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).
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.
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):
For contrast, here is a link to a clip from Dziga Vertov’s film 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.