The far east in the films of A. Litvinov: constructing the image of space

Ivan Golovnev, Elena Golovneva

Abstract


This article explores the educational documentary film (Kulturfilm) as a visual construct of a region in the Soviet epoch. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, the Soviet film industry was actively engaged in developing particular images, which refashioned the way the audience saw their own territories and those of others. Working around the “sixth part of the world”, filmmakers elaborated a set of lasting visual images, describing the regional diversity of the great multinational state. They also attempted to “popularise” the region among Soviet citizens. Based on the films of Aleksandr Litvinov, who played a prominent role in establishing the expedition film practice in the Soviet Union, the paper considers the construction of visual images of the Soviet Far East. A contextual analysis of the Forest People (1928), Through the Ussuri Area (1928), Terra Incognita (1931) demonstrates that they continuously emphasised the image of the Far East as a cultural frontier, which featured the natural and ethnic regional diversity. The Far East in Litvinov’s films is a peculiar region with borderland status. At the same time, Litvinov’s films on the Far East can be viewed as the first cinematographic representations of the “small peoples” of the Far East under Soviet-inspired changes. The combination of filmmaking with a scholarly approach and literary narratives is central to the understanding of the peculiar character of those early films. Litvinov’s case demonstrates that Kulturfilms in the Soviet Union provide an insight into the conceptual and discourse conquest of the remote regions as well as their full symbolic ‘invention’ and inclusion into the perception of the new empire.


Keywords


image of region; construction; Kulturfilm; expedition travel films; travelogue; USSR national policy; the Far East; A. Litvinov.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15826/qr.2017.1.214

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