Posted by on February 12, 2017

The Bolsheviks were very purposeful with their use of media.  Specifically, the Bolsheviks focused on visual arts to draw in viewers not only to their subject matter, but rather the meaning behind it.  “The (Bolshevik) party had been an innovator in the political applications of poster art in its rise to power,” (Freeze, pg.338).

 

For example, the Bolsheviks used images such as the one below to captivate audiences and persuade citizens to back their cause.  This was not only a powerful way to approach propaganda because of the colorful or emotionally charged picture, but rather Russia struggled with illiteracy (Freeze, pg.338).  Therefore, pictures, or images, on posters were a more effective way for the Bolsheviks to bring in support.  Considering “a picture is worth a thousand words,” Bolshevik propaganda would be perfect for those not wanting to read, but look.

 

 

However, just like when Insta added an update that allowed videos, the Bolsheviks updated to cinema to portray their political perspectives on another platform.  The use of cinema was particularly important to the Bolshevik party considering they deemed their ideology “the most modern of all political systems,” (Seventeen Moments in Soviet History).  But because there was not much modern technologies in Russia, the Bolsheviks focused their efforts on the technology of cinema.  This element of Bolshevik propaganda was so significant that Lenin considered it to be “the most important of all the arts” for the party (Soviet Moments in Soviet History).

 

Film Director Sergei Eisenstein

 

Just like choosing a filter for your Instagram picture, there was indecision amongst directors regarding the best way to convey Bolshevik propaganda film.  Considering, the Bolsheviks were contending with Western films for the attention of Russian citizens, the directors attempted to entice audiences with captivating films.  However, directors like Dziga Vertov and Lev Kuleshov differed in regards to how to make that captivation happen.

 

Dziga Vertov

Lev Kuleshov

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For Director Lev Kuleshov, taking note of the advancements of the West, and the characteristics that drew in Soviet audiences, performing stunts was an important concept to master.  “Lev Kuleshov, the leading teacher in the film school, noted the success of American stunt films, and encouraged his students to harness “eccentricity,” as stunts were called in Russian, to present the Bolshevik point of view,” (Seventeen Moments in Soviet History).  Kuleshov did not center his work on raw footage because he felt it was meaningless unless it was put together in a collection format that he considered to be a “montage,” (Seventeen Moments in Soviet History).  Unlike Kuleshov, however, Dziga Vertov desired to focus on factual aspect of events because he felt those were the types of scenes that best portrayed the Bolshevik efforts.  Consequently, Vertov “demanded a fact-based aesthetic in which documentary footage combined with agitational subtitles inspired a new consciousness in viewers,” (Seventeen Moments in Soviet History).  Although both had similar goals in captivating audiences, their styles and methods of doing so were vastly different.

 

For an idea regarding Kuleshov’s directing ideas, here’s a link to a clip from his film Extraordinary Adventures of Mr. West in the Land of the Bolsheviks (1924):

Lev Kuleshov: Extraordinary Adventures of Mr. West in the Land of the Bolsheviks (1924)

 

 

For contrast, here is a link to a clip from Dziga Vertov’s film Kino-Eye (1924):

http://soviethistory.msu.edu/1924-2/socialist-cinema/socialist-cinema-video/dziga-vertov-kino-eye-1924/

 

Like Instagram, the Bolshevik party wanted to bring in “followers.”  Therefore, they focused on the visual arts and its appeal to audiences.  Whether that be through posters or cinema, the ultimate goal was to influence mass audiences.  Consequently, they chose a perfect medium to do so.  Because their propaganda and film could reach countless people, socialist propaganda and cinema were thoroughly important for the Bolsheviks.

 

 

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Comments

  1. A. Nelson
    February 13, 2017

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    Very cool comparison between the evolution of Instagram (pix to video) and the arrival of the cinema as a tool for enlightenment, entertainment and propaganda. These are all important themes! I’m so glad you focused on the visual arts — although literacy campaigns would be key to the Soviet agenda for transforming society, images – both still and moving — are powerful tools for any regime, and especially those dealing with largely illiterate populations. The debates you allude to between Kuleshov’s and Vertov’s approaches are important for all kinds of reasons. And we need to remember that the agendas of art, entertainment and persuasion (progaganda) are linked. They all need each other to be effective. So, whose films do you think workers and peasants found the most appealing? And what does that tell us about popular preferences and the debate between “entertainment vs. enlightenment”?

  2. Moustapha Ouattara
    February 13, 2017

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    Excellent post! I learned a lot about the Bolshevik use of the media. The pictures you chose really strengthened your post and made for an interesting read! Good job 🙂

  3. Max Morrison
    February 13, 2017

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    Hey Leah, I really enjoyed your running allusion to modern day Instagram and how there are similarities in how it was utilized compared to Soviet propaganda. Additionally, what really stood out to me was your point that Russia was overwhelmingly illiterate and images were therefore a much better way for the Bolshevik’s to get their cause across to the population. I also enjoyed your discussion of cinematographers and how their different styles could be used to portray different aspects of what the Soviets wanted to get across. Good work!

  4. Drew Snell
    February 13, 2017

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    Your title caught me immediately. I really liked your comparison between Instagram and Bolshevik media, and I specifically enjoyed your contrast of methods/stylistic preferences between the two leading filmmakers. There is definitely some contemporary relevance here as media continues to balance sensationalism with facts. Keep up the good work!

  5. A. Nelson
    February 13, 2017

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    Also, check out Jason’s post on the fallout of revolution in other areas of the arts: https://blogs.lt.vt.edu/jschultz/2017/02/12/soviet-supermen-are-our-superiors/#comment-20

  6. Sophia Vella
    February 13, 2017

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    I thought your post was very clever in linking Instagram to Bolshevik propaganda. I also liked how you talked about the progression of Instagram and making the similarities of gaining followers on Instagram and how the Bolsheviks tried to gain followers. I loved the pictures you included as well, overall a great post! Well Done!

  7. Kathryn Walters
    February 13, 2017

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    When we think about the rise of regimes and propaganda we think of Nazi Germany, so it’s awesome that you show how important it was elsewhere. The fact that Russians were illiterate was a good point to make because it shows that Soviets could find other ways to bring in followers. Way to go on making a relatable and interesting post. Great title and pictures!

  8. Andrew Russell
    February 14, 2017

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    First off, awesome title. Great job really showing and giving examples of forms of propaganda. Really awesome post.

  9. Anna Dean
    February 16, 2017

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    I loved how you set this blog up. I really liked how you compared each thing to something we pretty much all use today, I think it’s a cool comparison! I also really liked how you talked about why the Bolsheviks used so many posters and pictures. I think it’s interesting to see some of the reasoning behind those things, in this case, illiteracy . I also loved your title!

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