A new documentary film opened here this past weekend, giving a full account of life at an obscure frontier post in remotest Kazakhstan during the early 1930s.
Since the subject is not likely to draw crowds, the explanation for the film must be its star: Soviet President Konstantin Chernenko, appearing in his role as a young border guard and newly accepted member of the Communist Party.
Chernenko's service at Khorgos, a small village on the hot, dry plain of southeastern Kazakhstan, first came to light last spring shortly after he was named Soviet leader.
The glorification of his duties as a border guard from 1930 to 1933 helped gloss over the sensitive fact that unlike any previous Soviet leader of his generation, Chernenko had not served with the military during the Great Patriotic War, as World War II is known here.
Accounts of Chernenko's tour at Khorgos -- of his feats on horseback and his prowess at fighting counterrevolutionary bands -- cropped up in the press last April during the celebration of the outpost's 60th anniversary.
Now, in an article accompanied by a picture of a young Chernenko amid a group of 19 border guards, the newspaper Moscow Pravda has reported that a film about those years at Khorgos, titled "Outpost of Youth," produced by Kazakhfilm, was given a public showing last Friday.
If the film is still showing in Moscow, it cannot be found in any listings. According to Moscow Pravda, it recounts "those unforgettable years" as recalled "with emotion" by Chernenko's brothers in arms.
"They tell of the bravery and courage of the young soldier in the struggle against the enemies of Soviet power, of the great authority and respect which he commanded among the border guards," the newspaper said.
The article relayed the words of Ivan Golovin remembering how a troop commander told him that Chernenko was the best prepared of the recruits in 1930.
Golovin then gave a vivid account of how Chernenko, who would have been 20 in 1931, was admitted into the Communist Party.
"Whether we thought then that, starting from this emotional day for every Communist, began the party biography of one of the outstanding figures of our party and government . . . I will answer in this way. We were firmly convinced that our party had received a true Communist in the person of Konstantin Chernenko."
To the Soviet reader, the articles, the film and the picture carried echoes of the era of the late Leonid Brezhnev, whose wartime service was implanted in the national mind with the publication of his book about the period and frequent mentions in the press.
Brezhnev's successor, Yuri Andropov, was more circumspect about his role as a partisan in Karelia during the war.