HIS 05 — Russian History through Film
Lenin once famously said that “of all the arts the most important for us is the cinema.” The Soviet government promoted socialist realism, a style of idealized art that directors used in their films to depict a glorious socialist future. Films of the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s, however, were highly critical of Soviet and post-Soviet Russia. We will analyze classic Russian films from a variety of genres and one touching Ukrainian masterpiece, Earth, from the early Stalin period. Most of these films explore the themes of revolution and war and thus speak to the current tragedy unfolding in Ukraine. All of them challenge viewers to ponder social injustice and utopian ideals: After Death (1915), Revolutionary (1917), Strike (1925), Earth (1930), Circus (1936), The Cranes Are Flying (1957), Solaris (1972), Come and See (1985), and Burnt by the Sun (1994). By the end of the course, students will have learned about filmmaking innovations such as Soviet montage, while exploring films that enrich their understanding of Russian culture and history.
All films can be rented or streamed through Netflix, Amazon Prime, YouTube, iTunes, Google Play Movies, or other online platforms. Students who are interested in research and writing will have the opportunity to participate in a staged research project developed by the instructor. More details on this optional project will be provided during the course.
Kristen Edwards received her PhD in history from Stanford and has taught Russian, European, and world history in the Bay Area for over twenty years. She has contributed to Seventeen Moments in Soviet History (an online media archive), led Stanford Travel/Study trips to Russia, and is researching the labor movement in Russian and US higher education.
Textbooks for this course:
(Recommended) Peter Kenez, A History of the Soviet Union from the Beginning to its Legacy, 3rd Ed. (ISBN 978-1316506233)