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

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

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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. Such 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 Central Asia between 1925-1940. 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, 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.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction: Projects of a New Vision1. They Must Be Represented: Kulturfilm and the National Niche in Soviet Cinema2. Absolute Kinography: Vertov's Cine-Race across the Soviet Universe3. Arctic Travelogues: Conquering the Soviet North4. Forest People, Wild and Tamed: Travelogues in the Far East5. Diagnosing the Nations: Nationalizing Dirt and Disease on the Screen6. Touring the Caucasus7. Camels and Railways: Filming Central Asia8. Epilogue: Day of a New World

Author Info

Dr. Oksana Sarkisova is 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.


'Sarkisova has written an altogether original book in which her expertise in Soviet documentary films and nationality policies is unparalleled. By placing her topic within the wider international and theoretical context she has succeeded in creating something very valuable.'
Peter Kenez, University of California Santa Cruz, USA, 'This superb book compellingly makes the case for the importance of early documentary films in the Soviet cultural project. Sarkisova demonstrates how Soviet ethnographers struggled to navigate unstable political terrain in order to capture people and culture at the margins, as well as the state's efforts to "sovietize" them. Thoroughly researched, engagingly written and including insightful analyses of myriad films, I urge anyone interested in Soviet cinema, Soviet cultural politics, and Soviet nationalities policy to read this book.'
Denise Youngblood, University of Vermont, USA

Bibliographic Info

Imprint: I.B.Tauris
Publisher: I.B.Tauris & Co. Ltd.
Series: KINO: The Russian and Soviet Cinema Series

ISBN: 9781784535735
Publication Date: 30 Nov 2016
Number of Pages: 304
Height: 216
Width: 138

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