistan itself, but on the construction of Turksib, a railway line connecting the regions of Siberia with the territories of present-day Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. Nevertheless, the Karakum landscapes in the frame are quite recognizable.


A little-known late Soviet film “Mankurt” by Turkmen director Hojakuli Narliyev was filmed in Turkmenistan as well as in Libya and Türkiye. In the foothills of Kopet-Dag near Ashgabat, scenes of nomads attacking a peaceful village, capturing the main character and turning him into a mankurt were created. The other part of the scenes was filmed near the Libyan capital Tripoli and in Antalya, Türkiye.


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