Tropical Russian Bears: Jews and Soviet Animation During The Cold War

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After Stalin consolidated the major animation studios and closed down smaller regional studios to create a single Moscow-based drawn and puppet animation studio in 1934–36, the animation studio Soyuzmultfilm became the largest animation studio in Eastern Europe. In the 1960s, Soviet Jewish animators focused on the theme of social geography and developed individual characters in relationship to social mapping. This essay analyses the enigmatic Cheburashka, the Soviet Mickey Mouse, whose popularity as a Communist ideal led to his starring role as Soyuzmultfilm’s most enduring logo. It is particularly concerned with the development of the ethnically-unidentifiable Cheburashka against the history of the Moscow Zoo and its inter-species exhibitions.

  • 2

    N. N. AbramovaKlassik po imeni Lolya v strane Mul’tiplikatsii (Moscow: Kluch-S2010) 44. On Soviet popular culture including the place of animation in the Soviet imagination see: Birgit Beumers Pop Culture Russia!: Media Arts and Lifestyle (Santa Barbara: ABC Clio 2005) 99–104.

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  • 8

    David MacFadyenYellow Crocodiles and Blue Oranges: Russian Animated Film since World War Two (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press2005) 107. For studies that adopt this approach to Soviet film see: Dmitry Shlapentokh and Vladimir Shlapentokh Soviet Cinematography 1918–1991: Ideological Conflict and Social Reality (New York: Aldine de Gruyter 1993); Nikolai Abramov “Mul’tfil’m: politika filosofiia poeziia” in Mify i real’nost’ zarubezhnogo kino segodnia. Sbornik statei; shestoi vypusk ed. M. Shaternikova (Moscow: Iskusstvo 1978) 192–211.

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  • 10

    See Roman Kachanov“Napravlenie poiskov,” Iskusstvo kino 2 (1984): 45–54.

  • 12

    AbramovaKlassik po imeni Lolya52.

  • 14

    Ibid.Klassik po imeni Lolya40.

  • 20

    Benjamin Pinkus The Jews of the Soviet Union: The History of a National Minority (Cambridge, Russia, Soviet and Post-Soviet Studies) (New York: Cambridge University Press1990) 63. Moscow Radio denounced the interview as a “provocative forgery” but whether or not the sentiment was misattributed it nonetheless reflects a common association between the Soviet Union and oranges. For an example of an image of the Jewish orange plantation in Jewish Russian literature see Mark Egart Scorched Land (1932).

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  • 25

    Edouard Uspensky“Kak povavilsya Cheburashka,” Novaya Gazeta 5 (January 25 2007). When the same attribution story is told in Komsomol’skaia Pravda Uspensky’s story is cast as an admission of Cheburashka’s female gender and Kamov-Kandel’s name is excluded. See Irina Bystrova “Cheburahka okazalsia devochka” Komsomol’skaia Pravda 157 (October 21 2006): 3.

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  • 28

    Quoted in Hickey“Revolution on the Jewish Street” 826.

  • 29

    Birgit Beumers“Comforting Creatures in Children’s Cartoons,” in Russian Children’s Literature and Culture eds. Marina Balina and Larissa Rudova (London: Routledge2008) 153; Sergei Kuznetsov “Zoo ili fil’my ne o lyubvi” Iskusstvo kino 1 (January 2004): 76–79.

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  • 30

    Sergei Asenin“Cheburashka,” Soviet Film 1 (1973): 22. See also Sergei Asenin Mir mul’tfilma: idei i obrazy mul’tiplikacionnogo kino socialisticeskih stran (Moscow: Iskusstvo 1986) 60–61.

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  • 35

    See Andrei Krasnyaschih“Igraem v kino,” Iskusstvo kino 2 Febrary 2005: 77–85. For a list of “Cheburdotami” accessed March 27 2014

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  • 36

    Sergei OushakineVesiliye Cheloveki (Moscow: Noveye Literaturnoye obotzreniye2008) 9–11.

  • 38

    Asenin“Cheburashka” 22. On the double life of Crocodile Gena see Ben Hellman Fairy Tales and True Stories: The History of Russian Literature for Children and Young People 1574–2010 (Leiden: Brill 2013) 550–551.

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  • 39

    AbramovaKlassik po imeni Lolya v strane Mul’tiplikatsii26.

  • 44

    Vera ChaplinaKinuli (New York: Henry Z. Walck, Inc.1965) introduction [unpaginated]. First appeared in Russian as V. Chaplina Kinuli (Moscow: Izd. Moskovskogo zooparka 1946). In the mid-1960s Vera Chaplina’s memoir was published in English and used in elementary schools throughout America as a way to teach children about the socialist way of organizing life. See also: Vera Chaplina True Stores from the Moscow Zoo trans. Estelle Titiev and Lila Pargment (Englewood Cliffs NJ: Prentice Hall 1970).

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  • 45

    Demaree Bess“Lions and Lambs in Moscow,” Christian Science MonitorDecember 18 1935 WM2.

  • 46

    Vera ChaplinaKinuli17. Chaplina and Kinuli starred in the documentary film Kinuli (1935) produced by Mostechfilm. Chaplina appears with a variety of animals including Kinuli in Sovkinozhurnal no. 16 (February 1936) [newsreel]. For newspaper articles see Izvestia November 20 1935 6; Izvestia March 15 1936 4; Izvestiia May 30 1936 4; G. Stepanov “Ploshchadka molodnyka. Rasskazy o moskovskom zooparke” Pioner October 4 1936.

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  • 47

    Ella Agranovskaya“Puppets Know a lot about us People,” Soviet Film 4 (1981): 34–35.

  • 48

    Roman Kachanov“Napravlenie poiskov,” Iskusstvo kino 2 (1984): 47.

  • 49

    AbramovaKlassik po imeni Lolya v strane Mul’tiplikatsii44.

  • 52

    Kachanov“Napravlenie poiskov” 47.

  • 57

    Yuri Yakovlev“Lev ushol iz doma (1971),” Serezhiny sny (Moscow: Detskaya Literatura 1973).

  • 60

    Yakovlev“Lev ushol iz doma” 193.

  • 62

    Yakovlev“Lev ushol iz doma” 202.

  • 63

    See Anatoly Partashnikov“Soviet Philosophy of Biology Today,” Studies in Soviet Thought14 no. 1–2 (Mar–Jun 1974): 1–25. For a discussion of science in avant-garde Soviet art see: Charlotte Douglass “Evolution and the Biological Metaphor in Modern Russian Art” Art Journal 44.2 (Summer 1984): 153–161.

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  • 64

    See for example: Bernard J. ShapiroThe Battle for Eretz Yisrael Jews God and Israel (Bloomington, Indiana: iUniverse2011) 48; Douglas J. Feith “Of Lions Lambs and Ostriches” The Jerusalem Post (March 23 1990).

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  • 65

    Peter Rodman“The Press and National Security: The Lion and the Lamb,” Journal of National Security Law (December 1997). For a similar version of this story but set in the Leningrad Zoo see: Kenneth L. Adelman “Address to Chicago Bar Association” Chicago Illinois (January 22 1987)” World Affairs 149.3 (Winter 1986–87): 157.

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  • 66

    Ben FrankA Travel Guide to Jewish Russia and Ukraine (Louisiana: Pelican Publishing2000) 170. See memoir account of attendance at the commemoration at Babi Yar Jews in Eastern Europe 5.1 (April 1972): 40–42.

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  • 67

    Yosef BoyarskyLiteraturnyyei kollazhi (Moscow: Memoirs2001) accessed December 14 2013 On the naming of various personalities at Soyuzmultfilm see the memoirs of two Soyuzmultfilm animation directors: Kyrill Malyantovich “Kak barolis’s kosmopolitami na Soyuzmultfilme” Kinovedchskie zapiski 52 (2001): 191–196; Evgenii Migunov “Ia—Kosmopolit?” Kinovedcheski zapiski 52 (2001): 197–205.

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  • 72

    RGALI f. 2944op. 4 d. 1883a.

  • 74

    L. Zakrzhevskaya“Mul’tiplikatsiya zhdet dramaturga,” Iskusstvo kino 7 (July 1973): 90. See RGALI f. 2944 op. 4 d. 1390.

  • 76

    Zakrzhevskaya“Mul’tiplikatsiya zhdet dramaturga” 90.

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