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Project Number21-18-00518

Project titleCINEMA-ATLAS of the USSR: the experiment of multinational state's positioning

Project LeadGolovnev Ivan

AffiliationPeter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (Kunstkamera), Russian Academy of Sciences,

Implementation period 2021 - 2023 

Research area 08 - HUMANITIES AND SOCIAL SCIENCES, 08-102 - Ethnology and anthropology

KeywordsEthnographic Film, Visual Anthropology, History of the USSR



In the 1920s – 1930s in the USSR a synchronous actualization of ethnography and the means of visualization of ethnographic knowledge in the form of ethnographic cinema are considered to be. The quintessence of research and film-production approaches was a project that had no analogues in world history. This project was launched at the initiative of the Central Committee of the party as a "Cinema-Atlas of the USSR" and assumed the creation of a 150-part film almanac about the nationalities and regions of the country. Ethnographic solidity, cinematic poetry as well as Marxist philosophy were combined in this unique phenomenon, the nature and properties of which have not been fully understood yet. It is believed that visual anthropology is a new direction, formed firstly in North American science (in the middle of the 20th century), and later in Russian science (at the turn of the 1980s – 1990s). However, significant examples of theoretical understanding of the role of visual (film and photo) technologies and their practical application in the national science on peoples have a century-long history. On the one hand, scientists (V.G.Bogoraz, L.L. Kapitsa, N.M. Matorin, B.M.Sokolov, N.F. Yakovlev, etc.) were mastering the cinematic potential for scientific purposes. On the other hand, cinematographers experimented on an exotic ethnographic field (A.I.Bek-Nazarov, Dziga Vertov, M.K.Kalatozov, B.M. Nebylytsky, A.M. Room, E.I. Svilova, M.Ya. Slutsky , V.L. Stepanov, etc.). Effective scientific and creative tandems were formed (M.S. Andreev - V.A. Erofeev, V.K. Arseniev - A.A. Litvinov, Kh.D. Oshaev - N.A. Lebedev, O.Yu. Schmidt - V.A. Shneiderov, N.F. Yakovlev - A.N. Terskoy). This phenomenon also had a political background - the course of the national policy of "indigenization", which corresponds to the position of the Bolshevik revolutionary agenda regarding " the right of nations to self-determination". Cinema was used by the Soviet regime as an effective tool for constructing a screen image of a multinational, diverse, and progressively developing country under socialism. The peak of this development is on the five-year cultural revolution (1928–1932), when the "Cinema-Atlas of the USSR" project was officially launched and became a strong impetus that mobilized the scientific and cinematographic community for joint activities. Leading Soviet film studios and research institutions launched a socialist competition on film expeditions to various parts of the Union ("Through the Ussuri Area", "Unknown land (Kamchatka)", "Hunting and Reindeer Practice in the Komi region", "On the Shores and Islands of the Barents Sea" , "Salt for Svanetia", "Country of Golds", "Tungus people", "On the Shores of the Chukotka Sea", etc.). Wherever a new national republic or region was born, wherever the jubilee of those was celebrated, a scientific and cinematographic group immediately arose to create a new film atlas series ("Birobidzhan", "Kabardino-Balkarian Region at the October 10th Anniversary", "In the Homeland of Kalevala", "Land of the Nakhcho", "Festival of Tuva", "Sixth part of the World", etc.). It is known that cinema influenced the audience much more than any other media. Therefore, the series filmed in the Far East, Caucasus, Siberia, became a literal discovery of the country's outskirts for the population of the capitals and central regions, and vice versa - a movie journey was the only opportunity for many residents of remote regions to see the “mainland”. Live screen images supported ideological inspiration, and created a feeling of involvement of the country's citizens in the common task of building a new life throughout the Union. In the conditions of the unstable political course in the USSR, the project was not completed. Therefore the scattered across various archives pages of the "Cinema-Atlas" need to be searched, collected, analyzed, summarized and introduced into scientific circulation. This large-scale work is viewed as the subject for this research project. The first hypothesis is to test the position that in the 1920s – 1930s a distinctive direction of ethnographic cinema was formed in the USSR. This direction was a complex of theoretical and practical experiments as well as reflected the specifics of the search for the matrix of “Marxist ethno-films” (the term of V.G. Bogoraz). The second hypothesis: these films, put together, really formed a large ethnographic and geographic Cinema-Atlas of the Soviet Union. The materials of the "Cinema-Аtlas of the USSR" contain a double scientific discovery. On the one hand, these archival documents represent a corpus of unexplored research sources for a wide range of humanitarian disciplines (Russian history, Visual Anthropology, Ethnography). On the other hand, they reveal detailed theoretical, practical and methodological recommendations for creating ethnographic films, forms of interaction between ethnographers and filmmakers, and formats for the presentation of scientific knowledge. The project considers the traditional forms of studying and popularizing visual materials as well as innovative research-visual "reconstruction" of the Soviet Cinema-Atlas in a modern multimedia application. The results of the project are relevant in contemporary educational courses on ethnology, history and visual anthropology, scientific presentations, museum exhibitions and other humanitarian programs.

Expected results
The expected result of the project is an analysis of the original development of Russian visual ethnography at the beginning of the 20th century as well as the composition of the works that combined cinematographic and scientific research. This project seeks to verify a complete source base (archival materials, historical and modern research) illustrated by visual documents for positioning the USSR as a multinational state. The project contributes to our understanding of a set of practical and theoretical approaches of scientists and filmmakers in ethnographic cinema as well as opens to modern researchers the methods of fixation and popularization of unknown archive scientific knowledge. The relevance of the project is the analysis of comparable Russian and foreign experiences, and the identification of their common and special features associated with historical and modern trends in the development of science in different countries. The scientific significance of the project is also the introduction into the scientific circulation of a corpus of unique historical sources - the digitized archives of the "Cinema-Atlas of the USSR". The scattered materials of the Soviet "cinema-atlas" will be brought together for the first time and analyzed in the socio-cultural and ideological context of their time. They will be also interpreted as a phenomenon of visual self-presentation of the USSR within the country and abroad. The theme of the project covers many topical subjects: media presentation of ethnicity and identity, interethnic interaction and popularization of cultural heritage, and harmonization of interethnic relations. During the implementation of the project, research work will be carried out in Russian and foreign archives and museums. Project materials will be presented at scientific congresses, conferences and film festivals of Russian and international level. As a result of the project, it is planned to publish at least 20 publications in leading Russian and foreign journals on history, ethnography and visual anthropology (including 11 publications indexed in the WoS or SCOPUS databases (including 5 publications in journals included in Q1). A significant result of the project will be the creation of a cumulative Internet channel "Cinema-Atlas of the USSR", which will host the films themselves, annotations and titles to them. This project also makes the case for the electronic media - an interactive map of the USSR with the ability to activate archival film materials for individual regions as well as include thematic text information (in Russian and English). The materials of the project will be demanded in the scientific and methodological activities of institutions of science, education, and culture. The results of the project can be used by the administrative structures of the Russian Federation in order to prepare a strategy for the development of regions in the field of migration, ethnic and confessional policy, ensuring security in the field of interethnic relations, addressing issues of preservation and popularization of historical and cultural heritage. Certain aspects of the project can be taken into account in fundamental programs to counter terrorism and xenophobia. The results of the work can also have commercial implementation in area of cultural heritage, the tourism industry, the development of image projects for the regions of the Russian Federation as well as museum programs, photo exhibitions, film and television programs, commercial media products.



Annotation of the results obtained in 2021
The start of the project "Cinema Atlas of the USSR: Experience in Positioning a Multinational State" inspired a comprehensive collection and analysis of visual materials, opening up new perspectives for considering film and photo documents as sources for studying various aspects of socio-cultural transformations in the ethnically heterogeneous and multi-structured space of the Soviet Union in the 1920s – 1930s, and allowing to consider the counter-motives of scientists in the development of visual resources for scientific purposes, and filmmakers - in the creation of films on ethnographic materials. In line with the project hypothesis about the soil nature of the direction of ethnographic cinema in Russia / USSR, such a thematic focusing made it possible to discover hitherto unknown experiences in the history of Russian visual ethnography / anthropology as a (sub) discipline. The main directions of the first year of work on the project were "Experiments of Scientists", "Experiments of Cinematographers" and "Joint Experiments of Researchers and Directors within the framework of the" Cinema Atlas of the USSR "project. 1) Experiments of scientists. The scientific group of the project carried out research on thematic archives of scientists in the funds of Russian museum and research institutions: the B.M. and Yu.M. Sokolovs in the Russian State Archives of Literature and Art in Moscow (RGALI. F. 483), L.L. Kapitsa in the Russian Ethnographic Museum in St. Petersburg (REM-4903), V.G. Bogoraz in the St. Petersburg branch of the Archive of the Russian Academy of Sciences (SPbF ARAN. F. 250), materials about the scientific work of N.F. Yakovlev in the Russian State Archives of Literature and Art in Moscow (RGALI, F. 2091). Cinema experiences expressed in theoretical developments ("Marxist Ethnofilma" by V.G.Bogoraz, "Cinema and Scientific Expeditions" by L.L. method "N.F. Sea "(1929) L. L. Kapitsa;" Kabardino-Balkaria to the 10th anniversary of October "(1927) A. N. Tersky), or with their consulting participation (" In Bryansk Polesie "(1931)," Storm of the North " (1931) In line with the study of scientists' approaches to the visualization of ethnicity in the period under study, special attention in the design work was paid to the expeditionary photo collections of the Kunstkamera (St. Petersburg), the St. Petersburg branch of the RAS Archive, the Russian Ethnographic Museum (funds of N. N. Volkova, Z. P. Malinovskaya, N.S. Rozova) Studied ethnographic photo collections They are quite indicative for comparison - they clearly demonstrate how the approach to photography of traditional culture has changed over the course of one decade, and how politics has formatted the approaches of researchers: from feeding the rudiments of ethnographic / regional traditions to relaying images of the construction of a Soviet sociocultural community on the map of the Union. 2) The experiences of filmmakers. Work was carried out to analyze the materials of films about Sovietization of the original regions of the USSR: Eastern Siberia and the Far East, the North and South Caucasus, Central Asia and the Northern Black Sea region. These sources made it possible to peer at the ethnopolitical, ethno-confessional, colonization, gender and other topical for the period under study, processes that took place on the ground (“Jews on Earth” by AM Rooma (1927), “Roof of the World” (1928) A. Erofeeva, Country of Nakhcho "(1930) N. A. Lebedeva," Kamchatka by N. D. Konstantinov (1928), "Descendant of Genghis Khan" (1928), "Baikal (along the western Baikal region to Mongolia)" (1928), “Around Buryat-Mongolia” (1929), as well as “Kalmyks” (1927) and “Young Republic (Kalmyk ASSR)” (1935) .Special attention in the course of design research was devoted to the study of the phenomenon of “anti-religious film” in the USSR, which pursued the goal the creation of an "atlas of confessions" in the Land of the Soviets Based on the materials of the most illustrative documentary films "Sectarians" (1930) by V. Korolevich and "At the Sectarians" (1930) by AN Tersky, the history of the formation of this special segment in the direction of educational cinema about peoples and cultures of the 1920s – 1930s. In addition, during the reporting period, extensive work was done to study materials from Soviet periodicals concerning the technical and creative nuances of the development of scientific cinematography in the USSR as a type of film industry. The corpus of Soviet ethno-geographical films studied during the work on the project demonstrates an impressive palette of author's styles and methods of film production: "Propaganda Cinema" by A.M. Rooma, "An anti-religious film" by V. Korolevich, "Kinoreportazh" by B.R. Neublitsky, "Ethnographic Film" by A.N. Tersky and others) and allows arguing the project hypothesis about the existence of a full-fledged direction of ethnographic cinema in the USSR in the 1920s – 1930s. 3) The project "Cinema Atlas of the USSR" as the quintessence of scientific and cinematic developments. During the reporting period, specially-directed studies of documents on the creation of films "Kinoatlas of the USSR" were carried out in the Russian State Archives of Literature and Art (Moscow): the funds of the film studios "Sovkino", "Vostokkino", "Mezhrabpomfilm", "Kino-Siberia", " Gosvoenkino "for the 1920s – 1930s. (RGALI. F. 645). The newly collected data made it possible to develop and additionally substantiate the project research that the chain of cultural and ideological foundations of the "atlas" project intertwined Marxist doctrine, the ideas of avant-garde cinema, as well as the intentions of ethnoscience itself. It was verified that initially (in the mid-1920s) the project of the Soviet "Kinoatlas" was conceived as a montage of newsreel materials of local history and production content that already existed at that time. However, already at the turn of the 1920s – 1930s. the project was reformatted in terms of the need for additional filming of new materials, first of all, reflecting the development of Soviet construction. Film sketches of local lore gave their place on the screen to full-length works - the so-called "cultural films", which combined an art form with documentary, popular science, and often propaganda content. During the reporting period, attention was drawn to such a significant aspect of the USSR Cinema Atlas project as “exporting the revolution” abroad and popularizing the ideas of the Communist International through the cinema screen. On the one hand, the distribution of Soviet film correspondents to various parts of the Union and others loyal to the Soviet system of the country made it possible to collect and operate a range of news materials related to the peculiarities of socialist construction in various parts of the world. On the other hand, films from the USSR, being a profitable commodity that were successfully distributed by Soviet trade missions in various parts of the world, allowed them to tell outside their "film truth" about the progressiveness of the socialist path of development. It is no coincidence that the transcripts of the discussion of the "cinema atlas" reveal proposals to expand the "cinema atlas of the USSR" to the scale of the "cinema atlas of the world" in terms of film mapping of the expanding zone of influence of the Soviet Union. According to the project plans, the preparation of content (materials on the Far East and Eastern Siberia) for the projected Internet channel and multimedia application has also started. The general design of the preparatory application will echo the on-screen map of the USSR, from the frames of which most ethno-geographical films of the early Soviet period began, and make it possible to activate visual materials on this "movie map" depending on the region selected by the user. The scientific results of the first year of design research were published in 7 articles in scientific journals, indexed in the international databases WoS and Scopus, included in the RSCI and the list of the Higher Attestation Commission. The materials of the work on the project were presented in 16 reports and presentations of the project participants at international and all-Russian scientific forums.



1. Golovnev I.A. Карельские киноэкспедиции Леонида Капицы 1927–1928 гг. Вестник угроведения, № 2. Т. 11. С. 378–387. (year - 2021).

2. Golovnev I.A. Кабардино-Балкария на советском экране: «этнографическая фильма» Анатолия Терского Известия СОИГСИ, № 40 (79). С. 23-36 (year - 2021).

3. Golovnev E.V., Golovnev I.A. Советская антирелигиозная фильма. «Сектанты» Владимира Королевича (1930) Религиоведение, № 3. С. 151-159 (year - 2021).

4. Golovnev I.A. «Живой музей» и «борьба за культурфильму» Бориса Соколова Этнография, № 3 (13). С. 244-263 (year - 2021).

5. Golovnev I.A. Образы Тувы в советском кинематографе (на примере творчества Б.Р. Небылицкого) Новые исследования Тувы, № 4. C. 119–130. (year - 2021).

6. Golovnev I.A. Образы советской колонизации в архивном кино: «Евреи на земле» Абрама Роома. 1920–1930-е гг. Вестник архивиста, № 4. С. 1051–1063. (year - 2021).

7. Golovnev I.A. Национальная политика на экране. «Киноатлас СССР» Антропология и этнология: современный взгляд. М.: Политическая энциклопедия, 5. Головнев И.А. Национальная политика на экране. «Киноатлас СССР» / Антропология и этнология: современный взгляд. М.: Политическая энциклопедия, 2021. 559 с. С. 328–335. (year - 2021).

8. Golovnev I.A. «Киноатлас СССР»: ретроспективный и перспективный ракурсы исследования XIV Конгресс антропологов и этнологов России. Томск : Издательство Томского государственного университета, XIV Конгресс антропологов и этнологов России : сб. материалов. Томск, 6–9 июля 2021 г. / отв. ред. И.В. Нам. – Москва ; Томск : Издательство Томского государственного университета, 2021. – 830 с. С. 658 (year - 2021).

9. - В Сыктывкаре открылась международная конференция "Визуальный текст в историко-культурном ландшафте" Информационное агентство "КомиИнформ", 23 сентября 2021 года, 19:20 (year - ).