The Documentary

BBC World Service

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The best of BBC World Service documentaries and other factual programmes.


Looping Swans

August 24th, 2016

Episode 1307 of 1340 episodes

When tanks rolled into Moscow on 19 August 1991 during a dramatic anti-Perestroika coup by Soviet hard-liners, the USSR’s state-controlled airwaves offered a curious response - a continuous loop of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. We trace the strange and elaborate pas de deux between Tchaikovsky’s ballet classic and the Russian psyche – revealing how a work, considered a flop upon its premiere, emerged as a powerful instrument of Soviet propaganda, and later – a soundtrack that failed to disguise impending political turmoil.