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History 337 Socialism at the Movies

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History 337 -- Socialism at the Movies

Spring 2009

Thursday 1:10-4:00pm / Acland Seminar Room

Professor: Eliza Ablovatski

Office: Seitz 5 / PBX 5892


Office Hours: Wednesday 2-5pm / Thursday 4-6pm (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 to the seminar 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 post brief responses to the films viewed outside of class to the course Moodle website.
Response Papers: Over the course of the semester each student will be responsible for 2 short papers (3-5 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%

Moodle Postings 10%

Final Paper 20%

Short Papers (2) 20%

Presentations (2) 30%
Library: You will write a research paper as the final assignment for this class. For assistance with this and your presentations, and for all questions regarding library resources and historical research, you can contact the History Department’s Liaison, Nina Clements (, x5668). You can find her in Olin 210 (Multimedia) or at the reference desk. Nina’s reference desk schedule for this semester is: M 4-6, W 2-4, and F 12-2.
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

  • Geoffrey Hosking, The First Socialist Society: A History of the Soviet Union from Within

  • Dina Iordanova, Cinema of the Other Europe: The Industry and Artistry of East Central European Film

  • Peter Kenez, Cinema and Soviet Society From the Revolution to the Death of Stalin

  • Joseph Rothschild and Nancy Wingfield, Return to Diversity: A Political History of East Central Europe Since World War II

  • 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 (Moodle): The syllabus will be available online through Moodle ( All registered students will automatically have access to the course website and will be required to complete certain exercises online for the course. In addition, the Moodle site will provide the most up-to-date information on readings, films and assignments. Students are expected to follow the course updates on Moodle.

Schedule of Classes and Assignments:

September 3: Introduction

  • Documentary video: “The Birth of Soviet Cinema”

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

Extra Screening (Sept 6-9): “Battleship Potemkim” (Sergei Eisenstein, 1925, USSR, 74 mins.)
September 10: Early Soviet Union (collectivization, famine, NEP)

  • “The Extraordinary Adventures of Mr. West in the Land of the Bolsheviks” (Lev Kulishov, 1924, USSR, 62mins.)

  • ***Turn in First Presentation Topics*** (meet with Professor in advance!)

    • Hosking: Chapters 1-5 (pp. 15-148)

    • Kenez, Chapters 2-4 (pp. 26-88)

    • Optional in BFI: Eisenstein, Kulishov, Vertov, Soviet State Cinema Organizations, Soviet Montage, Soviet Union (former),

Extra Screening (September13-16): “Volga, Volga” (Grigorii Aleksandrov, 1938, USSR, 100 mins.)
September 17: Stalinism and Film

  • ”Earth” (Alexandr Dovzhenko, 1930, USSR, 70mins.)

    • Hosking: Chapters 6-9 (pp. 149-260)

    • Kenez, Chapters 5-8 (pp. 89-164)

    • Optional in BFI: Dovzhenko, Alexandrov, Stalin, Socialist Realism

Extra Screening (September 20-23): “Cranes are Flying” (Mikhail Kalatazov, 1958, USSR, 94 mins.)
September 24: The Great Patriotic War

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

  • “Ivan’s Childhood” (Andrei Tarkovskii, 1963, USSR, 84mins.)

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

    • Kenez, Chapters 9-11 (pp. 165-221)

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

    • Optional in BFI: Tarkovsky, Kalatazov


Extra Screening (September 27-30): “Sun Seekers” (Konrad Wolf, 1958-banned, 1971, GDR, 112 mins.)
October 1: Post-War Socialism and Reluctant Allies

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

    • Return to Diversity, Chapters 2 and 3 (pp. 19-100)

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

    • Iordanova: Chapters 1 and 2 (pp. 7-42)

    • Optional in BFI: Wajda, Poland, Cybulski

October 8: East European Film and Stalinism

  • “Man of Marble” (Andrzej Wajda, 1979, Poland, 160 mins.)

    • Return to Diversity, Chapter 4 (pp. 101-117)

Extra Screening (October 11-14): “Father was Away on Business” (Emir Kusturica, 1985, Yugoslavia, 144 mins.)
October 15: Titoism, Destalinization , and 1956 in Eastern Europe

  • “The Witness” (Péter Bacsó, 1969, 105 mins.)

  • Last day to turn in first response paper!!!

    • Return to Diversity, Chapter 5 (pp. 118-152)

    • Hosking, Chapter 12 (pp. 326-362)

    • Optional in BFI: Yugoslavia, Kusturica, Yugoslav Prague Group, Hungary, Bacsó


October 21/22: Meetings with Professor to discuss final presentation and final paper topics (sign-up in advance)
Extra Screening (October 18-21): “Transport from Paradise” (Zbynek Brynych, 1963, ČSSR, 94 mins.)
October 22: Holocaust – Film and Remembering, Holocaust in Socialist Film

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

  • “Cold Days” (András Kovács, 1966, Hungary, 102mins.)

    • Iordanova, Chapters 3 and 4 (pp. 43-91)

    • Optional in BFI: Czechoslovakia, Holocaust Film, Brynych, Lustig, FAMU, Kovács


Extra Screening (October 25-28): “Spur der Steine” (Frank Beyer, 1966, GDR [banned], 134 mins.)
October 29: De-Stalinization – The German Case
  • ***Group 3 Presentations: Eastern European Stalinism and Film***

  • “Das Kaninchen bin ich” (Kurt Maetzig, 1965, GDR, 109 mins.)

    • Feinstein: Chapters 5 and 6 (pp. 151-193)


Extra Screening (Nov. 1-4): “Larks on a String” (Jirí Menzel, 1969, ČSSR, 90 mins.)
November 5: Czech New Wave

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

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

    • Iordanova: Chapters 5 and 6

    • Optional in BFI: Czechoslovakia, Czech New Wave, Chytilová, Menzel

Extra Screening (November 8-11): Documentaries on the Berlin Wall (20th Anniversary Celebration for November 9, 1989)

  • “Schaut auf diese Stadt” (1962) and “The Wall” (1989)

November 12: The Berlin Wall and the End of State Socialism

  • Special class: Lecture on Berlin Wall and 1980s (Pierce 210)

  • Library Session for final research papers (topics must have been finalized and approved by this class at the latest)

Extra Screening (Nov. 15-18): “Irony of Fate or Enjoy your Bath!” (Eldar Ryazanov, 1979, USSR, 192 mins.)
November 19: Stagnation and Developed Socialism

  • ***Group 2 Final Presentations: Stagnation, Everyday Life, and Genre Films***

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

    • Return to Diversity, Chapter 6 (pp. 153-180)

    • Hosking, Chapter 13 (pp. 363-401)

    • Feinstein: Chapter 7, Epilogue, Conclusion

    • Optional in BFI: Ryazanov

November 26: NO CLASS, Thanksgiving Break

Extra Screening (Nov. 29-Dec. 2): “Little Vera” (Vasily Pichul, 1988, USSR, 110 min.)
December 3: Dissolution and Return to Violence

  • Last chance to turn in response paper!

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

    • Hosking: Chapters 14-15 (pp. 402-501)

    • Return to Diversity, Chapter 7 (pp. 181-210)

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

Extra Screening (Dec. 6-9): “Underground” (Emir Kusturica, 1998, Yugoslavia, 164 mins.)
December 10: Looking Back

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

  • “Csinibaba/Dollybirds” (Péter Timár, 1997, Hungary, 100mins.)

    • Iordanova: Chapter 7

    • Iordanova articles from Cinema of Flames, additional readings TBA

    • BFI: Yugoslavia’s Break-up in film

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

Appendix II: Possible Films for Presentation Topics

This is not exhaustive; it is a starting place for possible films to present to the class. There is an extensive list of films in Dina Iordanova’s Cinema of the Other Europe; or look for films in our other readings. Unfortunately, many films are not easily available – I own a few films not in our library collection (some without subtitles, and some with). Check the availability of your film choice before investing your time or passion into a topic! To make better use of space, I only include titles here with country for reference; you will have to look up directors and other information. In general, there is something for everyone, from all sorts of directors (even a handful of women), and on all sorts of topics (including some you might not expect from socialist film like: homosexuality, Roma or Gypsies, Jewish topics).

Early Soviet Cinema: “Bed and Sofa” (USSR)

“Arsenal” (USSR)

“Strike” (USSR)

“Three Songs for Lenin” (USSR)

“The Heir of Ghengis Khan” (USSR)

“Alexander Nevsky” (USSR)

“Jewish Luck” (USSR)

“Ivan the Terrible” (USSR)

WWII and Holocaust on film: “Come and See” (USSR)

“The Murderers are Among Us”

“Fate of a Man” (USSR)

“Jacob the Liar” (GDR)

“Council of the Gods” (GDR)

“Rotation” (GDR)

“The Gleiwitz Case” (GDR)

“No Greater Love” (USSR)

“Destiny of a Man” (USSR)

“Ballad of a Soldier” (USSR)

“Passenger” (Poland)

“Fall of Berlin” (USSR)

“Diamonds of the Night” (Czechoslovakia, also New Wave)

“Closely Watched Trains” (Czechoslovakia, also New Wave)

“Shop on Main Street” (Czechoslovakia, also New Wave)

“Innocence Unprotected” (Yugoslavia, also New Wave)

East European Stalinism: “A Generation” (Poland)

“Kanal” (Poland)

“Man on the Tracks” (Poland)

“Ernst Thälmann” (GDR, Two Parts)

“I was Nineteen” (GDR)

“Father”/”Apa” (Hungary)

“Angi Vera” (Hungary)

“Healthy Eroticism” (Hungary)

“The Structure of Crystals” (Poland)

“The Scar” (Poland)

“Commissar” (USSR)

“Berlin – Ecke Schönhauser” (GDR)

“The Melody Haunts my Reverie” (Yugoslavia)

“Hey Babu Riba” (Yugoslavia)

New Wave Cinema and Genre Films: “Born in ‘45” (GDR)

“Destinies of Women” (GDR)

“Loves of a Blonde” (Czechoslovakia)

“The Red and the White” (Hungary)

“Nu pogodi” (USSR, cartoon, no subtitles)

GDR westerns

Children’s films


Stagnation, Everyday Life, and Dissent: “Man of Iron” (Poland)

“Camera Buff” (Poland)

“A Lonely Woman” (Poland)

“Without End” ((Poland, Kieslowski)

“Stalker” (USSR)

“Solaris” (USSR)

“Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors” (USSR – Ukrainian SSR)

Documentaries of “Glasnost Film Festival” (USSR)

“Moscow does not Believe in Tears” (USSR)

“Do you Remember Dolly Bell?” (Yugoslavia)

“Adoption” (Hungary)

“Another Way” (Hungary)

“Love Film” (Hungary)

“Repentance” (USSR- Georgian SSR)

“Time of the Gypsies” (Yugoslavia)

“Coming Out” (GDR)

“The Architects” (GDR/Germany)
Post-Socialist Cinema: “Wounds” (Yugoslavia)

“No Man’s Land” (Bosnia and Hercegovina)

“Cabaret Balkan”/”The Powder Keg” (Yugoslavia)

“Before the Rain” (Macedonia)

“Tito and Me” (Yugoslavia)

“Black Cat/White Cat” (Yugoslavia)

“Marshall” (Croatia)

“Witnesses” (Croatia)

“Spare Parts” (Slovenia)

“Goodbye Lenin” (Germany)

“Lives of Others” (Germany)

“Sonnenallee” (Germany)

“The Cuckoo”/”Kukushka” (Russia)

“Burnt by the Sun” (Russia)

“Brother” (Russia)

“Prisoner of the Mountains” (Russia)

“Svolochi”/”Bastards” (Russia)

“Land of the Deaf” (Russia)

“Lilya 4-ever” (Sweden/Russia)

“Katyn” (Poland)

“Bolshe Vita” (Hungary)

“Who the Hell’s Bonnie and Clyde” (Hungary)

“Lamerica” (Albania/Italy)

“12:08 East of Bucharest” (Romania)

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