Salt for Svanetia (1930) - full transcript

Story of distant mountainous region in Georgia that depicts folklore, lifestyle and daily routines of Svani people, focuses on the scarcity of salt in Svaneti region. Rich with documentary value, the movie also served for Soviet propaganda. - stop by if you're interested in the nutritional composition of food

Based upon an articIe by
S. Tretlakov

Director & Chief Cameraman
Mikhail Kalatozov

Sh. Geglashvili

"The Soviet Union is a country so
big and diverse..

...that every kind of social and
economic way of life... to be found within it"

Even now there are far reaches of
the Soviet Union where...

..the patriarchal way
of life persists...

...along with remnants
of the clan system.

Map of the Caucasian Mountains,
showing the Ingur River and the
locations of various tribes.

The Ushkul Tribe

Upper Svanetia, cut off from
civilization by mountains
and glaciers.

Here converge two mountain
ranges of the Caucasus.


The clouds come from the sea and
turn into shining, pure ice.

Through the slow-moving ice
currents, the cold creeps down.

From the mist and ice
are born the rivers.

One such river is the Ingur.

At its upper reaches lies...


Further down, where the currents
are slower and the climate milder,
lived the local barons.

Sole owners of this land's riches
- until the October revolution.

The passage into the upper,
free Svanetia is not easy.

Eight months of snow
lie at its gates.

Behind the snowy pass stand the
towers of Ushkul...

Strong towers of stone.

They are here for a reason.

Not too long ago they guarded
this starving land....

...from the looting barons.

The barons hated the towers.

Friend or foe?

Have they come to collect more
taxes from the starving villagers?

The towers are made ready.

The ancient pulleys creak
under the pressure.

The tower is ready for battle.

In this way, they fought...

...and protected their freedom
from the barons of the valley...

The great, all-enduring towers.

Cut off from the outside world,
the Ushkul tribe can satisfy...

...only the most basic
needs of its members.

Livestock - the lifeblood
of Ushkul.

There are pastures, but very little
milk, as salt is lacking.

The rich breed oxen
for sacrifices.

The poor have neither
livestock nor bread.

Down into the valley,
looking for work.

Ushkul is a subsistence
farming community.

From lamb wool...

...yarn is made.

Further down rumble the factories.
Here, people weave with the help
of machines...

...make their own clothing and...

...get their haircuts according to
their own fashions.

From the wet wool they make...

...weave ropes...

...and connect villagers
with bridges.

For the towers.

...for the roofs...

Without wheels.

They sleep on stone beds.

Stone is everywhere,
even in death.

By the glaciers...

...lie the barley fields.

Only the barley can grow at the
elevation of 1,800 meters.

JuIy 28th, 1 929.
The day was hot.




Summer betrayed the villagers.

The July snow covered all...

In snow and in sweat.

Save what you can.

The village is short-handed.

The strongest men have left
to look for work.

The storm has passed...

...and it's summer again.

Those flint boards are
used as thrashers.

Another way to use stone.

Another day of hard work.

Save the barley!

Harsh, bone-breaking labour.

Around and around...

Look out!

Save the manure for fertilizer!

Nature is harsh - the work
is exhausting.

The work is exhausting - the way
of life never changes.

Cut off from civilization,
Ushkul needs salt.

Here, salt isn't a
common commodity...'s like gold.

There's salt in sweat.

No salt...



There's salt in urine.

Cut off from civilization,
Ushkul is starving for salt.

The mountains that are
white as salt stop the salt
shipments from the valley.

There are no roads.

Driven by hunger from
their own land...

...the poor people of Svanetia...

...the farmers and field workers...

...the workers from tangerine

...carry the salt back to their own

The salt of the earth.

From the factories,
collective farms, highways.

The peopIe of Ushkul are waiting.

Waiting for their arrival.

Waiting with new hope.

Bleeding from exhaustion.



Waiting for news...

In the stone walls of this savage
land, religion still rules.

White smoke of mourning.

The funeral of a rich man is
a ceremonial celebration.

The funeral of a poor man
is only grief.

A birth during a funeral
is considered unclean.
The mother is exiled.

Friends and relatives: make
donations in memory of
the deceased! outcast.

Friends, pay homage: throw
yourself into the grave!

For you, O Lord!

This stallion is yours.

Let the blood of this ox
spill on the grave.

The horse is to be
driven to death.

Bless the Lord who created the
mountains of Svanetia.

Another Svan is born.



In the name of the
God of Svanetia...

...the Goddess of the valley...

...Saint IIIina...

...the horse's heart is
about to burst.

The blood of Svanetia.

There's salt in blood.

Religion is feeding
off Svanetia.

The sun rises...

...and sets...

...over the dead child.

Pregnancy is a curse
in Ushkul.

And all because there
are no roads.

We don't want to bear chiIdren!

Don't want to feed the
soil with our milk!

Hear this, Svanetia!

Watch this, audience!

For the Svans --

- for communists -

-- there are no obstacIes.

Our economic plan... stronger than religion
and old customs.

They bring to Svanetia
not a handful of salt...

They do not make a narrow
path in the snow.

Thousands of Svans...

...come through...

...into the

BuiIding roads.

Of the 107 kilometers
that Svanetia needs...

By the third year of the
five year plan...

50 kilometers have been completed.


Music by Zoran Borisavljevic
Translation by Alexander Litvak
Subtitles by MENiSCUS