Screening Soviet Nationalities: Kulturfilms from the Far North to Central Asia

Screening Soviet Nationalities: Kulturfilms from the Far North to Central Asia

by Oksana Sarkisova


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Screening Soviet Nationalities: Kulturfilms from the Far North to Central Asia by Oksana Sarkisova

Filmmakers in the early decades of the Soviet Union sought to create a cinematic map of the new state by portraying its land and peoples on screen. These films created blueprints of the Soviet domain’s scenic, cultural, and ethnographic perimeters and brought together – in many ways – disparate nations under one umbrella. Categorised as kulturfilms, they served as experimental grounds for developing the cinematic formulae of a multiethnic, multinational Soviet identity.

Screening Soviet Nationalities examines the non-fictional representations of Soviet borderlands from the Far North, to the Northern Caucasus, and to Central Asia between 1925 and 1940. Beginning with Dziga Vertov and his vision of the Soviet space as a unified, multinational mosaic, Oksana Sarkisova rediscovers films by Vladimir Erofeev, Vladimir Shneiderov, Alexander Litvinov, Mikhail Slutskii, Amo Bek-Nazarov, Mikhail Kalatozov, Roman Karmen, and other filmmakers who helped construct an image of Soviet ethnic diversity and left behind a lasting visual legacy. The book contributes to our understanding of changing ethnographic conventions of representation. It also looks at studies of diversity despite the homogenising ambitions of the Soviet project, and reexamines methods of blending reality and fiction as part of both ideological and educational agendas. Using a wealth of unexplored archival evidence from the Russian State Documentary Film and Photo Archive (RGAKFD) as well as the Gosfilmofond state film archive, Sarkisova examines constructions of exoticism, backwardness and Soviet-driven modernity through these remarkable and underexplored historical travelogues.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781784535735
Publisher: I. B.Tauris & Company, Limited
Publication date: 01/30/2017
Pages: 304
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 8.60(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Dr. Oksana Sarkisova is a research fellow at the Vera & Donald Blinken Open Society Archives of the Central European University, and Director of the Verzio International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival (Budapest), Hungary.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations xi

General Editors' Preface xiii

Acknowledgements xv

Note on Transliteration xvii

Glossary xviii

Introduction: Projects of a New Vision 1

Constructing Soviet Nationalities 5

Virtual Travelling: Maps, Itineraries, and Politics of Vision 8

Local Sights, Global Visions: Russian and Soviet Travel Films 11

Across the Soviet Travelogues: The Roadmap 15

1 They Must Be Represented: Kulturfilm and the National Niche in Soviet Cinema 18

Cultural, Ethnographic, Documentary: The Elusive Film Classification 20

Think With Us, Think Like Us! Shaping the Audience through Film 30

Vostokfilm: The Studio for the Soviet 'Other' 34

2 Absolute Kinography: Vertov's Cine-Race Across the Soviet Universe 40

Advertising the Soviet Universe 42

New Imperial Catalogue: Surveying Ethnic Bodies 47

Network Community: Gostorg and the New Soviet Unity 53

Rhetorical Battles over Modernity and Backwardness 60

3 Arctic Travelogues: Conquering the Soviet Far North 63

The Contact Zone: National Variety beyond the Arctic Circle 65

Arctic Tales: From Contact Zone to Icy Desert 72

Tragedy into Triumph: The Rise of Affective Travelogues 77

4 Forest People, Wild and Tamed: Travelogues in the Far East 83

The First Blueprints: Following Arsenev's Trail 84

Self-reflexive Tale: Film-diary and Subjectivity 88

Terra Incognita: Exploring the Frontier 90

Land of the Golds: Amo Bek-Nazarov's Two Versions of Progress 95

Babylon Re-enacted: The Nanai, the Chinese, and the Jews in Mikhail Slutskii's Far East 99

Birobidzhan: Civilizing the Wilderness 103

Playing the Native: Transformation of Expedition Films 108

5 Diagnosing the Nations: Nationalizing Dirt and Disease on the Screen 114

Syphilis Against Socialism: Medical Expedition As a Bearer of Social Progress 119

Clearing the Vision: Eye Diseases and Constructions of New National Bodies 127

Journeys of Health: Tourist Bodies in Motion 133

6 Touring the Caucasus 138

Dagestan: The Space of Diversity 144

Chechnya As It Is: Native and Tourist Gazes 147

The Heart of the Mountains: Svanetia Wild and Conquered 155

7 Camels and Railways: Refraining Central Asia 162

Views from the Roof of the World: Mapping the Pamir Mountains and its Peoples 164

The Iron Unity: Conquering Turkestan 178

Turksib as a Media Campaign 184

Future of the Desert 186

Imagined Community: Unveiling the Kino-Eye 188

Epilogue: Day of a New World 199

Notes 215

Filmography 266

Bibliography 273

Index 291

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