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Literature / The Great Opposition

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The Great Opposition (Russian: Великое противостояние) is a Coming of Age Story novel by Lev Kassil. The first part was published in 1940 and the second one in 1947.

Sima Krupitsyna, thirteen years old, is offered a lead part in a historical film, that of Ustya, a guerrilla girl fighting in The Napoleonic Wars. She enjoys the filming immensely, her heroine really grows on her, and she finds a great friend and supporter in the director, Alexander Rasschepey, while the film becomes a beloved hit right after the premiere. However, as it gradually leaves the theaters, Sima finds it hard to adjust to normal life again, especially after Rasschepey says she doesn’t have what it takes for a real career in cinema.


Just as Sima manages to overcome her initial crisis and find a new calling in caring for younger children and in astronomy, World War II strikes the country, and Sima finds herself in guerrilla warfare again, for real this time.

A film based on the book got released in 1974.

The novel and its adaptation provide examples of:

  • Anyone Can Die: Among the major characters, Rasschepey dies of heart failure in part one. Then in part two, his widow Irina gets killed in an air raid, and Amed is killed in action.
  • Died During Production: Downplayed In-Universe. Rasschepey dies when his last film is in post-production.
  • Foreshadowing: In-Universe. In The Angry Muzhik, Sima’s character Ustya plays a simple country girl who comes face to face with a robber (a thinly-veiled allusion to Napoleon). Later, she ends up facing the actual Napoleon. And then, the entire film foreshadows Sima’s own involvement in another great war.
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  • Former Child Star: Sima very nearly plays it straight when she is deeply depressed and can’t do anything right in her life after finishing the film. Fortunately, she realizes it soon enough and finds new goals in life.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Sima, aged thirteen to sixteen throughout the novel, is a good friend of Alexander Rasschepey and his wife Irina (in their forties).
  • Mood Whiplash: Sima and her pioneer group get stranded on an island, have some generally harmless adventures and are eventually rescued the next day. And then the people who rescue them are furious that they lit a fire on the island. Because a war started the day before and the entire city's blacked out.
  • Not What It Looks Like: Sima initially thinks Rasschepey is a criminal or a foreign spy stalking her. In fact, he is about to offer her a part in his film.
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  • Pragmatic Adaptation: The adaptation cuts a lot of the subplots, especially from the second part, focusing on Sima’s own growth and omitting many other characters. Justified, since cramming the several different arcs from the book into the film's second part (the air raids in Moscow, the relationships between the pioneers Sima leads, Sima rescuing Igor and finding the guerrillas in Korevanovo) would have been really hard.
  • She's Not My Girlfriend: Everybody assumes Amed and Sima are an item, which they both furiously deny. There is some Ship Tease indicating there may be something more than friendship between them, but as he gets killed in action when she is sixteen, nothing ever comes out of it.
  • Show Within a Show: A good deal of the first part is about the filming of The Angry Muzhik. The film itself also has a show within it, a pastoral musical staged by Korevanov, Ustya’s landlord.
  • So Okay, It's Average: In-Universe, Sima feels her life is like this in the beginning, especially at school. Her grades are not brilliant enough to get praises and not bad enough to be a problem. As she puts it, she is “very ordinary”.
  • The Unfavorite: Sima for everyone in the family except her father. She was born after an unplanned pregnancy, when her sister Lyudmila was nineteen and her brother Georgy fifteen, and she has been treated as some embarrassing addition since. However, it does get better by the end of the novel.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: The epilogue takes place four years after the second part’s events. It is the 30th of April, 1945, and the war is practically over. Sima is now studying astronomy at the university and gives lectures at hospitals. Many of her friends, as well as the pioneers in her charge, have survived.