Browse results

You are looking at 1 - 10 of 94 items for :

  • Primary Language: Russian x
  • Search level: All x
Clear All
Russian Theater in the Early 20th Century
Material from the National Library of Russia, St. Petersburg

The early years of the 20th century saw the appearance of many new theaters in Russia, as well as an increase in theater audiences and in the activities of professional critics. Theater collectives and experimental theaters flourished throughout Russia, inventing new and highly individual expressive forms and bringing aesthetic elements of symbolism to the Russian stage. The leading role in these innovations belongs to Meierkhol'd who at that time directed his Theater-Studio on Povarskaya Street in Moscow and the Komissarzhevskaya Theater in St. Petersburg. Thanks to Meierkhol'd the repertoire policy of the imperial theaters of St. Petersburg changes radically. In Moscow the Studio is opened as part of the Moscow Art Theater (later becoming MKhT-2), as well as the Chamber Theatre and in St. Petersburg the futurists show their first theater experiments on stage. All of these theater collectives clearly expressed their own creativity and specific aesthetics.
The Russian symbolists published the journal Vesy (The Scales, 1904-1909) and Zolotoye Runo (The Golden Fleece, 1906-1909). These magazines looked at the problems of the "new" theater as a reflection of Philosophical or mystical conceptions about life. These publications were succeeded by the monthly Apollon (1909-1917). Apollon reacted to the more important happenings on the scenes of the capital and provincial towns, but most pages was taken up by articles of an analytical nature, devoted to special problems of the theater: decorations, costumes, scenic movement/plasticity, acting schools.
A specific position was taken in by the journal that was published in the Studio of Meierkhol'd: The Love for three oranges: The Journal of Doctor Dapertutto (Petrograd, 1914-1916). This journal published the cultural chronicles and reports of the acitivities of Meierkhol'ds Studio and also poems of contemporary poets. For three seasons (1912/1913 - 1914/1915) Moscow saw the publication of a monthly of theater art: Masks. All magazines are characterized by excellent artistic content and feature contributions from leading writers, poets, literary and artistic critics, such as M.Voloshin, V.Meierkhol'd, V.Bryusov, L.Andreev, A.Blok, F.Sologub, M.Kuz'min, A.Akhmatova, N.Efros; and are illustrated by famous artists such as A.Benois, A.Korovin, K.Somov, A. Golovin and L.Bakst.

The Importance of the Collection
The Collection includes small editions aimed at professionals and mass publications intended for a general audience. These periodicals provide a detailed picture of metropolitan and provincial Russian theater, and reflect cultural life in Russia at the turn of the 20th century. Their pages include theater repertoires, reviews, sharp-tongued articles, documentary materials, librettos, announcements and advertisements. The publications did not limit themselves simply to covering social issues, but also dealt with professional problems, such as the relationship between theaters and their sponsors, or the poor living conditions endured by provincial actors. This collection is a unique source for a wide range of scholars in the fields of history, cultural studies, theater history and sociology, and provides a unique opportunity to savour the distinctive atmosphere of the period revered as Russia's Silver Age.

Main Topics
• Russian culture of the late 19th and early 20th centuries
• Daily life and entertainment in pre-revolutionary Russia
• Theater in capitals and in the provinces
• Modernism
• Futurism

Subject Areas
• Slavic Studies
• History of Culture
• Art History
• Theater
Screen and Stage: The Russian Cinematographic and Theater Press, 1889-1919
Material from the National Library of Russia, St. Petersburg

This collection contains a wide range of information on various forms of mass culture and performance art in pre-revolutionary Russia:
• Cinema
• Theater
• Theater of miniatures
• Cabaret theater
• Circus
• Operetta

The collection includes unique material such as records of the repertoires, biographies of the actors, examples of audience reactions to performances.

Urban Mass Culture at the Turn of the 20th Century
At the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, Russian urban culture was enriched by new leisure activities and entertainments. In addition to the existing fair booths for the commoners, popular festivities for the middle classes, and opera, ballet, and theater for the upper classes, other kinds of mass entertainment appeared, for example, circus, sports contests, and horse-races, along with cinema, cabaret, and theaters of miniatures, which became a new mass passion. The cabaret turned out to be a serious competition for the traditional theater. Since cabaret performances were accessible to the general public and their content was quite intelligible, they won audiences from the theater and attracted leading actors and other personnel.

Cinema
By this time the large wave of modernism swept across Europe and affected practically all aspects of life, including new public leisure activities and entertainments. Cinema turned out to be the perfect instrument to mold mass culture. Although the popularity of the screen was all pervasive, the universality of its artistic language was limited by the lack of sound. To compensate this, a number of means were used, varying from imitating and parodying films to combining film performances with ballet, theatrical, or musical sketches in one program. A skillfully staged effect of actual presence was also practiced, for example during the tour by Max Linder - the French "king of the screen" - to Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Kiev in December 1913. The intense drama of the film came to a sudden end when the main character made a live appearance, stunning and disconcerting the audience.

Cabaret and Variety Theaters
Cabaret and variety theaters appeared in Russia in the 1900s, and provided an ideal setting for artistic experiments. At the end of February 1908, the Bat cabaret theater (Letuchaia Mysh') opened in Moscow under the direction of Nikita Baliev; six months later, The Distorting Mirror (Krivoe zerkalo) parody-theater founded by Aleander Kugel' and Nikolai Evreinov opened its doors. These experiments were such a success that they immediately became the fashion. Soon, dozens of similar ventures appeared not only in Moscow and St. Petersburg, but also in Odessa, Kiev, Khar'kov, Baku, Rostov-on-Don, Vladivostok, and many other cities. In 1912, there were 125 cabaret or variety theaters performing original sketches and programs every evening in Moscow and St. Petersburg alone. Cabaret mania swept through both literary and artistic circles. Suffice it to mention such famous cabarets of Moscow futurists as Stray dog (Brodiachaia sobaka) and The Pink Lantern (Rozovyi fonar'). The symbolist poet Fyodor Sologub intended to open his literary cabaret. Mikhail Kuzmin and Vladislav Khodasevich enjoyed writing musical and theatrical items for cabaret programs. Vasilii Kachalov, Ivan Moskvin, Ol'ga Knipper-Chekhova, and even Konstantin Stanislavskii himself did not mind appearing on the stage of Baliev's theater. Although cabaret culture in Russia remained formally close to its original European concept, it had its own roots. Its stylistic and artistic originality was influenced by the living traditions of intimate gatherings of actors, named kapustniks - literally "cabbage pies", where the actors parodied the highbrow stage practices of the Malyi, Aleksandrinskii, Mariinskii, and Moscow Art theaters.

Mass Media on Popular Entertainment
Starting at the beginning of the 1900s, a large number of daily and weekly illustrated newspapers and journals were published in capitals and provincial cities throughout the Russian Empire. These publications contained the main news related to operetta, farce, variety shows, circus, sports, and other forms of entertainment, and provided insights into various occupations related to acting. When cinema and cabaret spread more widely, news about them was included in these periodicals, thus diversifying them even further.
Several professional publications (e.g., Actor (Artist) and Actor's Diary (Dnevnik Artista)) already appeared at the end of the 19th century. They reflected a complex panorama of theater life in the main cities and in the provinces, and carefully recorded all significant premieres, current repertoires, artistic stage tours, innovations, the actions of censors and local authorities, the switching of actors to another stage, etc. Like cinematographic periodicals (e.g., Elektra - the one-off newspaper for cinema, theater, arts, and literature aficionados that appeared in Moscow in 1909), practically all these titles were short-lived. Hardly any of them survived more than a few seasons, and even the most successful lasted only until the new performing arts in the old Russia came to an end. Worth mentioning are Artistic world. Journal for variety theaters, circus, sports and cinematography (Artisticheskii mir. Zhurnal teatrov-var'ete, tsirka, sporta i sinematografa) (Moscow, 1912-1918), Review of St. Petersburg cinemas, skating rinks, and theaters (Obozrenie SPB. kinematografov, sketing-ringov i teatrov) (St. Petersburg, 1912-1917), and Theater and cinema. Weekly illustrated publication (Teatr i kino. Ezhenedel'noe illiustrirovannoe izdanie) (Odessa, 1915-1919).

Historical Value of the Publications
The historical value of these publications can hardly be overestimated. The researcher will find in them unique and still poorly explored material, including records of the repertoires of cabaret theaters and their evolution, as well as the history of various one-man theatrical undertakings and the biographies of the participants. They also contain examples of audience reactions to cabaret performances. Cinema historians will also profit from this valuable material. The publications will help them to define the functional role of cinema in cabaret practice, to establish the similarities and differences, and to better understand various aspects of the evolutionary esthetic convergence of theater and cinema, and analyze their mutual influence.

Rashit Yangirov, Moscow
Early Russian Cinema, Part 1
Russian Cinematographic Press (1907-1918)

Cinema in late-imperial Russia
In a quantitative sense Russia's cinematographic press comprises a modest segment of the general stream of the Russian periodical press at the beginning of the 20th century. However, in the dynamic of its development, the tempo of its reproduction and distribution, it far outstripped publication of all other contemporary genres and directions, and in this fact alone vividly reflected the general popularity of cinema in Russian society. In view of the fact that the documents connected with the history of the early Russian cinema and the overwhelming majority of materials on film have not survived up to this time, these publications constitute a unique collection of testimonials about the general and particular characteristics of the Russian cinematographic press of the 1900s and 1910s.

The art of the new age
The pages of these cinematographic publications have preserved for history not only the first examples of cinema theory, but also a very wide range of reflections of the artistic consciousness of the art of the new age. They chronicled all the variety and individual details of the cinematographic life of the Russian capitals and provinces, recorded consecutively the growth of cinematography in the cultural life of the country. The publications dedicated to the screen carefully documented the dynamic of the development of film production and distribution, traced the actions of the authorities in controlling screenings and noted all other accompanying factors and circumstances affecting the establishment of the new art.

The collection
Examining these sources, the researcher can reconstruct the film repertoire and assemble almost a complete list of domestic and foreign films shown on screens in Russia; he will find in them a detailed description of pictures, reviews by critics, censored materials, etc. In addition, they contain extremely valuable information about other forms of contemporary entertainment culture - the theater of miniatures, cabaret and music hall.
Early Russian Cinema, Part 2
The Russian Cinematographic Press, 1907-1918

Following the successful release of Early Russian Cinema, Part 1, IDC Publishers is proud to release a second part of this unique collection of Russian film periodicals published during the last decade of the tsarist regime. The collection includes sophisticated, bimonthly periodicals as well as more popular weeklies released by major Russian film studios, distributors, and theater owners. These journals – which contain, for example, interviews with movie stars and screenplays that are now irretrievably lost – will prove an invaluable source of information for anyone interested in the history of the silent movie or in the Russian entertainment industry on the eve of the Revolution.
This new installment continues the exciting series on the film heritage, mass culture, and industry of entertainment in Russia. The collection demonstrates developments of cinematic forms and devices that enriched popular culture in pre-Revolutionary Russia. It vividly illustrates the flexible reception of cinema and its social transformation from a single technical invention into a national art form, and provides an adequate and comprehensible panorama of Russian film culture in the twilight of the tsarist era.

This collection contains:
• A wealth of information on popular culture in fin-de-siècle Russia
• Screenplays and reviews of films now irretrievably lost
• First examples of cinema theory
• A wide range of reflections of the artistic consciousness of the new age

Unique Sources
By examining the materials in this collection, the researcher can reconstruct the film repertoire and assemble almost a complete list of domestic and foreign films that were shown on screens in the country. The researcher will find in them a detailed description of pictures, reviews by critics, censorship materials, chronicles of film production, advertising, etc as well as valuable information on other forms of entertainment culture of the era. Together with Early Russian Cinema, Part 1, the new collection offers unique materials on the culture and history of Russia, which no modern historian can afford to ignore.

Cinema in Russian Society
In a quantitative sense, Russia’s cinematographic press comprises a modest segment of the general stream of the Russian periodical press at the beginning of the twentieth century. However, in the dynamic of its development and in the tempo of its reproduction and distribution, it far outstripped publication of all other contemporary genres and directions, and this fact alone vividly reflects the general popularity of cinema in Russian society. Because neither the documents connected with the history of the early Russian cinema nor the overwhelming majority of materials on film have survived, these publications constitute a rare collection of testimonials about the general and particular characteristics of the Russian cinematographic press of the 1900s and 1910s.

Rapid Growth of the Cinematographic Press
The Russian cinematographic press was short-lived: The “trial” issue of Sine-Fono. Zhurnal kinematografii, govoriashchikh mashin i fotografii (the cover of each issue was adorned with the momentous motto “I'll Show You the Right Way”) first appeared on October 1, 1907, and the last issue of magazine Proektor is dated September 1918. The Russian cinematographic press evolved rapidly during this period of just less than twelve years. It arose as an informational intermediary between film producers and the authorities who oversaw the repertoire and its distribution, but soon outgrew these narrow limits and became an influential branch of journalism that attracted many distinguished authors to its pages.
Cinematographic publications preserved for history contain not only first examples of cinema theory (Valentin Turkin, Fiodor Otsep, young Lev Kuleshov, and others), but also a very wide range of reflections on the artistic consciousness of the art of the new age, ranging from traditional realists (Ivan Bunin, Aleksander Kuprin, Konstantin Stanislavsky) to modernists (Nikolai Evreinov, Leon Bakst), symbolists (Andrei Bely, Leonid Andreev), and futurists (Vladimir Maiakovksy, David Burliuk).

The Establishment of a New Art Form
The new collection comprises a wide range of cinematographic periodicals that were published in Russian capitals (St. Petersburg, Moscow) or Russian provinces (Riga, Revel, Yekaterinburg, Rostov-on-Don) in the first decades of the twentieth century. Its publishers recorded a wide range of cinematographic life, including its general trends, special hot issues, and specific local aspects, which marked the growth of cinematography in the cultural life of the country. The film publications carefully documented the dynamic growth of film production and distribution, traced the actions of the authorities in controlling screenings, and noted many other factors and circumstances that affected the establishment of the new art form.
In addition, these publications contain rare information on other forms of entertainment culture of the time – the theater of miniatures, cabaret, circus, and music hall – that had flourished in Russia since the early 1910s.

Specialist Journals and Mass Publications
The Russian film press in the period 1907-1918 is distinguished by its remarkable variety of publications. Some of them focus on general issues of the film business and were aimed at industry professionals, distributors, and theater owners (Sine-Fono, Sinema Pate, Nasha nedelia, Ekler Zhurnal, Svetopis`, Kino, Kinokurier), while others deal with technical innovations (Novosti grammofona) or are devoted to the interests of professional groups of film workers (Akter). From its very beginning, the Russian film press launched a large number of publications that were clearly oriented toward the interests of ordinary film viewers (Vestnik zhivoi fotografii, Elektra, Kinemakolor, Kinematograf, Kinematograficheskyi teatr, Ekran i stsena). Its very existence demonstrates the popularity of cinema among the Russian population.
The last (but not least) part of the new collection presents the non-commercial cinematography of Russia, which effectively served the goals of general education and enlightenment of lower classes (i.e., the workers and peasants). The“popular readings,” which formed a numerous and devoted audience, were widespread throughout the country from the early 1910s. The magazine Razumnyi kinematograf i nagliadnye posobiia was the first pedagogical journal to attempt to integrate film into the educational system. It contains important data on both the practice and its repertoire.

The End of the Era
The First World War was a serious ordeal for the Russian film-making industry and its publishing business. Wartime deficits led to the closing of many publications, and although new ones appeared in their stead, most were just as short-lived.
War and revolution put an end to the history of Russian cinema journalism. All such publications were closed down in the summer of 1918 by the newly established Soviet censorship. A special publication of Kino-Biulleten became a kind of epitaph for both the cinematographic press and the whole Russian film production. Experts of the Film Committee – which was under the People’s Commissariat of Enlightenment – reviewed films of the pre-Revolutionary repertoire, judging not so much their artistic merits, but mainly their ideological coherence, thus defining their future public screenings. For the next seven decades, the cinematographic press in the country was transformed into a component of the state cinema and served the interests of Soviet ideology and politics.

This collection will be published as part of a new IDC series Mass Culture and Entertainment in Russia. The series will offer collections of unique material on various forms of popular culture and entertainment industry in both tsarist and Soviet Russia.

Rashit Yangirov, Moscow
Soviet Cinema: Archival Documents, 1923-35
Material from the Russian State Archive of Literature and Art (RGALI), Moscow

The documents in this collection cover the period when state monopoly control over the Soviet cinema industry – production, distribution and exhibition – was being established and this is why they cover a number of different organisations and institutions.
After the October 1917 Revolution the leadership realised the potential of cinema as a weapon of political propaganda amongst a largely illiterate, multilingual and multicultural population stretched across the largest country on the planet. Lenin is credited with the remark that, “Of all the arts, for us cinema is the most important.”
The Soviet cinema industry was nationalised on paper in August 1919 but state control was not effectively established for at least another decade.
For most of the 1920s Soviet cinema was as commercially orientated as cinema in Western Europe and North America, even though many of the cinema institutions were owned by public organisations such as trade unions and local authorities.
The first centralised state-owned cinema organisation was set up in 1924 under the acronym Goskino [Gosudarstvennoe kino]. It was, however, underfunded and simultaneously overtaxed and thus unable to compete in a harshly competitive environment, so that in 1925 Goskino was replaced by the more generously funded and generally otherwise more powerful organisation, Sovkino [Sovetskoe kino].
Sovkino had, however, also to operate in a predominantly commercial environment. In the financial year 1927/28 the income from imported films (largely from Germany and Hollywood) still exceeded that from Soviet-made films.
The tenth anniversary of the October Revolution in 1927 gave pause for reflection. Despite an array of anniversary films, such as Eizenshtein’s October [Oktiabr’], the general impression was that Soviet cinema was not Soviet enough, especially as films made by the leading left-wing directors remained less popular than imports with Soviet audiences.
In March 1928 the Party’s agitprop department called a conference, which attacked Sovkino for concentrating on “cash, not class” and demanded an ideologically correct “cinema intelligible to the millions”. This call has to be seen against the background of the cultural revolution that was supposed to accompany the first five-year plan of 1928-32 and the associated campaign for proletarianisation and against “bourgeois remnants” from the pre-Revolutionary period, which were grouped under the general pejorative term of “Formalism”, used to denote an alleged obsession with form rather than content.
Sovkino’s days were clearly numbered and in February 1930 it was replaced by Soiuzkino [Soiuznoe kino]. In October 1930 Boris Shumiatskii, an Old Bolshevik, was appointed head of this new all-embracing organisation and in the course of the 1930s, until his summary arrest and execution at the height of the Great Terror in 1938, he oversaw the final stages of the establishment of state control. Soiuzkino absorbed the other cinema organisations, including the semi-private Mezhrabpom studio, which had been partially funded by its association with the German-based International Workers’ Aid movement; Proletkino, which had begun life as an arm of the Proletkul’t proletarian culture movement; and Gosvoenkino, which had been established to provide the armed forces with suitable film material.
Shumiatskii was not only a capable administrator, he also thought hard about what he was trying to do. His 1935 book, A Cinema for the Millions [Kinematografiia millionov], which took its title from the 1928 conference resolution, laid out his plans for a Socialist Realist cinema with mass-audience appeal, which he summed up in the term Sovetskii Gollivud [Soviet Hollywood].
The documents in this collection cover the running of the Soviet cinema as both an industry and a political weapon. They include minutes of board meetings and discussions of the major issues confronting the medium during a crucial period in its development. Minutes and documents cover not only Sovkino, but other studios such as Proletkino, Gosvoenkino and the internationally orientated Mezhrabpomfil’m. The subjects covered deal not only with internal organisational, thematic and ideological matters, but also with external trade relations, especially with European countries and particularly with France.
These files will be of interest to anyone researching the history of Soviet culture in general and that of “the most important of the arts” in particular, in both its domestic political and ideological context and in the light of the changing international political and economic background.

Richard Taylor, Swansea, Wales
Soviet Cinema: Film Periodicals, 1918-1942
Part 1: Journals

Prewar Soviet Cinema
This new collection includes Soviet film magazines and newspapers from the 1920s and 1930s, reflecting the most interesting and fertile period in the history of Russian film. Film publications were revived in the early 1920s after being interrupted in 1918 by Bolshevik censorship. In the beginning, the film press offered detailed coverage of the industry, both in the USSR and abroad, in addition to advertising western films playing on Soviet screens. Films from the west were a source of great interest and made up a significant part of the Soviet film repertoire for many years. Both film and general publications of the period presented ongoing discussions of the prudence of showing western films in the Soviet Union. This discussion was concluded by the end of the 1920s with the introduction of a partial and eventually complete ban on imported films, marking the beginning of a campaign to "proletarize" Soviet art. The newspaper Kino began exposing class enemies, formalists and anyone guilty of introducing bourgeois influences into cinematography. The mass-distributed Sovetskii Ekran was turned into a didactic weekly paper. By the mid-1930s, ideological consensus and Socialist Realism as the dominant mode in art came to the fore in film, as in all other areas of Soviet art.

Film Periodicals from the 1920s and 1930s
Film periodicals from the 1920s and 1930s are a unique source for a variety of information on the history of Soviet cinematography, and the material has yet to be fully studied and appreciated by scholars. These publications are largely absent from book collections in the West, and are now presented for the first time as a large, complete set.
Film publications shed light on the production side of Soviet cinematography, as well as on the theoretical and practical concepts developed by the period's leading directors and critics. They also highlight the role of film in Soviet cultural life. Film magazines and newspapers featured articles by leading Soviet directors (Lev Kuleshov, Sergei Eisenstein, Dziga Vertov, Aleksandr Dovzhenko, Abram Room), as well as members of the avant-garde LEF, leading authors and philologists.
In addition to the immense academic value of the publications, several magazines in particular, such as Kino-Fot, were known for their graphic art, including Aleksandr Rodchenko's first creative experiments in graphic design.
Official in-house publications are of particular interest, especially Repertuarinyi Biuilleten' (1926-1930) and Repertuarnye Sborniki (1932-1942), which offer an inside view of film censorship. Each month these two periodicals printed annotated lists of films that were prohibited or allowed for screening, as well as instructions and other regulations governing Soviet cinematography. This set also includes a number of newspapers that covered day-to-day production at the studios and not well known by Russian and foreign scholars: Lenfilm's Kadr (1930-1941), Mosfilm's Bolshevistskii Fil'm (1932-1941), Mezhrabpom's Rot-Fil'm (1933-1936) and Kinofront (1935-1936), published by the Kazan film stock factory.

Rashit Yangirov, Moscow