Open main menu

The Unknown War (Russian: "Великая Отечественная" (The Great Patriotic War) or "Неизвестная война" (The Unknown War) is an American documentary television series. The 20-part series documents the World War II conflict between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. The show was produced and syndicated for international distribution by Air Time International, and the executive producer was Fred Weiner. Each episode is about 48 minutes long, similar in format to the film The World at War. The footage was edited from over 3.5 million feet of film taken by Soviet camera crews from the first day of the war during Operation Barbarossa on 22 June 1941 through the Soviet invasion of Manchuria in August 1945. Most of these films have never been seen outside this documentary series.

The Unknown War
Written byRod McKuen (script adaptation)
Directed byIsaac Kleinerman, Roman Karmen
Narrated byBurt Lancaster
Country of originUSSR, United Kingdom, United States
No. of episodes20
Running time1040 min
Picture formatB/W & Color
Audio formatmono
Original release22 June 1978

The series is hosted by Academy Award winner Burt Lancaster, who spent three weeks in eight cities in the USSR for location filming. Film footage from Soviet archives comprises a major portion of the series, supplemented by film from both the United States and British archives. Appearing in exclusive interviews would be Russian Commanders like Georgi Zhukov and Vasily Chuikov. Other interviews shot for the series included Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev and Averell Harriman, who was U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union during World War II.

The series was produced with Soviet cooperation after the release of The World at War. Fred Weiner believed that a TV series featuring never before seen footage of the battles on the Eastern front would be of great interest to viewers and worldwide TV stations. Released in 1978, The Unknown War promoted the scope of the Soviet participation against Nazi Germany. The program was purchased first by German TV and quickly thereafter by TV stations in New York and Boston. Eventually the program was purchased by approximately 75 American TV stations and over 50 foreign broadcasters. After the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, several American TV stations, responding to public outcry, temporarily halted airings. Later it returned to additional airings on cable, including A&E, the History Channel, and Hulu.[1] The series was released on a 5-disc DVD set in 2011.[2]


  1. June 22, 1941
  2. The Battle for Moscow
  3. The Siege of Leningrad
  4. To the East
  5. The Defense of Stalingrad
  6. Survival at Stalingrad
  7. The World's Greatest Tank Battle
  8. War in the Arctic
  9. War in the Air
  10. The Partisans
  11. The Battle of the Seas
  12. The Battle of Caucasus
  13. Liberation of the Ukraine
  14. The Liberation of Belorussia
  15. The Balkans to Vienna
  16. The Liberation of Poland
  17. The Allies
  18. The Battle of Berlin
  19. The Last Battle of the Unknown War
  20. A Soldier of the Unknown War


The series has a recurrent theme song written by Rod McKuen and "Birch-tree's dreams" ("Берёзовые сны") by G. Fere (Г. Фере) and V. Geviksman (В. Гевиксман).

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "New on: Hulu". Life. USA Today. May 7, 2013. p. 07d – via EBSCO Academic Search Complete.
  2. ^ Swietek, F. (July–August 2011). "The Unknown War: WWII and the Epic Battles of the Russian Front". Video Librarian. Entertainment Review. 26 (4): 67 – via EBSCOhost Library & Information Science Source.

External linksEdit