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Series / The Meeting Place Cannot Be Changed

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A detective novel, the Wainer brothers' The Age of Charity, written in 1975, became basis for this 5-part 1979 miniseries, The Meeting Place Cannot Be Changed. In a case of Adaptation Displacement, the popularity of the film has eclipsed that of the book.

Both tell the story of a young and idealistic army officer Vladimir Sharapov, who retires from the Soviet Army after WWII ends and is assigned for duty to Moscow Criminal Police (МУР in Russian). There he comes under the command of Gleb Zheglov, an experienced, brilliant, and no-nonsense police officer, who becomes a Big Brother Mentor to Sharapov. They investigate several murder cases connected to the activities of the infamous Black Cat gang (loosely based on a real gang or group of gangs operating in post-WWII Moscow).

The film was directed by Stanislav Govorukhin and soon hit the most-beloved-films Top-10 in Soviet Union. An urban legend claims that there were no crimes committed during the time the series was first shown — all the criminals were at home, watching the television. Nowadays, it is still popular and considered to be a TV classic. The TV format is five hour long series (common for TV series in Soviet Union).


  • Adaptational Wimp: Sharapov in the movie. First of all, unfortunate casting forced upon the director means that his actor pales in comparison to the charismatic Vysotsky. Secondly, most book scenes showing off Sharapov's badass credentials — specifically, war flashbacks and his sparring with the department's martial arts instructor - are excised from the movie. As a result, Sharapov's status as a Na´ve Newcomer comes to define him.
  • Affably Evil: Val'ka the Smoked is quite friendly towards Zheglov.
  • Anti-Hero: Gleb Zheglov is a Pragmatic Hero, uncomfortably close to Unscrupulous Hero: his goals are genuinely noble, but he is quite trigger-happy and readily plants evidence. In the book the main events are almost the same, but the nuances are quite different, and Sharapov concludes that Zheglov simply likes to kill, noble goals notwithstanding, making him a Nominal Hero. Of course, Sharapov can be mistaken.
  • At the Opera Tonight: In the third episode, Zheglov and Sharapov go to a performance of Swan Lake in order to catch Pen-Master and his accomplice with the goods. Sharapov is unhappy that he has to watch the criminals instead of enjoying the ballet, but Zheglov doesn't care about the performance at all.
  • Bad Guys Play Pool: Some bad guys are mentioned as billiard players, but the most significant example is Val'ka the Smoked (a thief), who plays billiards with Gleb Zheglov (a cop). Also, with Graying Morality of the series, Zheglov himself can be considered as an example.
  • Big Bad: The leader of the Black Cat gang is a man known as the "Hunchback", a ruthless criminal who isn't above ordering murders and will even join the others in their crimes directly if need be.
  • Big Guy: Ivan Pasyuk
  • Bittersweet Ending: The book ends tragically, but TV bosses told Govorukhin that the audience cannot stand two tragic deaths in a row, forcing him to choose between Varya and Levchenko. Govorukhin had chosen Varya to survive.
  • Black Market Produce: In autumn of 1945 there's no famine, but food is being rationed, and anything above the set limits costs a lot. The Black Cat gang rob stores and then sell food through an accomplice in a cafeteria. The scene in their hideout is a feast honest people cannot afford, with fresh cucumbers and tomatoes.
  • By-the-Book Cop: Vladimir Sharapov, which is what first brings him into conflict with Zheglov.
  • Calling Card: the Black Cat gang leave a cat drawing or an actual cat at the scene of the crime.
  • The Charmer: Zheglov uses guile to get what he needs from witnesses, criminals and coworkers. However, he also has the ability to switch from friendly to ruthless in a very short time.
  • Crime Reconstruction: subverted. Sharapov convinces the bad guys that Fox can be rescued while he reconstructs a crime "on location". This is in fact a part of a desperate Batman Gambit on his part.
  • Cunning Like a Fox: Fox, a member of the Black Cat gang.
  • Da Chief: Superintendent Svirskiy.
  • Diabolus ex Machina: Varya's death in the original novel comes out of nowhere. The only foreshadowing we get is Sharapov noting that nobody displays any triumph from successfully catching the gang.
  • Evil Cripple: Hunchback.
  • Fountain of Expies: Zheglov, who inspired any number of copy-cat "breaking the law to uphold the law" fictional cops, particularly after the USSR collapsed.
  • Framing the Guilty Party: Zheglov plants evidence to extract information from a known petty thief named Brick.
  • Good Cop/Bad Cop: The suspect points out that he's familiar with the trope from literature, as well as the psychological reasons this works in real life even if the suspect is familiar with it. As expected, it does work, after a fashion — possibly because the Good Cop does like the suspect and the Bad Cop does loathe him.
  • Gut Feeling: Per a later interview with the actor playing Fox, he wasn't quite sure what would prompt his character to suspect a police ambush at the restraunt. The director suggested he merely squint his eyes and look around - all the necessary information was conveyed in a single closeup.
  • Guttural Growler: Zheglov
  • Ham-to-Ham Combat: Most of the interrogation scenes. Zheglov vs. Pen-Master, Zheglov vs. Val'ka the Smoked, Zheglov vs. Kostya the Brick Saprykin...
  • The Hero: clean-cut Sharapov fits the bill.
  • I Call It "Vera": The Alleged Car "Ferdinand", so called due to looking bit like the likewise named German vehicles.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: Zheglov's modus operandi.
  • Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain: Blotter (Promokashka)
  • Jerkass: A several criminals, especially Kostya "The Brick" Saprykin.
  • Large Ham: Gleb Zheglov performed by Vladimir Vysotsky — awesomely.
  • Long List: Zheglov listing all the aliases of Man'ka "The Bond":
    Zheglov: OK, check these out... Laricheva Manya... a.k.a. Anna Fedorenko... a.k.a. Ella Katzenellebogen... a.k.a. Lydmila Ogurenkova... a.k.a... a.k.a. Izolda Men'shova,.. a.k.a. Valentina Paneyat...
  • The Infiltration: Sharapov is forced to undergo a far more in-depth infiltration than initially planned, after being kidnapped by the criminals for questioning.
  • The MŘnchausen: Grisha "Six To Nine". Zheglov even calls him "a grandson to Baron Von Munchausen".
  • Must State If You're a Cop: Sharapov, an undercover MUR agent, faces this question when he tries to infiltrate a gang. He answers: "Do I have to provide a document from the Militsia that states I'm not in it"?
  • Na´ve Newcomer: Vladimir Sharapov, former infantery scout, in the role of a cop.
  • Never Going Back to Prison: Levchenko. Truth in Television, as prisons in 1940's USSR were a very bad place for a criminal who cooperated with the authorities by enlisting in the army.
  • Noble Bigot with a Badge: Zheglov. He's genuinely fights and despise crime in every way, but he's prejudiced as hell, not above planting the evidence (though only in the case of a known career thief), and more than a little bit trigger-happy. It is implied that he's simply The Sociopath who has chosen an occupation where he can do most good and least harm.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: "Criminal! Is! To! Be! Jailed!"
  • Quote Mine: During investigation a caught criminal is asked to write three short fragments by hand, ostensibly in order to get a sample of his hadwriting. Two of the three are from real books. But the third, when read by itself, sounds like a thinly-veiled recommendation letter—which later gets used to gain trust of the criminal's gang.
  • Sacrificial Lamb: Vasya Vekshin.
  • Shakespearian Actors: Hamlet as Zheglov.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: The main theme of the film. Sharapov represents Idealism, Zheglov pepresents Cynicism. The highest point of antagonism is a scene with petty thief Kirpich (the Brick) framed by Zheglov for the sake of information about Fox. While juxtaposed, neither of the attitudes is shown to be better than the other.
  • Soft Glass: Averted completely. Fox, cornered by the police, uses a waitress as a battering ram \ shield to jump out the restaurant window. This injures or possibly even kills her, since she's left lying on the street as the chase scene begins. When Sharapov follows the villain into the street, the remaining glass cuts him up badly, leaving him with scars that last till the end of the series.
  • Smug Snake: "The Brick" in the scene with evidence planting gloats at the fact that he refused to lift the wallet (that Zheglov just put into his pocket) he just tried to steal form a woman on the tram:
    "The Brick": (lisping) You haff no methothh againtht Kothtya Thaprykin!
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Varya
  • Street Urchin: Zheglov was this, as revealed when he offhandedly drops a few lines on his backstory.
  • Suicide by Cop: A variation. Levchenko, a member of the Black Cat gang, doesn't actively want to die—but he really doesn't want to go back to prison, and is ready to risk almost certain death by cops' bullets to avoid it.
  • To Be Lawful or Good: A memorable scene has Zheglov and Sharapov argue whether planting the wallet on The Brick - who DID steal it, but managed to drop it as he was getting caught - was the right thing to do. Notably, neither the book, nor the series end with a conclusive answer.
  • Train Escape: Interestingly, the guys being chased don't know it, and only use the Train Escape as a habitual precaution.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Wainer brothers used several Real Life cases in the MUR's eventful '45 summernote  as a basis of their book, though they took a lot of liberties writing them into the plot.
  • Villainous Breakdown: When Fox realises that Sharapov had tricked him into writing a letter to the Black Cat gang, he suddenly loses his self-confidence.
    • Once he realizes the band is about to be arrested and there's no way out, Promokashka grows downright hysterical. The actor played up the desperate manic energy to such an extent that the real police officers acting as extras in the scene decided to forcefully restrain him.