Four out of five bookshelves of my relatives feature the novels about Sherlock Holmes’ adventures by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Although these stories are popular all around the world, the genius detective holds a special place in Russian culture in particular. The TV series The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, which came out in 1979, remains “...a must-see staple of Soviet TV.” Until Benedict Cumberbatch from the BBC adaptation rocked the dance floor, it was the Soviet actor Vasily Livanov who was the Sherlock Holmes of our imagination.
Winnie the Pooh
One of the world’s most recognizable bears, Winnie the Pooh, is a star in Russia, too. Except that he has nothing to do with the Disney version you’re probably already thinking of. In 1969, almost at the same time as Disney, the Soyuzmultfilm animation studio released Winnie-the-Pooh, a cartoon based on Alan Milne’s classic tale. There’s no Christopher Robin, no Tigger, and no shirt on Winnie, who, by the way, looks more like a chocolate truffle. It’s a sweet and fun cartoon you can watch even nowadays to please your inner child.
The animated Soviet adaptation of the Swedish children’s book has made Karlsson a much beloved character from the ‘70s until now. Cultural differences considered, the Soviet Karlsson eats vatrushkas instead of kanelbullar, while his friend, the little boy Svante Svantesson, is called simply Malysh (Junior). Although some Swedes believe Karlsson is selfish and mischievous, the Russian version made him charming enough to forgive these imperfections. By the way, he was voiced by Vasily Livanov, the Sherlock Holmes from the abovementioned series.
The Three Musketeers
The novel by Alexandre Dumas inspired many movie directors, and the Soviet ones were no exception. A musical take on The Three Musketeers (1978) turned out so successful that even those who haven't seen it can sing some of the tunes by heart or at least name all the four main characters. The actor Mikhail Boyarsky, who played d'Artagnan, (and wears a hat and a mustache in real life), is associated with his character even decades after the movie came out.
Town Musicians of Bremen
The version of the Grimm brothers’ fantastic four that is known and loved in Russia may surprise those familiar with the original story. To gain fame, Donkey, Dog, Cat, and Rooster had to undergo some dramatic transformation: now, they travel with a human friend called Troubadour, dress like hippies, and play rock’n’roll only. And for locals, it feels more organic than ever thanks to the animated film The Bremen Town Musicians (1969) and its sequel On the Trail of the Bremen Town Musicians (1973). Back then, catchy songs and Western sounds made the cartoon a cult hit.