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During these contemplative winter months, at times I find myself examining Soviet silent films (you have to admit they pair awfully well with winter). Operatic stories about game changing revolutions, satirical comedies set in snowy city streets, avant-garde illustrating peasant uprisings, those startlingly fresh uses of montage–you can’t mistake Soviet silents for anything else, even without those striking Cyrillic title cards.

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The opening title of Battleship Potemkin (1926)

And studying them is a unique, and sobering, experience. Rarely has an art form ever been more entwined with government propaganda, with such boldly futuristic results. We often ask if we should separate a piece of art from its artist–here we have to ponder: Can we separate an entire art form from an ideology?

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Earth (1930).

If you, like me, find Russian Constructivist avant-garde a fascinating area of study (and who doesn’t?), then pour yourself some piping hot tea from a samovar and feel free to read along this February. From Eisenstein’s earnest theories of montage to Aleksandra Khokhlova’s toothy smile, there’s much to uncover about Soviet silents.

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In fact, we may have to be content with merely scratching the surface. удачи нам!

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