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Postwar Soviet Cinema: Home

Sample Course Syllabus


" I was a child when the war began. I lived in a rural area. We had one movie theater, and films were our dreams and visions. We watched each film five or ten times. When we, hungry, saw the sumptuous meals in The Cossacks of Kuban, it was our happiness."

– Kyrgyz director Tolomush Okeev, on the cinema of the Stalin era. Quoted in "My tak liubili drug druga," Iskusstvo kino, no. 5 (May 1996): 72.

Sample Course Description

Tatiana Samoilova in The Cranes Are Flying (1957)


The postwar Soviet film industry offers a rich and particularly interesting case study in national cinemas, insofar as it was organized under an alternative political and economic system (state socialism) and functioned as an explicitly multinational entity. The historical scope of the course spans from the immediate postwar years (the late Stalin era) to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and, to a lesser extent, the post-Soviet Russian film industry. This span of time witnessed developments such as the ideological strictures of Zhdanovism and the “film famine”; the post-Stalin thaw and return of Soviet cinema to international prominence; substantial growth of film production in the non-Russian republics; emergence of Soviet blockbuster filmmaking; the complex and fraught political landscape of the stagnation era under Brezhnev; and structural reforms and new boundaries of representation in the era of perestroika and glasnost.

Through this seminar, students will become familiar with English-language scholarship on Soviet cinema adopting a variety of methodological and thematic approaches, including: industrial organization and practices, genres (both popular genres and art cinema), content regulation (censorship), and ideology and representation. We will also look at a broad sample of different genres of scholarly production: journal articles, historical surveys, thematically-based monographs, and studies of individual films and filmmakers. Course assignments are geared toward strengthening skills in the practice of film history and preparing for future graduate work. Proficiency in Russian is not required for this course.


The main textbooks for the course are:

·         Beumers, Birgit. A History of Russian Cinema. Oxford: Berg, 2009. ISBN-10: 1845202155; ISBN-13: 978-1845202156.

·         Beumers, Birgit, ed. The Cinema of Russia and the Former Soviet Union. (24 Frames series) London: Wallflower Press, 2007. ISBN-10: 1904764983; ISBN-13: 978-1904764984.

·         Faraday, George. Revolt of the Filmmakers: The Struggle for Artistic Autonomy and the Fall of the Soviet Film Industry. University Park, PA: Penn State University Press, 2000. ISBN-10: 0271019832; ISBN-13: 978-0271019833.

·         Steffen, James. The Cinema of Sergei Parajanov. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 2013. ISBN-10: 0299296547; ISBN-13: 978-0299296544.

·         Woll, Josephine. The Cranes Are Flying: A Film Companion. London: I. B. Tauris., 2003. ISBN-10: 1860645046; ISBN-13: 978-1860645044.


Additional book chapters and essays are available on Course Reserves. Physical copies of books and DVDs are located at the Music and Media Library circulation counter.

Subject Guide

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James Steffen
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