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In the Name of Lenin: Electrifying the Great October Revolution

In honour of the centenary of the 1917 Russian Revolution, Professor Graham Roberts introduces the 1932 film short, In the Name of Lenin. Directed by Mikhail Slutskii, this 14 minute feature was produced in the USSR to celebrate industrial progress in the years following the Revolution.

The film is available until 8 December 2017.

WATCH IN THE NAME OF LENIN NOW!

-------------In the Name of Lenin, 1932

Click to watch In the Name of Lenin, 1932. Available until 8 December 2017.

For the first time in a long time the anniversary of the Great October Revolution (November 7th in the modern, Gregorian calendar) is receiving global attention. This may be because it is the 100th Anniversary. Historians, and journalists, like big round numbers. It may also be because Russia’s place in the world – post the collapse of the Soviet Union and end of the ‘Cold War’ – is from the Middle East to Eastern Europe once more a matter of concern and controversy.

In the Name of Lenin is a 14 minute single subject ‘short’ (rather than a newsreel) produced by Soyuzkinozhurnal in 1932. It was directed by Mikhail Slutskii, a member of the new ‘Stalinist’ generation of film-makers, who had only recently graduated from film school in Moscow.

Holding a place in history as (probably) the third sound documentary completed in the Soviet Union – after the much more readily available Enthusiasm (Vertov, 1931) and KSHE (Shub, 1932) – this short has rarely been seen (either within the ‘soviet bloc’ or outside) until now with its digitisation and publication by Adam Matthew in Socialism on Film: The Cold War and International Propaganda.

In the Name of Lenin, 1932

In the Name of Lenin, 1932. Digitised from the vaults of the British Film Institute (BFI).

The film is centred on the opening of the Dnieper Hydroelectric Station. Construction had begun in 1927, and the plant started to produce electricity in October 1932. Situated on the river at Zaporizhia, Ukraine, the area was identified as a key site for the Soviet electrification plan as early as 1920. It became (and remains) a symbol of Soviet power; in recent times the Dnieper River has become the limit of aspiration for the pro-Russian rebels of Eastern Ukraine. In 14 minutes Slutskii unequivocally celebrates the triumph of the revolution and the 15 years of progress that have followed. The film glories in the slogan of Lenin, the founder and architect of the Soviet state - "Communism is Soviet power plus the electrification of the whole country".

In the Name of Lenin is packed with iconography of the Five Year Plans: trains, tractors, happy peasants embracing the modern, and most of all, dams and electricity pylons. The links between these symbols of modernity and power are made by repetitious editing. The links to the revolution and the leadership of the Communist Party (and in particularly Lenin) are constantly stressed visually (via captions, badges, flags and banners: ‘‘Such a fortress … we would not be able to build without the Bolsheviks”) and through the soundtrack (largely folk tunes, bands playing ‘the Internationale’ and a short speech which begins: “Comrades … in the name of Lenin!”).

In the Name of Lenin, 1932

In the Name of Lenin, 1932. Digitised from the vaults of the British Film Institute (BFI).

This is a classic piece of Soviet film making as propaganda. It frames a (genuine) achievement in its ideological significance. For those interested in how Soviet documentary film-makers presented the events and significance of the Great October Revolution, I also recommend two other films (amongst many) in the collection; Land of the October Revolution (1987) is a short documentary film celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, while Together with the people (1981), rich in archive material, is a history of the Communist Party and its positive relationship with the people of the Soviet Union, beginning with the overthrow of the old regime.

 

Professor Graham Roberts teaches Documentary and Documentary Production at Leeds Trinity University, UK. He has published extensively on the history of Russian and Soviet documentary based on extensive archive research in the former USSR and with Stanley Foreman at ETV in London in the 1980s and ‘90s.

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Socialism on Film: The Cold War and International Propaganda is a collection of documentaries, newsreels and features that reveals the world as seen by Soviet, Chinese, Vietnamese, East European, British and Latin American film makers. This project makes available Stanley Forman's ETV/Plato Films archive which is held at the BFI National Film Archive.

Module I Wars & Revolutions is available now. For more information, including trial access and price enquiries, please contact info@amdigital.co.uk.





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