Described by historian Paul Rotha as "the epitome of the Soviet propaganda film, realized with extraordinary skill of technical achievement," Fragment of an Empire was the first important film effort by director Frederick Ermler. Combining documentary techniques with straight dramatic narrative, the film focuses on a sergeant in the army of the Czar who loses track of his lovely wife. By the time he's discovered that his bride has re-married to an aristocrat, the sergeant has experienced a political epiphany, disdaining Imperialism in favor of the burgeoning Bolshevist movement. The protagonist's turnaround is counterpointed with spectacular shots of growing social unrest throughout Russia. American film critics, traditionally resistant to propaganda films in the early 1930s, felt that Fragment of an Empire contained enough of the "popular" elements to enjoy a successful U.S. release.