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Visualizing the Past: Perestroika Documentary Memory of Stalin-era Trauma

Alpert, Erin (2014) Visualizing the Past: Perestroika Documentary Memory of Stalin-era Trauma. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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The main goal of this dissertation is to look at how, during perestroika, documentary breaks away from the traditional notions of the genre in order to reexamine and redefine traumatic events from the Stalinist period. The first chapter examines the nuances of three critical terms: “documentary,” “collective memory,” and “cultural trauma.” I then turn to a historical approach, exploring how political culture and technology affected the content, production, and screening of documentaries, first discussing the time leading up to perestroika and then the massive changes during the glasnost era.
In the final chapters, I argue that there are three primary approaches the films examined in this project take to understanding the past. First, films that present the Soviet Union as a system that can be saved by a return to Leninist ideals, such as in Marina Babak’s More Light (Bol'she sveta, 1988), and Marina Goldovskaia’s Solovki Power (Vlast' Solovetskaia, 1988). Second, films that delve into the lasting effects of Stalinism on contemporary Soviet society, as in Tofik Shakhverdiev’s Stalin is With Us? (Stalin s nami?, 1989), and Igor' Beliaev’s Trial II (Protsess II, 1988). Third, films that demystify the cult of Stalin and his inner circle through a more intimate study of their personal lives, like Semen Aranovich’s I was Stalin’s Bodyguard (Ia sluzhil v okhrane Stalina, 1989) and I Worked for Stalin, or Songs of the Oligarchs (Ia sluzhil v apparate Stalina, ili Pesni oligarkhov, 1990). The readings of these films draw on Maurice Halbwachs’ notion of collective memory, which asserts that there is memory outside of individual consciousness and that this memory is both shared and constructed by a society, and on the idea of cultural trauma. As Jeffrey Alexander, Ron Eyerman, Bernhard Giesen, Neil J. Smelser, and Piotr Sztompka argue in Cultural Trauma and Collective Identity, a society recovers from cultural trauma by collectively and publicly grappling with a set of questions that include what is the nature of the pain, what is the nature of the victim, what is the relation of the trauma victim to the wider audience, and who is responsible for the trauma?


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Alpert, Erinera17@pitt.eduERA17
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairPadunov, Vladimirpadunov@pitt.eduPADUNOV
Committee MemberCondee, Nancycondee@pitt.eduCONDEE
Committee MemberBirnbaum, Daviddjbpitt@pitt.eduDJBPITT
Committee MemberHicks,
Date: 16 September 2014
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 12 May 2014
Approval Date: 16 September 2014
Submission Date: 5 June 2014
Access Restriction: 5 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 5 years.
Number of Pages: 253
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Slavic Languages and Literatures
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Soviet cinema, perestroika, collective memory, documentary, Stalinism, cultural trauma
Date Deposited: 16 Sep 2014 17:41
Last Modified: 16 Sep 2019 05:15


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