The Jerusalem Post - The Jerusalem Post Magazine
12. Big bad/good Boris
The animated TV series The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, created by Jay Ward, Alex Anderson and Bill Scott, ran from 1959 to 1964 in the US on the ABC and NBC networks. The two title characters were a flying squirrel and a bull moose. The main antagonists in most of their adventures were two Russian-like spies named Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale. The two nefarious characters came from the fictitious country of Pottsylvania. The TV series was known for its high-quality writing and wry humor. Mixing puns and cultural and topical satire, it appealed to adults as well as children.
An excellent example of the use of puns is the name created for Boris Badenov, a slippery character who proudly introduced himself as “the world’s greatest no-goodnik.”
“Badenov” is a play on the name of Russian ruler Boris Godunov (pronounced “guh-doo-nawf,” which sounds like “good enough”).
Boris Godunov ruled the Tsardom of Russia from 1585 to 1598, and then again from 1598 to 1605. He was the most noted member of an ancient Russian family of Tatar origin. His career began at the court of Ivan IV Vasilyevich, aka Ivan the Terrible, where he served as a member of the tsar’s personal guard and secret police. In 1580, when the tsar’s second son and future heir, Feodor Ivanovich, married Godunov’s sister, Godunov was promoted to the high rank of boyar.
In 1581, Godunov was present when the tsar murdered his own eldest son, the crown prince Ivan. Godunov tried to intervene but was unsuccessful. Three years later, on his deathbed, Ivan IV appointed a council that included Godunov to guide his son and successor Feodor I.
At the time, Ivan had a three-year-old son, Dmitri,
from his seventh and final marriage. The child had no claim to the throne, as the Church recognized only Ivan’s first three marriages as legitimate. Shortly after Ivan’s death, the council had Dmitri and his mother moved to Uglich, a town north of Moscow. In 1591, at age 10, Dimitri died under “suspicious circumstances.” The Uglich townspeople suspected Gudonov of perpetrating what was deemed an assassination. An official commission was sent to investigate, and Godunov’s guilt was never established.
Upon the death of Tsar Feodor in 1598, the national assembly elected Godunov to assume the reins of power, and he was crowned tsar. He ruled well and was popular and prosperous. Recognizing that Russia had to catch up with the intellectual progress of the West, he did his best to bring about educational and social reforms. He was the first tsar to import foreign teachers on a large scale, and the first to send young Russians to be educated abroad. He built towns and fortresses along the borders of Russia and colonized Siberia with scores of settlements.
Boris Godunov died in 1605. His 16-year-old son succeeded him. However, the boy ruled for less than a month, as he and his mother were murdered by enemies of the Godunovs.
The life of Boris Godunov has been the source of a number of significant artistic works. In 1825, Alexander Pushkin wrote a play titled Boris Godunov. Comprising 25 scenes written mainly in blank verse, it is considered one of the most important plays of the early 19th century.
Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky based his opera Boris Godunov on Pushkin’s play. Composed between 1868 and 1873, it is considered his masterpiece.
In 1936, composer Sergei Prokofiev wrote incidental music for Pushkin’s drama.
In 1986, a film titled Boris Godunov was released. Written and directed by and starring Sergei Bondarchuk, it was an adaptation of Pushkin’s play. Co-produced by the Soviet Union, Poland, Czechoslovakia and West Germany, it was entered in the 1987 Cannes Film Festival.