56080 - Media, Russia and Soviet Cinema

Course Unit Page

Academic Year 2017/2018

Learning outcomes

Through a comparative approach and the comment on films, Student is expected to achieve a sound knowledge of the documentary and revolutionary movies in order to understand vividly what has been the image of the Masses, of the Enemies, of propaganda, and the sense of violence on the screen. Students will also learn elements of the theory and practice of Montage, Camera-work and other techniques.

Course contents

The course will be divided into two parts, both of which will elaborate, from different points of view, several basic statements, in order to answer a few crucial questions:

Why study cinema? And how can we analyse it? Could films be considered historical documents, and which kind of history are we dealing with? How does a film not only represent, but also help constructing a national identity or, else, an alternative and oppositional memory?

The first part of the course will provide a summary of the Soviet and Russian Cinema: the course will start from the analysis of early Soviet Cinema, paying attention to the propaganda issues and the political commitment linked to the Construction of History and Myth of the new State. The course will proceed in analysis of the Thaw and the Stagnation period to the Perestroika and then will focus on the analysis of the political transformation of the post-Soviet area through the lens of cinema.

The next four lessons will be devoted to the study of the Russian major directors’ works.

In the end, the course will focus on the overview of the Russo-Soviet film industry from the early 1990s to the present, providing essential information on attendance figures, production politics as well as certain critical films and events.

Informed by contemporary and present day debates over the social and cultural significance of cinema and its genres, the course will draw on a range of theoretical and comparative material in order to stimulate engaging and accessible readings accounting for both the appeal of, and the inherent potential for subversion within, films produced by the Soviet and Post-Soviet culture industry.

Lesson 1: Why study cinema? And how can we analyse it?

Introduction by teacher:

As a source for the study of history and collective memory, films are multi-layered texts, as well as cultural and social practices, which needs to be interpreted with the appropriate analytical tools. Sergei Eiezensetein and theory of montage. The Foundation Mith divided in the October Mith and the Myth of Civil War. How the “mythologization” of the fundamental events was reinforced?

Watching film excerpts


Bronenosetz Potiomkin/The Battleship Potyomkin by Sergei Eizenstein

Staroe i novoe/Old and New by Sergei Eizenstein

Lesson 2: The political commitment and the Entertaintment genre in USSR

Introduction by teacher : The experience of Soviet policy in the light of the Musical. The musical comedy shows the new values, affirming the social transformation of women as the main mechanism of the new politics.

Watching film excerpts


Tsirk/Circus by Grigory Alexandrov

Svetlyj put’/The radiant Path by Grigory Alexandrov

Lesson 3: Russian Cinema from WWII to Perestroika.

Introduction by teacher : The importance of the war: the socialist experiment began in a war (the Great War), reforged its identity in another (World War II), and began to dissolve because of a third (the Afghan War).

Watching film excerpts


V 6 chasov vechera posle vojny/Six o’clock in the Evening after the War by Ivan Pyriev

Ivanovo detstvo/Ivan’s Childhood by Andrej Tarkovskij

Kavkazskij plennik/Prisoner of Caucasus by Sergej Bodrov

Lecture 4: Transcaucasian Cinema (Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan). The comedy and the art-house film. The device of addressing questions of history and nation by comparing the experiences of different generations in Georgian films: the Georgian identity in the context of Soviet experience, art and memory combine in order to attempt to provide historical understanding.

Watching film excerpts


Ne gorjuj!/Don’t Grieve! by Georgiy Danelya

Monanieba/Repentance by Tengiz Abuladze

Razbojniki/Brigands by Otar Iosseliani

Plovets/ The Swimmer by Iraklij Kvirikadze

Lecture 5

Multinationality and genres: westerns in Central Asia. The birth and development of the Soviet “esterns” in Central Asia.

Watching film excerpts


Svoj sredi chuzhikh, chuzhoj sredi svoih/At home among Strangers, a Stranger among his own by Nikita Mikhalkov

Sed’maya Pulja/The Seventh Bullet by Ali Khamraev

Beloe solnze pustyni/White Sun of the Desert by Vladimir Motyl

Lesson 6: Nikita Mikhalkov: film as a vehicle for the official ideology

Introduction by teacher: The lost imperial status of Russia and Soviet identity.

Watching film excerpts

Movies by Nikita Mikhalkov:

Neokonchennaya piesa dlja mekhanicheskogo pianino/An unfinished Piece for Mehcanical Piano

Raba ljubvi/a Slave of Love

Utomlionnye solntsem/Burnt by the Sun

Lesson 7: Alexander Sokurov: the Russia’s key art house director

Introduction by teacher: The auteur’s cinema in USSR and in post Soviet Russia

Watching film excerpts

Movies by Alexander Sokurov:

Dukhovnye golosa/Spiritual voices

Mat’ I syn/Mother and Son

Russkij kovcheg/Russian Ark


Lesson 8: Alexey Balabanov: the representation of a new national hero

Introduction by teacher: The representation of the war in the Caucasus as crucial moments in the history of contemporary Russian society. The way the collective perception of the Caucasus has been transformed and how the many conflicts that took place in this tormented space have been represented.

Watching films excerpts

Movies by Alexei Balabanov:

Pro urodov i ljudej/Of Freaks and Men



Ya tozhe hochu/Me too

Lesson 9: Andrey Zviaghitsev

Introduction by teacher: The promotion of Russian Cinema abroad

Watching films excerpts

Movies by Andrey Zviaghintsev:

Vozvrascenie/The Return


Lesson 10: Contemporary Russian Cinema between art house and blockbusters. Conclusions.

Which conclusions can we draw from all the different roles that the National question can play in Cinema? Which are the possible future scenarios?

The multicultural yard of Soviet Cinema represented an exemplary microcosm where we can find all the typical relations between industrial civilizations and less-developed ones, between an advanced intellectual culture and the cultures still in development. Will it be a model on a world-wide level?

Introduction by teacher: Russian film industry today

Watching films excerpts


Stalingrad by Fyodor Bondarchuk

Leviathan by Andrey Zviaghintsev

Francophonia by Alexander Sokurov


Leyda, J. (1983), Kino: A History of the Russian and Soviet Film, Princeton: Princeton University Press

Zorkaya, N. (1989), The Illustrated History of the Soviet Cinema, New York: Hippocrene Books

Lawton, A. (1992), The Red Screen: Politics, Society, Art in Soviet Cinema, Routledge

Beumers, B.(2007), The Cinema of Russia and the Former Soviet Union, London and New York: Wallflower Press

Horton A., Brashinsky M. (1992), The Zero hour: glasnost’ and Soviet Cinema in transition, Princeton: Princeton University Press

Beumers, B. (1999), Russia on Reels: The Russian Idea in Post-Soviet Cinema, I.B.Tauris

S. Webber and J. Mathers (eds.), The Military and Society in Post-Soviet Russia, Manchester University Press, 2005, pp. 80-93.

Suny, Ronald Grigor (ed.) (1996), Transcaucasia, Nationalism and Social Change: Essays in the History of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia, rev. edn, Ann Arbor, Michigan: University of Michigan Press

Ewa Thomson, ‘Discourse, Empire and Memory in Postcommunist Russia', New Zealand Slavonic Journal, vol. 37 (2003), 155-64 (p. 164).

David Gillespie, « Defence of the Realm: The ‘New' Russian Patriotism on Screen », The Journal of Power Institutions in Post-Soviet Societies [Online] , Issue 3 | 2005 , Online since 03 October 2005, connection on June, 22, 2011. URL : http://pipss.revues.org/index369.html

Teaching methods

Introductory lectures by the teacher, selected film excerpts, articles, internet and powerpoint visuals, discussions of films and literature, essay writing.

The course will be arranged into the theoretical part and the screenings. This course sets the Soviet heritage and contemporary cinema into the social, cultural and political context. Lessons will be accompanied by the images and fragments of the films. During the lesson further suggestion for essential reading will be fixed according to the student's personal aims.

Assessment methods

Students are expected to participate in class discussions and write a final research paper on a topic related to the course using a chosen theory/methodology discussed in class (50 % of the grade). The lecturer will open each class with a presentation of the main questions for each set of topics, likely in addition to summarizing the previous session.

Grading system

Participation: 50%, Reflection papers: 50%.

Final exam

The students will be asked to submit a paper on a specific case study (10-12 pages, 3000-3500 words, double-spaced).

The outcome of the module will be averaged to that of the other module composing the integrated course in order to determine the final grade.

Office hours

See the website of Alena Shumakova