Contested Interpretations of the Past in Polish, Russian, and Ukrainian Film

Screen as Battlefield


Volume Editor: Sander Brouwer
Questions of collective identity and nationhood dominate the memory debate in both the high and popular cultures of postsocialist Russia, Poland and Ukraine. Often the ‘Soviet’ and ‘Russian’ identity are reconstructed as identical; others remember the Soviet regime as an anonymous supranational ‘Empire’, in which both Russian and non-Russian national cultures were destroyed. At the heart of this ‘empire talk’ is a series of questions pivoting on the opposition between constructed ‘ethnic’ and ‘imperial’ identities. Did ethnic Russians constitute the core group who implemented the Soviet Terror, e.g. the mass murders of the Poles in Katyn and the Ukrainians in the Holodomor? Or were Russians themselves victims of a faceless totalitarianism? The papers in this volume explore the divergent and conflicting ways in which the Soviet regime is remembered and re-imagined in contemporary Russian, Polish and Ukrainian cinema and media.

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Sander Brouwer, Ph.D. (1995) teaches Russian literature and cultural history at Groningen University, the Netherlands. For this volume, he collected a group of specialists in Polish, Russian and Ukrainian media from the Netherlands, Poland, Ukraine, the UK and the USA.
“[T]he volume[…]convincingly [shows] how the films under review use different strategies of cinematic representation to transport interpretations of the Soviet (imperial) past in more or less subtle ways.”
-Christian Noack, in Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas E-Reviews, Vol. 8, Iss. 2 (2018)
A Note on Transliteration

Sander Brouwer — Introduction

Vitaly Chernetsky — Between the Poetic and the Documentary: Ukrainian Cinema’s Responses to World War II

Lars Kristensen — “Wanna Be in the New York Times?”: Epic History and War City as Global Cinema

Ewa Hanna Mazierska — At War: Polish-Russian Relations in Recent Polish Films

Matilda Mroz — Displacement, Suffering and Mourning: Post-war Landscapes in Contemporary Polish Cinema

Mirosław Przylipiak — “I Am Afraid of this Land”: The Representation of Russia in Polish Documentaries about the Smolensk Plane Crash

Olga Briukhovetska — “Nuclear Belonging”: “Chernobyl” in Belarusian, Ukrainian (and Russian) films

Sander Brouwer — From Empire to Smuta and back. The Mythopoetics of Cyclical History in Russian Film and TV-Documentaries

Sander Brouwer — Tsar Peter, Mazepa and Ukraine: A Love Triangle. Iurii Illienko’s A Prayer for hetman Mazepa

Mariëlle W. Wijermars — Encircling an Unrepresentable Past: The Aesthetic of Trauma in Karen Shakhnazarov‘s Dreams (1993)


Specialists in Eastern Europe, especially Poland, Russia and Ukraine; professionals interested in memory politics, historical films, Eastern European film and media.