February 26, 2016

The Force is Strong There

The Force is Strong There

Recently Dubrovnik, Croatia, was the focus of rumors that the next Star Wars movie, Episode VIII, will do some filming there. Already a TV star, Dubrovnik has appeared as King’s Landing in the popular series Game of Thrones, its winding cobbled streets and medieval stone fortresses doubling as authentic fantasy locations.

It’s not known yet precisely where the Star Wars crew will film, or what galaxy far, far away the city will represent, but there are plenty of available tight corners, twisty lanes, dead ends and ancient structures left over from another time, if not another world.

This news made us curious about hidden connections between Star Wars and other countries we love:

Party Latecomers: Russia 1990

The first Star Wars film, A New Hope, was released in 1977, but Russia was 13 years late to the release party. Why?

Because, as Nadezhda Ustinova writes in an article in Russia Beyond the Headlines, “A long time ago, in a country far far away, which no longer exists on the political map of the world… Star Wars was not released in movie theaters.”

Only party bigwigs and actors got to see the dangerously free-spirited “Space Westerns,” as they were called, when they came out in the 70s and 80s, although pirated and dubbed copies were soon reproduced and distributed to a growing audience of underground fans.

Apparently, even the official USSR premiere in 1990 ran bootlegged videos, and new posters had to be commissioned to advertise them. Not too long after that, the Soviet Union fell apart. Coincidence? Or could it have been an indication of the strength of the Force?

Ever since 2000, when licensed copies of the original trilogy made their way around Russia, the latest Star Wars episodes have opened in the country within the same timeframe as the rest of the world.


Hand painted Star Wars nesting dolls by Andy Stattmiller.

Hand painted Star Wars nesting dolls by Andy Stattmiller

Cosmic Nesting Dolls

And since 2000, a new take on an old art form has emerged as well – Star Wars nesting matrioshka dolls. Though painted in the U.S. by San Francisco artist Andy Stattmiller (buy), they make use of the ubiquitous blank nesting doll templates that are decorated and sold to travelers all over Russia.

Traditionally matrioshkas were girl dolls, but in the 90s they took a more populist turn, with political leaders and rock stars found nesting inside one another. So it was only a matter of time before Jabba the Hut et al got into the act.

Hand painted Star Wars nesting dolls by Andy Stattmiller.

Hand painted Star Wars nesting dolls by Andy Stattmiller


Taunting the Dark Side: Poland and Ukraine

We found that the Force is strong in Poland and Ukraine, although the Dark Side has made inroads. For example, a mysterious metamorphosis in the town of Wejherowo, Poland, can be observed whenever it snows.

In the town square, a statue of the town’s namesake, Polish nobleman Jakub Wejher, shape-shifts as the snow flutters down into a menacing Darth Vader, cloak billowing behind him, darkened light-sabre slapping against his leg, and snout-like breathing apparatus hanging from his ravaged face.

Darth Vader in Poland / Image credits: polskieszlaki.pl / Wejherowo.pl

From hero to heavy – Image credits: polskieszlaki.pl / Wejherowo.pl


In other Darth Vader news, artists in Odessa, Ukraine, have updated a statue of the out-of-favor autocrat Vladimir Lenin. With only a few tweaks, they’ve transformed Lenin into his intergalactic relative, Lord Vader. And they updated it to radiate free Wi-Fi.

Also in Odessa, a dark horse candidate named Darth Mykolaiovych Vader ran a losing campaign for mayor, a metaphorical defeat for the Dark Side.


Collectable Posters: Hungary, Poland, Russia

It turns out that Star Wars poster art has been flourishing overseas all this time, ignored by all but the most hardcore fans. Especially original and collectable are the Hungarian posters created by Tibor Helényi, toward the bottom of the article, and the 1990 Soviet posters by Yuri Bokser and Alexander Chantsev.

The Empire Strikes Back, Hungary, 1982, by Tibor Helényi (Star Wars Klub) / A New Hope, Hungary, 1979, by András Felvidéki (Star Wars Klub)

The Empire Strikes Back, Hungary, 1982, by Tibor Helényi (Star Wars Klub) /
A New Hope, Hungary, 1979, by András Felvidéki (Star Wars Klub)

This post originally appeared on the blog of MIR Corporation, the 30-year-old expert in travel to all destinations in Eastern Europe and Russia, including those which may or may not have a link with Star Wars. Reprinted with permission.

Top photo: Collectable Star Wars posters: USSR, 1990, by Yury Bokser and Alexander Chantsev (eBay) / The Empire Strikes Back, Poland, 1982, Jakub Erol (PolishPoster)

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