Leningrad, hot days of June 19-24, 1991. The news of Colonel Yanayev's coup d'état in Moscow drew huge crowds into the streets and squares.The citizens are tearing leaflets out of their hands trying to get any information. Every now and then, like electric impulses, contradictory messages run through the sea of people - rumours abound of the deaths of Gorbachev and Yeltsin. When the putschist-controlled television shows the ballet "Swan Lake" (already shown at the time of the change of power in the USSR), the crowd reports on the dead in the streets of the capital and in the Baltic republics. Anatoly Sobchak, mayor of the rebellious city, speaks to the people filling the square in front of the Winter Palace, where the Bolsheviks launched their revolution in 1917. Songs by Vladimir Vysotsky and Viktor Coy, leader of the cult group Kino, resound. Poems are recited from the stands, and banners with slogans like "Down with Communism" or "Fascism will not pass" prove that there was once a chance for a different, anti-totalitarian Russia, which had its own Maydan.
The film is based entirely on archival footage. Loznitsa masterfully analyzes the process of social upheaval, creating a moving portrait of a collective that, after 73 years of captivity, had the courage to stand up and protest against the return to power of the Communists. He is able to look at the events of a quarter of a century ago from a distance - he breaks the solemn atmosphere of the barricades with an interview with a pop star who claims that "you can shoot at your enemies, but without hatred". The film is like a breath of fresh air - it shows that not so long ago there were people in Russia who risked their lives to defend democracy and human rights. Among the hundreds of thousands of demonstrators there are even flags of anarchists who decided to support the reformist government. Would a similar uprising be possible today? The answer lies in one of the shots in which a keen eye catches young Vladimir Putin among the officials applauded by the demonstrators.