In 1979 Andrei Tarkovsky began production of his film The First Day (Russian: Pervyj Dyen), based on a script by Andrey Konchalovskiy, who had last worked with him on Andrei Rublev. The film was set in 18th-century Russia during the reign of Peter the Great and starred Natalya Bondarchuk and Anatoliy Papanov. To get the project approved by the production company 'Goskino [ru]', Tarkovsky submitted a script that was different from the original script, omitting several scenes that were critical of the official atheism in the Soviet Union. After shooting roughly half of the film the project was stopped by Goskino after it became apparent that the film differed from the script submitted to the censors. Tarkovsky was reportedly infuriated by this interruption and destroyed most of the film. Tarkovsky vowed to never make another film in the Soviet Union, and all his subsequent work was in Western Europe where he settled.

Some of the crew and cast have reported that all the principal filming was in fact completed, and Goskino's interruption came too late, though they attempted to confiscate the negatives. Tarkovsky himself spread the rumor, particularly to people at Goskino, that he personally destroyed the negatives, though most believe this was merely a ploy to satisfy Goskino, and the negatives were secreted somewhere. Nobody to this day knows where, and the more-or-less complete film, while never being edited from the raw footage, is now considered lost, not destroyed.