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Heroes of Shipka was the first solo effort for Soviet director Sergei Vasilyev, who had previously collaborated with his late brother Georgi. As head of the Leningrad Film Studios, Vasilyev was obliged to traffic in propaganda, but he never forgot how to make his material entertaining. The film is set in 1887 during the pivotal battle between the Russians and the Turks at the Shipka Pass. Stressing the solidarity of the Soviet states, tribute is paid to the courageous Bulgarian volunteers who helped the Russians fend off their mutual enemy. American critics were impressed by Heroes of Shipka, but felt that the film would have been twice as effective had it been lensed in Cinemascope rather than "standard aspect."