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HIS 121 — Classic Films of the Revolutionary Soviet Avant-Garde

Quarter: Winter
Day(s): Wednesdays
Course Format: Live Online (About Formats)
Duration: 8 weeks
Date(s): Jan 18—Mar 8
Time: 7:00—8:50 pm (PT)
Refund Deadline: Jan 20
Unit: 1
Grade Restriction: No letter grade
Tuition: $440
Instructor(s): Kristen Edwards
Class Recording Available: Yes
Status: Open
Live Online(About Formats)
7:00—8:50 pm (PT)
Jan 18—Mar 8
8 weeks
Refund Date
Jan 20
1 Unit
Grade Restriction
No letter grade
Kristen Edwards
The world’s first Communist state, the Soviet Union, was founded after the 1917 Russian Revolution. This event inspired Soviet directors to create films renowned for their cutting-edge artistry, revolutionary technique, and political propaganda. In this course, we will focus on the Golden Age of silent film (1924-1929).

Vladimir Lenin promoted a powerful Soviet film industry because he believed in the potential of this popular mass medium to reshape society. To explore this fusion of revolutionary propaganda and art, we will study these fascinating films: Yakov Protazanov’s Aelita, Lev Kuleshov’s The Extraordinary Adventures of Mr. West in the Land of the Bolsheviks, Vsevolod Pudovkin’s Mother, Esfir Shub’s The Fall of the Romanov Dynasty, Abram Room’s Bed and Sofa, Alexander Dovzhenko’s Arsenal, and Sergei Eisenstein’s Old and New.

We’ll analyze the novel theory of film montage and the ways Soviet directors cleverly applied it to their filmmaking. We will also discuss how these films reflect the revolutionary society that developed under Lenin and his successors. Avant-garde art was increasingly censored after Stalin came to power in 1928, cutting this exhilarating period of filmmaking to a few brief years.

By the end of the course, students will have an enriched understanding of the most important early Soviet directors as well as revolutionary Soviet culture and society.

All films can be rented or streamed through YouTube, Amazon Prime, Kanopy, or other online platforms; most are available free of charge.

Independent Scholar

Kristen Edwards received a PhD in history from Stanford and has taught Russian, European, and world history for more than 20 years. She has contributed to Seventeen Moments in Soviet History (an online media archive) and led Stanford Travel/Study trips to Russia. Edwards is researching the labor movement in Russian and US higher education.