World Festival of Youth and Students

Lev Rubinstein, born 1947 in Moscow, as photographed in 2017 by Natalia Senatorova. Courtesy of Wikimedia

There should be at least some news to slightly brighten — like a mosquito-sized flashlight — the gloomy hopelessness of the current media landscape.

So, this morning a news item flashed across my screen that seemed provisionally positive and even slightly heartwarming amidst the already familiar meteor shower of news items, each one more nightmarish and ridiculous than the last.

However, this seemingly welcome news is also shipshape when it comes to absurdity.

Amid the events happening around us this bit of news struck me as quite strange. I immediately wanted to check whether it was a fake (sorry for the non-Russian word).

But it seems to be true, alright.

“In February–March 2024,” I read, “the World Festival of Youth will be held in Russia, per the decree signed by President Vladimir Putin.”

“Within three months, the government,” I read on, “should start prepping for staging the festival, as well as finding sources of funding.”

While I am amazed, to put it mildly, at the incongruity and obvious strangeness of all this, and while I imagine how the eyes of the various “preppers” and “stagers” light up when they read the word “financing,” one of my most vivid memories serves as a powerful backdrop to these spontaneous reflections of mine.

In the summer of 1957, Moscow hosted the World Festival of Youth and Students — a festival of left-wing youth organizations that had been held since 1947.

The Soviet propaganda of those years stressed the “fight for peace” as an alternative to the “aggressive policy of the imperialist West.”

In the phrase “fight for peace,” the emphasis increasingly shifted towards the word “fight.”

Be that as it may, the word “peace” [mir] in those days, in terms of the frequency with which it was used in both official and unofficial speech, knew no rivals. This is especially often and especially vividly remembered in our own time.

Be that as it may, the 1957 Moscow festival, conceived as a propaganda event, was an important and gratifying event in the life of not only the Soviet capital, but also the whole country.

“Moscow Youth Festival” (1957). Silent footage from Pathé News 

I was ten years old—not so big as to understand everything, but not so little as to understand nothing.

That summer, parents were strongly recommended to take their children out of the capital. I don’t remember why I stayed in Moscow, moreover, smack dab in the center of it.

My friend and neighbor Smirnov and I would roam the streets of Moscow during the festival.

My eyes were blinded by the vividness and polychromatism. I remember an overexcited middle-aged dame grabbing the hand of a skinny Indian man. Speaking loudly and syllabically, as often happens when people talk to foreigners, she told him: “I i-dol-ize Indian cinema! Do you understand? I i-dol-ize it! Do you understand me?”

The Indian smiled and nodded his head, which was wrapped in something terribly foreign and incredibly beautiful. Then he shoved some kind of colorful pin into her hand. It is quite possible, however, that he was not from India but from somewhere else.

Smirnov and I were also given pins and postcards by foreigners. We kept them in our collections at home for many more years. Then they disappeared.

In those days it suddenly became obvious that, before the festival, we had been living in a black and white world. A spirit of unthinkable, unimaginable freedom reigned over the capital, which had become prettier and younger and had lapsed into charming frivolity.

“We Became Friends in Moscow” (1957). In Russian

The air was so supercharged with erotic energy that a year after the Moscow festival, babies of all colors of the spectrum showed up in noticeable numbers. Those babies are now all grown up.

But this was not the only trace left behind by the festival. Nor were the toponymic relics in the form of the countless “Festival Streets” and Druzhba (“Friendship”) cinemas. It was then, by the way, that First Meshchanskaya Street (“First Bourgeois Street”) was renamed Prospect Mira (“Avenue of Peace”).

Many artists of the older generation would later admit that the exhibition of modern painting brought to Moscow by the French and shown during the festival turned their ideas about art upside down and provided the first impulse to everything that is now collectively known as contemporary art. However hard the ideological leadership tried to put the “abstractionists” in their place a few years later and in subsequent years, the genie had been let out of the bottle.

After the festival, the stilyagi — the first aesthetic and, so to speak, behavioral dissidents in the Soviet Union — emerged. After the festival, the idea of fashion and fashionableness arose. After the festival, rock and roll appeared in the Soviet Union and spread around the country. After the festival, the youth subculture in our country took on distinctive features, however timid and provincial.

The Stalinist reinforced concrete (not even iron!) curtain was not flung open during the festival. Only a narrow crack opened in it, but the flow of air pouring through this crack was so powerful that it intoxicated an entire generation for many years to come.

“Khrushchev and the Avant-Gardists: from the Manege to the Manege” (1990). Artist Eli Belyutin and his colleagues look back at “30 Years of the Moscow Union of Artists,” held at the Moscow Manege in 1962. The show attracted the notice of the Soviet and foreign press, but it also angered Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. In Russian

The festival was yet another lesson about the important fact that freedom is not an absolute concept. That freedom is tangible only in the context of non-freedom. That freedom is just the feeling of freedom and nothing more. And it was this feeling that we experienced then. We were not given freedom. We were only shown it through a crack in a thick curtain.

Smirnov and I didn’t know how to articulate anything of the sort back then. We sensed this freedom in a childlike way, directly. It had appeared to us in a bright and sparkling shape that made even a New Year’s tree seem almost as tedious as a synopsis of the painting Arrived on Vacation.

There was no freedom, but there was the feeling of it then.

This powerful feeling touched even me, a ten-year-old. And for many young people from my older brother’s generation, this event largely shaped their further social and cultural evolution.

People who were twenty years older than me often recalled another brief but bright time when it seemed to many who had returned from the front, who had been able to see another world and other people, to spend time with the soldiers and officers of the allied armies, that “now everything would be different.” They also considered it a great fortune, despite the fact that they were very quickly shown who was the boss in the house, and, most importantly, who had really won that war.

Live coverage of the opening ceremony of the 12th World Festival of Youth and Students, Moscow, 1985. In Russian

History shows that when a totalitarian or authoritarian government, under the influence of certain political (most often external) circumstances, is forced to provide its citizens with a “whiff of freedom,” this is almost always followed by bouts of reaction in different shapes and guises. “You had a little breather and that’s enough!” the government seemingly says to citizens who decided that now things would be different.

Freedom, according to the great poet, comes to us naked. But when she sees that no one welcomes her with flowers and songs, she waits in vain for a while before dejectedly going home.

I cannot even really imagine the upcoming triumph of the spirit, the style and overall thrust of its staging, the number and, most importantly, the quality of its intended participants, and how the keyword of all the previous festivals, the word that begins with a “p,” and which has now become semi-forbidden, will be spun. I lack the imagination.

Source: Lev Rubinstein, “You can’t strangle this song, you can’t kill it: why Putin wants a World Festival of Youth,” Republic, 7 April 2023. Translated by the Russian Reader. The videos inserted in the article, above, were part of the original publication, but the photo of Mr. Rubinstein was not.

A Second Thaw

The poster for a special 35mm screening of Gennady Shpalikov’s A Long Happy Life, held in Petersburg’s Avrora Cinema on September 9, 2017, as part of a “Second Thaw” program at the annual D-Day Dovlatov Festival. The screening, ostensibly held to celebrate the 80th anniversary of Shpalikov’s birth, was to be introduced by the establishment film director Sergei Solovyov. Courtesy of the D-Day Facebook page

What’s wrong with Russia in one easy lesson.

Gennady Shpalikov was a brilliant Soviet screenwriter, poet, and lyricist, and, in his only attempt at directing, A Long Happy Life (1966), an equally brilliant filmmaker.

If you’ve ever seen the film, you probably wondered at some point how such a bleak, beautiful, and utterly hopeless masterpiece could have been made in the post-Krushchevian Soviet Union.

I don’t remember how that miracle happened, but after this and until his death by suicide in 1974 at the ripe old age of 37, Shpalikov was a man without a country and certainly a man without almost any prospects of getting decent, honest work in a country whose leadership had decided to do a little re-Stalinization after a very brief period of mostly cultural liberalization. (Hence the glorious Soviet cinematic new wave of the Krushchev period, in which Shpalikov played a key role.)

But now, even as it persecutes Kirill Serebrennikov for some of the same “faults” that Sphalikov had, the regime tries to redeem itself by resurrecting the suicided Shpalikov for an evening and rehabilitating itself in its own eyes.

I don’t doubt for a second that the utterly loyalist filmmaker Sergei Solovyov regards Sphalikov as his friend, but everything I’ve read about Shpalikov suggests he was such a charming fellow everyone liked him anyway. That is, until he was made a creative outcast by his own country’s always righteous political regime, couldn’t get work, and started hitting the bottle.

Basically, this is like an evening of films by John Cassavetes as introduced by Ron Howard.

I also don’t know what any of this has to do with Sergei Dovlatov, another talented and “troubled” fellow the great Soviet Union ejected from its sacred midst because it had no place for him, essentially, but who has also been subjected, in recent years, to one of the most extensive and absurd cooptation-cum-rehabilitation campaigns you can imagine, as if he hadn’t left the Soviet Union in 1979, or hadn’t had any good reason for leaving.

None of these frantic attempts on the part of the regime and its running dogs to save themselves in the eyes of the nonexistent intelligentsia should prevent you from watching every film Sphalikov had anything to do with (they’re all worth watching, and some are masterpieces), and reading everything Dovlatov wrote (most of it is hilarious and poignant) in the comfort of your own home.

No one needs to attend pro-Putin rallies disguised as cultural events. What else could the slogan “1967: The Second Thaw” refer to?

There was no second thaw. Only a “long happy life” that ended in 1991. ||| TRR, August 30, 2017

Gennady Shpalikov (director), A Long Happy Life (1966)

To Remember: Last Address Returns to Petersburg

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To Remember
Natalya Shkurenok
June 27, 2015
Novaya Gazeta Saint Petersburg

Last Address’s installation of memorial plaques brings us back to real history, to understanding the past and the present, without which the future is impossible.

In Petersburg this past weekend, memorial plaques appeared on six more houses, memorializing nine more people and reminding the living about the terrible turns Russian history has taken. It would be no exaggeration to call these people the cream of the crop, the salt of the earth: academics, engineers, artists, teachers, and physicians. Without people like them, no society can survive, but these people do not even have graves.  But there are relatives, friends, and kindred spirits whose hearts are moved by the ashes of the innocent victims.

On the Basis of Ethnicity

“I am attending my father’s funeral after seventy-eight years,” says a tall elderly man holding a bouquet of red roses and barely hold backing his tears.

Then he falls silent, places the flowers on the pavement next to the wall of house No. 1 on Maly Prospect, Petrograd Side, and steps away, covering his face with his hands.

When Stanislaw Kozlowski, an engineer at the Plastics Factory, was arrested in the summer of 1937, his son had been born only a month earlier. Two weeks later, his father was shot. His mother’s sister, who took him in, saved little Henryk from life in the camps. His mother was released only in 1947, followed by the 101st kilometer, a ban on living in Leningrad, and a life in Volkhov, an industrial town 122 kilometers east of Leningrad. During Khrushchev’s Thaw, as former victims of political repression, they were given a room in Leningrad, but by that time Henryk had already graduated from the Polytechnic Institute, and sharing a room with his mother was uncomfortable. He first worked at Krasnoyarsk, Bratsk, and Ust-Ilim hydroelectric stations, then in Syria.

“My father was a Pole. He went to the Polish school at Saint Catherine’s Church on Nevsky,” Henryk Kozlowski told Novaya Gazeta. “Eight of them were shot dead all at once. They had gone to school together and maintained relations. They were declared spies, just like everyone else then. But if it had only been them! Do you see that stadium over there? Imagine that in just two years, 1937 and 1938, two such stadiums of people were shot, nearly 42,000 people.”

Before the war, the well-known Leningrad artist Bronislaw Malachowski had lived in the same building. He was the same Malachowski who conceived and drew Smart Masha, the heroine of very popular children’s comics strip. The prototype of Smart Masha was the artist’s own daughter Katya. Malachowski also modeled Malvina and Buratino, for Alexei Tolstoy’s new book, on his own children, Katya and Dima.

On Saturday, the corner house, Maly Prospect, Petrograd Side, 1/3 (at the intersection with Zhdanovka Embankment), looked like a street exhibition on opening day, complete with stands containing photos, original graphic works on easels or simply propped against the wall, and a dense ring of viewers, perusing photos and works that few of them had seen before.

“That is my grandpa, and that is Nappelbaum, and here is my grandmother,” says Vasily Malachowski, Bronislaw’s grandson, pointing to the photographs. “Leningrad artists, actors, and writers often gathered at their house, and Grandpa was friends with Alexei Tolstoy.”

In the summer of 1937, when parents and children were vacationing in the Pushkin Hills, Bronislaw was taken, never to be seen again by his family.  His wife, Maria, and son and daughter were deported from Leningrad, first to Kazakhstan. Later, they moved to the Perm Region. Soon Malachowski was shot. His descendants never returned to the apartment on the Petrograd Side. The NKVD confiscated the artist’s entire archive, including his artworks, sketches, and architectural designs. What happened to the archive is still unknown. Maria died in 1948. She was back in prison again for violating passport regulations.

The children were adopted by the famous artist Natan Altman and his wife, who was the aunt of the Malachowski children. Katya studied at a ballet school in Moscow, while Dima stayed with the Altmans. A graduate of the geography department, he defended his doctoral dissertation. His son, Vasily, the artist’s grandson, studied at the Leningrad State University geology department. But his daughter Stanislava has followed in her great-grandfather’s footsteps. A graduate of the Stieglitz Art and Industry Academy, she has collected a huge amount of material on her family’s history and its Polish roots.

“Grandfather and grandmother were innocent victims,” argues Vasily. “Unfortunately, their lives were short and tragic. But now people who never knew them have taken an interest in them and begun to love them, and this is an instance of immortality. If the soul is kind and good, it always manifests itself and will go on living in kind hearts.”

Science? Kill It!

Perhaps only a few people now remember the name of Arkady Borodin, a professor of history and law. Scant records of his life have been preserved in the archives of the Library of the Academy of Sciences (BAN), where he worked in his final years, and in the case files of the so-called Academic Affair, a tragic page in the history of Russian scholarship. Between 1929 and 1931, the OGPU fabricated a criminal case against a group of scholars in Leningrad. In 1924, Borodin was dismissed from the university as a hereditary nobleman, and from 1925 to 1929 he was in charge of the alphabetical card catalogue at the BAN. In 1931, Borodin was sentenced to ten years in prison. He served part of his sentence in the Solovki prison camp before being transferred to construction of the White Sea Canal. He died near Medvezhyegorsk in 1932. Borodin’s last address was Bolshaya Pushkarskaya, 1. Now, at the behest of his granddaughter, a memorial plaque has been erected there.

A memorial plaque has also appeared on the 11th Line of Vasilyevsky Island, No. 44, whence the famous mathematician and meteorologist Boris Izvekov set out on his final journey.

“I saw my father for the last time from way over there, on the 10th Line,” says Tatyana Bulakh-Izvekova, the scientist’s daughter, pointing. “We left the house, and Dad saw us off, gazing out the window. We never saw each other again. This was his last address. He was arrested here. The two windows on the third floor were his study.”

Case No. 555 is a terrible testimony to the destruction of scientists in Leningrad at the very beginning of the war. This story began in the late 1930s, however. In the mid 1990s, the famous Russian writer Yaroslav Golovanov published an article entitled “Executioners and Victims: Case No. 555” in the magazine Ogonyok. The article discusses NKVD staff informant Yevgeny Merkulov, also known as TV. In the late 1930s, his insinuations led to the arrests and imprisonment of over thirty scientists. But at the beginning of the war, in late 1941, the Leningrad NKVD launched a massive case against the “counterrevolutionary activity” of corresponding member of the Academy of Sciences Ignatovsky and his “group” in order to prove its need to stay in the rear. Based on TV’s denunciations, between the fall of 1941 and the winter of 1942, over 130 scientists, professors, and lecturers (physicists, mathematicians, and geophysicists) were arrested, shot, tortured, and sent to labor camps.

“I don’t know where father died. Golovanov wrote that it happened during transportation to the camps, but I never have found out where and when,” says Tatyana. “Most likely, he died in an internal NKVD prison. I am so glad that I have at least some memorial in place of a grave.”

Rereading Him Again

Grigory Gukovsky, a prominent Soviet literary scholar, university lecturer, and Pushkin House fellow also has no grave. Gukovsky was arrested twice: in 1941, for “counterrevolutionary propaganda” (but was soon released for lack of evidence), and in July 1949, as part of the fight against “cosmopolitanism.”

“There was an arrest and search,” recounts Gukovsky’s great-granddaughter Kira Dolinina, a well-known Petersburg art historian, critic, and lecturer at the European University. “The case was closed due to his death. All this papers were destroyed, including manuscripts of articles and books he was working on. Our family doesn’t have a single document about the family. The man was left to rot, the documents went missing.”

Dolinina and her mother read Gukovsky’s case file in the FSB archives. The telling interrogation reports produced a terrible impression: the interrogation lasted eight hours, but the minutes take up only two pages.

“What were they doing the rest of the time? Torturing him, beating him?” asks Dolinina. “What we were able to read confirmed our guess: my great-grandfather and his brother Matvei Gukovsky were arrested as part of the Leningrad Affair. Hence the investigator for special affairs, and the fact the case was investigated in Moscow. All the case material makes it clear the NKVD was interested in Alexander Voznesensky, rector of the university. So it was not a matter of ‘combating cosmopolitanism.’”

Yuri Lotman, Georgy Makogonenko, and Grigory Byaly were Gukovsky’s students. When information spread on the internet that a memorial plaque to Gukovsky would appear on the house that now stands at 13th Line, 56, his relatives began receiving poignant letters.

“Hello, Kira! My name is Nelly Venskaya. I am eighty-seven years old and studied with your renowned great-grandfather. […] It was not easy to get into Gukovsky’s lectures in 1949. Places in the auditorium were occupied in advance, because, in addition to Leningrad University students, students from all the institutes of higher learning tried to cram in, students from the construction institute, the medical schools, the pedagogical institute, and the polytechnic. They sat on the windowsills, the floor, and the piano, under the piano. The lectures were broadcast in the corridors and the lobby. […] The last cycle that we were lucky enough to hear were his brilliant lectures on Pushkin. The next subject was Gogol, and we were looking forward to the explosion of wit, unexpected comparisons, and profound revelations. […] But no one ever heard that cycle.”

“In Russian literature studies Gukovsky was the principal researcher of eighteenth-century literature,” says Andrei Kostin, academic secretary at Pushkin House. “He got the collected works of Radishchev published, and was a brilliant researcher. Gukovsky shaped the Soviet view of the entire eighteenth century. His death and the loss of his manuscripts are an enormous tragedy for Russian scholarship.”

Family Saves the World

The Belenky-Bogdanov family has preserved the memory of their forebears, who lived at Bolshaya Pushkarskaya, 39, on the Petrograd Side, in the late 1930s. One summer morning in 1937, first the father, Pavel Belenky, a bookkeeper, was taken away from their small room in a communal flat, then the mother, Lydia Bogdanova, a housewife. Their son Vladimir survived. He is is now eighty-five years and lives in Moscow. Because of poor health Vladimir was unable to attend the installation of the commerorative plaque. Instead, his grandson Arseny, great-grandson of the murdered Lydia Bogdanov and Pavel Belenky, came to Petersburg for the ceremony.

“I remember this. I think it is impossible to forget,” said Arseny Belenky during the installation ceremony. “I have a son, whom I will definitely bring to Petersburg and show him the house where his ancestors once lived.”

Almost the entire Dauman family gathered in Petersburg for the first time since 1937 for the installation of a plaque commemorating their forebears. Abram Dauman, who received his education as a surgeon in Germany, operated on the wounded on the front during the First World War. For this he received personal nobility and personal arms, and was awarded the Orders of Saint Stanislaus and Saint George. Learning about the awards, his colleagues commissioned the orders from respected jewelers at their own expense and presented them to Dauman as a token of their profound respect.

Ilya Dauman practiced shorthand. He had his own technique on which he wrote a textbook.

The Dauman brothers moved to Nekrasov Street, 6, in 1924. The whirlwinds of the revolution had brought them from Harbin.

“From my father’s stories I know that when they came to arrest grandfather, my father, who was still little, was told, ‘And you, boy, go to sleep,’” recounts Alexei, grandson of the murdered Abram Dauman. “My dad was taken in by his aunt’s family, although her husband was also arrested, interrogated, and tortured. They cut off four of his fingers, but he did not confess to anything, signed no papers, and was ultimately released.”

First, the older brother, Abram, was arrested. The younger brother, Ilya, was on a business trip in Yekaterinburg at the time.

“His relatives wrote to him not to come back, that his brother had been arrested,” recounts William Rozenson, nephew of the murdered men. “But he replied that he hadn’t done anything and he came back. He was arrested immediately. His wife, although she had divorced him, did not abandon her husband and was also exiled.”

Descendants of the family live in different Russian cities and different countries. One of them could not make the trip to Petersburg from Brazil. But for all of them this house on Nekrasov Street is one of the most important places on earth.

Photos by Yelena Lukyanova

Translated by The Russian Reader. You can read about the Last Address project’s first visit to Petersburg, in the spring of this year, here.

Alexander Markov: A Soundtrack to Soviet Africa

Alexander Markov
Soviet Filmmakers in Africa from the 1960s to the 1980s

In 1960, seventeen African countries gained their independence. For the two superpowers, competing for influence in the Cold War, these “new” countries were obvious opportunities for deploying their own power. Under Khrushchev’s Thaw, Soviet foreign policy increasingly focused on Africa and the Arab world, which became priorities for proactive Soviet diplomacy.

The 1960s thus witnessed the heyday of African studies in the Soviet Union. A number of Soviet filmmakers were dispatched to the continent to produce newsreels and documentary films whose mission was to record the “friendships” between the Soviet socialist specialists at the helm of scientific progress and the African socialist hopefuls who had just broken free from the yoke of colonialism.

The films were given titles such as Hello, Africa!, We Are with You, Africa!, and Good Luck to You, Africa!, to convey that desire for friendship unambiguously, and to contrast starkly with films produced on the other side of the Iron Curtain, such as the notorious Italian documentary about the “dark continent,” Farewell Africa (Addio Africa, 1966), which speculated that civil wars and bloody conflict would set the continent ablaze after the European colonialists exited it.

Despite the fact that Soviet film production was centralized in Moscow and Leningrad, studios in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Ukraine, Belorussia, Georgia, and Uzbekistan also produced documentaries about Africa. The best filmmakers were involved in their production, and Saving Bruce Lee focuses on four of them: Yuri Aldokhin, Mikhail Litvyakov, Vladlen Troshkin, and Rimtautas Šilinis, who made films about Mali, Congo, and Tanzania between 1960 and 1980.

There was also an interest among Soviet filmmakers in documenting wars of independence and armed conflicts (Ethiopia, Libya, Algeria, Congo, Egypt, Chad, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Angola, and Namibia), but such films were produced differently. Only cameramen were dispatched to film on location, and most of them were veteran WWII cinematographers.

Nearly half of the Soviet documentary and newsreel films about Africa recorded official visits by Party leaders, government officials, and heads of states. The other half presented partly imaginary Soviet constructions of African reality.

On the one hand, the filmmakers were under the spell of a revolutionary romanticism. In factories, schools, and universities, in streets and in squares, Soviet citizens had marched and rallied in support of the aspirations of their African comrades for liberation from colonial rule and the right to self-determination. On the other hand, Khrushchev’s Thaw itself contained a promise for better times for Soviet citizens themselves that echoed the hopefulness of the newly sovereign African countries. The imaginary construction of socialist Africa was fashioned according to Soviet paradigms, with soldiers and youth on the march, collective farms, and one-party rule.

The documentaries produced during the Thaw are peculiar, because while they toe the ideological line, they are nonetheless imbued with the loosening of inhibitions that permeated Soviet society at the time. So while an ideologically motivated eye will only see what it wants to see, in these films, the cinematographer’s lens betrays a tangibly genuine curiosity about the “otherness” of African reality that would be impossible to counterfeit.

In contrast with the footage of official parades and collective farms, the films also capture ordinary people going about their everyday lives. The camera conveys the contradictory emotions and mindset of the people standing behind them, in which simple, unfiltered affection and enthusiasm blend with the cinematic idioms of the era.

Ordinary Africans were shown at the helm of a historical transformation, thus embodying the journey toward the “radiant future.” This was another echo with the spirit of the Thaw that, paradoxically, made Soviets more congenial to Africans. It was a seemingly naïve illusion in retrospect, but it was emblematic of the period.

The dramatic structure of these Soviet documentaries about Africa produced in the 1960s and 1970s is perhaps where the ideological conditioning is most palpable. Almost all fit into a particular generic scheme or pattern, because they were commissioned by a state that valued ideology more than the art of documentary cinema.

The footage was edited to fit a script, drafted in the studio back in Moscow or Leningrad, and narrated in a voiceover. Soviet composers were also commissioned to provide the musical scores. In other words, the soundtracks rarely featured sound from the locations where they were filmed, and the voices of everyday Africans were almost entirely absent. Instead, the Soviet narrative carefully guided the viewer’s experience of the moving images.

In this exhibition, the soundtracks have been severed from the images, and the cinematic footage has been freed from its bondage to the master narrative. I would thus like to propose a critical rethinking of the era and the language of Soviet political film.

__________

These are Petersburg filmmaker Alexander Markov’s notes to his contribution to Saving Bruce Lee: African and Arab Cinema in the Era of Soviet Cultural Diplomacy (A Prologue), an exhibition curated by Koyo Kouoh and Rasha Salti, in collaboration with Alexander Markov and Phillippe Rekacewicz. The exhibition is on view at the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art in Moscow from June 12 to August 23, 2015.

Alexander Markov’s documentary film Our Africa will be released in 2015 or 2016.