History 337 -- Socialism at the Movies

Spring 2005

Thursday 1:10-4:00pm

Acland Seminar Room


Professor: Eliza Ablovatski

Office: Seitz 5

PBX 5892

Email: ablovatskie@kenyon.edu

Office Hours:  Tuesday/Wednesday 2-4:30pm and by appointment


Course Description:  This class will look at the history of the Soviet Union and the post-1945 German and East European socialist states with a concentration on films made in these countries, as well as films made elsewhere (or later) about life under state socialism. We will focus on a few key eras and topics, such as early Soviet cinema, World War II films, Stalinism/socialist realism, the “Thaw,” the position of women in socialist society, and generational conflict.

Course Requirements: Students will be required to attend an almost weekly film screening outside of seminar time, as well as participate in class discussion.  If your schedule does not permit you to attend these showings, you should not take the class.


Assignments: each student will research and present on two topics during the semester.  One will be presented in the first half of the semester (with a written report handed in to me) and the second will be presented at the end of the semester, and will be based on research for the final paper.  In addition to 2 presentations and the final paper, students will turn in short response essays on the films we view as a class.


Response Papers:  Over the course of the semester each student will be responsible for 2 short papers (2-3 pages) that tie the required readings to the films we have seen.  For some films, I will give possible topics for response, such as “examine the role of workplace in this film”.  These papers will be graded for the depth of understanding of the readings, and for perceptive analysis of the film(s) chosen.  One of the papers must be turned in before spring break, and the other must be handed by the penultimate class at the latest. 



Grading:         Professionalism                         20%

                        Final Paper                               20%

                        Response Papers (2)                20%

                        Presentations (2)                       40%


Professionalism:  This is a seminar, based on discussion of shared readings and films.  The seminar will only be as strong as your participation.  All students are expected to attend class, attend the screenings, and be active participants in the discussion.  Students are expected to learn and follow the norms of historical scholarship, as well as the Kenyon Honor Code. They should show respect to classmates and the professor, turn in all work on time, address problems as they arise, locate the readings ahead of class or alert the library staff or professor if they have trouble finding them, and attend all out of class film screenings.  Students should bring all assigned reading (print out a copy of online sources) with them to class to aid in discussion.


Honor Code and Lateness Policy: Please read the Kenyon College policy “Academic Honesty and Questions of Plagiarism” in the Course of Study carefully.  It is expected that all work that you turn in for this course is your own and that you will follow the general guidelines of academic honesty, as well as the norms of the historical profession for citation, when writing for this class.  Any questionable work or cases of possible infractions of the Honor Code will be turned over to the Academic Infractions Board.  You will receive a “zero” for any plagiarized work.  In order to be fair to all students, late work will be marked down for each day that it is late and will not be accepted after one week.  Missing a scheduled presentation will mean a grade of zero.


Note on Disabilities: If you have a disability and therefore may need some sort of accommodation(s) in order to fully participate in this class, please let me know.  In addition, you will need to contact Erin Salva, Coordinator of Disability Services (x5145).  Ms. Salva has the authority and expertise to decide what accommodations are appropriate and necessary for you.               


Required Texts:   


  • Joshua Feinstein, The Triumph of the Ordinary: Depictions of Daily Life in the East German Cinema, 1949-1989
  • Dina Iordanova, Cinema of the Other Europe: The Industry and Artistry of East Central European Film
  • R.J. Crampton, Eastern Europe in the Twentieth Century - and After
  • Mary Fulbrook, Anatomy of a Dictatorship: Inside the GDR, 1949-1989
  • Geoffrey Hosking, The First Socialist Society: A History of the Soviet Union from Within
  • Richard Taylor, Nancy Wood, and Dina Iordanova, eds., The BFI Companion to Eastern European and Russian Cinema (Recommended)


Other readings will be available (as noted in the syllabus): online, on reserve at Olin Library and in Seitz House, or will be handed out in class.


Syllabus online: The syllabus will be available online through Professor Ablovatski’s website on the History Department page. 






Schedule of Classes and Assignments:


January 20:  Introduction

Documentary video: “The Birth of Soviet Cinema”

“Kino Glas”  (Dziga Vertov, 1924, USSR, 74 mins.) – selections

 “Potemkim” (Sergei Eisenstein, 1925, USSR, 66 mins.) – selections



Extra Screening (Jan. 25): “Burnt by the Sun” (Nikita Mikhalkov, 1994, 152mins.)


January 27: Early Soviet Union (collectivization, famine, NEP)

***Turn in First Presentation Topics*** (after meeting with Professor in advance!)

“Volga, Volga  (Grigorii Aleksandrov, 1938, USSR, 100 mins.)

Hosking: Chapters 1-9 (pp. 15-260)

Optional in BFI: Eisenstein, Dovzhenko, Alexandrov, Soviet State Cinema Organizations, Soviet Montage, Soviet Union (former), Stalin, Socialist Realism



Extra Screening (Feb. 1): “Come and See” (Elem Klimov, 1985 Belarus SSR, 142 mins.)


February 3: Stalinism and the Great Patriotic War

“Cranes are Flying” (Mikhail Kalatazov, 1958, USSR, 94 mins.)

Hosking: Chapters 10-11 (pp. 261-325)

Maxim D. Shrayer, “Why Are the Cranes Still Flying?” in Russian Review, Vol. 56, No. 3. (Jul., 1997), pp. 425-439.

URL: http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0036-0341%28199707%2956%3A3%3C425%3AWATCSF%3E2.0.CO%3B2-7

Optional in BFI: Klimov, Kalatazov



Extra Screening (Feb. 8): “Sun Seekers” (Konrad Wolf, 1958-banned, 1971, GDR, 112 mins.)


February 10: Post-War: Rubble and Ashes

***Group 1: Presentations on Early Soviet Cinema***

“Murderers are Among Us” (Wolfgang Staudte, 1946, occupied Germany, 81 mins.)

Fulbrook:  Chapters 1-3; Chapter 4, Part I (pp. 1-106)

Feinstein:  Introduction and Chapter 1 (pp. 1-44)




Extra Screening (Feb. 15): “Father was Away on Business” (Emir Kusturica, 1985, Yugoslavia, 144 mins.)




February 17:  Reluctant Allies

“Ashes and Diamonds”  (Andrzej Wajda, 1958, Poland, 100 mins.)     

Iordanova: Chapters 1 and 2

Crampton: Poland, Yugoslavia  (1918-1939, and WWII)

Optional in BFI: Yugoslavia, Kusturica, Yugoslav Prague Group, Wajda, Poland, Cybulski



Extra Screening (Feb. 22): “Transport from Paradise” (Zbynek Brynych, 1963, ČSSR, 94 mins.)


February 24:  Holocaust – Film and Remembering, Holocaust in Socialist Film

***Group 2 Presentations – WWII on film***

“Passenger” (Andrzej Munk, 1963, Poland, 63 mins.)

Iordanova:  Chapter 4 “Historical Film II: Discourse on Morality”

Crampton: “Czechoslovakia 1918-38” and WWII

Optional in BFI: Nemec,Holocaust Film,Brynych, Lustig, FAMU, Czechoslovakia, Munk.



Extra Screening (March 1): “The Witness” (Péter Bacsó, 1969, 105 mins.)


March 3:  East European Film under Stalinism

***Group 3 Presentations: Eastern European Stalinist Film***

Last day to turn in first response paper!!!         



SPRING BREAK:  no classes



Extra Screening (March 22): “Das Kaninchen bin ich” (Kurt Maetzig, 1965, GDR, 109 mins.)


March 24: De-Stalinization – The German Case

Berlin – Ecke Schönhauser” (Gerhard Klein, 1957, GDR, 81 min.)     

Feinstein: Chapters 2, 5 and 6

Fulbrook: Chapters 5-7




March 29/30: Meetings with Professor to discuss final presentation and final paper       (sign-up in advance))


March 31: Destalinization and 1956 in Eastern Europe

“Apa” (István Szábo, 1966, Hungary, 85 mins.)

Hosking: Chapter 12

Crampton: “Hungary, 1918-1941,” WWII and 1956

            Optional in BFI: Szábo, Bacsó, Hungary



Extra Screening (April 12): “Larks on a String” (Jirí Menzel, 1969, ČSSR, 90 mins.)


April 7: Czech New Wave

***Group 1 Final Presentations: New Wave Cinema***

 “Daisies” (Vĕra Chytilová, 1966, ČSSR, 74 mins.)

            Iordanova: Chapters 5 and 6



Extra Screening (April 12): “Irony of Fate or Enjoy your Bath!” (Eldar Ryazanov, 1979, USSR, 192 mins.)


April 14: Stagnation and Developed Socialism

“The Legend of Paul and Paula” (Heiner Carow, 1973, GDR, 106 mins.)         

            Feinstein: Chapter 7, Epilogue, Conclusion

Fulbrook: Chapter 8



Extra Screening (April 16 – 21): “Little Vera” (Vasily Pichul, 1988, USSR, 110 min.)


April 21: Return to Violence

***Group 2 Final Presentations: Stagnation, Everyday Life and Dissent***

 “The Oak” (Lucien Pintilie, 1992, Romania, 105 mins.)

Hosking: Chapters 14-15

Crampton: Romania, esp. post-1960

Optional in BFI: Glasnost and the Cinema, Pichul, Pintilie



Extra Screening (April 30 – May 5): “Underground” (Emir Kusturica, 1998, Yugoslavia, 164 mins.)


April 28: Yugoslavia and it’s End

“The Wounds” (Srdjan Dragojević, 1998, Yugoslavia, 103 mins.)

Iordanova articles from Cinema of Flames, additional readings TBA

            BFI: Yugoslavia’s Break-up in film



May 5:  Final Discussion

***Group 3 Final Presentations: Post-Socialist Cinema in Eastern Europe***

            Iordanova: Chapter 7

APPENDIX – Presentation Topic Groupings



First Presentations (before Break)


Group 1: Early Soviet Cinema






Group 2: WWII on film







Group 3: Eastern European Stalinist Film








Final Presentations


Group 1: New Wave Cinema






Group 2: Stagnation, Everyday Life and Dissent







Group 3: Post-Socialist Cinema in Eastern Europe