Cinema and Media Studies Russian Cinema
Birgit Beumers
  • LAST REVIEWED: 19 April 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 15 January 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791286-0132


While Soviet and Russian cinema was rather understudied until the collapse of the USSR, since the early 1990s there has been a rise in publications and scholarship on the topic, reflecting an increase in the popularity of film and cultural studies in general. However, different periods of Soviet cinema have been covered quite unevenly in scholarship. Largely, this has to do with the accessibility of films: whereas films of the Soviet avant-garde have been widely available—many of the early Soviet films were shown in film clubs and film societies around the world at the time of their making—from the 1930s onward the Soviet Union cut its ties with the West, and films of the Stalinist era remained isolated in their own culture. With the Cold War and the subsequent Thaw, that situation changed, and once again a number of Soviet films became available through festivals and limited distribution. However, it was not until glasnost and perestroika that an interest in Soviet cinema sparked and led to television screenings and releases of new or unshelved films. Strangely, English-language scholarship has continued to focus on the “big” names, those directors whose films were released and distributed abroad, while the works of filmmakers both of auteur cinema (e.g., Kira Muratova) and popular cinema (e.g., Leonid Gaidai and Eldar Riazanov) often remain understudied. Nevertheless, scholars in the Slavic field have engaged more and more with film and visual art, making a huge contribution to the field of Russian film studies. It is often a tightrope walk to classify texts written by leading film scholars with limited access to original sources because of the language barrier, and texts by Slavic scholars with expertise in the culture but a philological background. Yet this “dilemma” also means that the spectrum of scholarship is wide-ranging and engages with a number of different approaches and perspectives on Russian cinema—from historical to political and ideological, from visual and aesthetic to narrative, from theoretical to thematic. This bibliography includes English-language publications only and follows Library of Congress transliteration (without diacritics) outside the citations.

General Overviews

For almost half a century, Kino (Leyda 1960) was the only text that offered a “history” of Russian and Soviet cinema. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the eminent Soviet film scholar Neya Zorkaya complemented this seminal work with a broad survey of developments and films in Soviet cinema, Zorkaya 1989. One of the first publications on Russian cultural studies—Kelly and Shepherd 1998—includes a chapter surveying the developments of Russian cinema. There are now several textbooks on Russian cinema: Gillespie 2003 adopts a thematic approach to survey Russian cinema in the 20th century; Beumers 2007 follows the template of the 24 Frames series in compiling a collection of analyses of films that form case studies for different periods of Russian and Soviet film history; and Beumers 2009 is a history of Russian cinema, a chronologically organized study of the various periods of Soviet and Russian film history, highlighting key events, films, and filmmakers. Beumers 2016 offers a thematically structured overview of the history of Russian cinema. Alongside surveys and histories of Russian cinema, there have been several recent publications on the representation of the Other (foreigner, enemy, migrant) in Russian cinema, notably Norris and Torlone 2008 and Hutchings 2008.

  • Beumers, Birgit. A History of Russian Cinema. Oxford and New York: Berg, 2009.

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    A comprehensive history of Russian cinema, offering chronological coverage of films and filmmakers in the context of cultural and industrial developments.

  • Beumers, Birgit, ed. The Cinema of Russia and the Former Soviet Union. 24 Frames. London: Wallflower, 2007.

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    A collection of twenty-four critical essays on significant films from the Soviet Union and Russia, written by experts in the field.

  • Beumers, Birgit, ed. A Companion to Russian Cinema. Boston and Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2016.

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    A collection of twenty-five essays on aspects of Russian cinema, including production and exhibition, audiences and genre, technologies and scripts, history and place, and individual portraits of five filmmakers.

  • Gillespie, David. Russian Cinema. New York: Longman, 2003.

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    A survey of Russian cinema divided along thematic aspects. Discusses literary space (adaptations), comedy, history, women, ideology, the war film, and private life. Includes a separate chapter on Tarkovsky.

  • Hutchings, Stephen, ed. Russia and Its Other(s) in Film: Screening Intercultural Dialogue. Basingstoke, UK, and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008.

    DOI: 10.1057/9780230582781Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This volume contains a range of articles on the image of Russia as shown in foreign cinema, and on the image of the enemy in Russian cinema. It includes chapters on Russian films representing the Other.

  • Kelly, Catriona, and David Shepherd, eds. Russian Cultural Studies: An Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.

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    The volume covers literature, theatre, music and visual arts, as well as cinema, consumer culture, religion, youth culture, and gender studies. The chapter by Julian Graffy (pp. 165–191) offers a chronological survey of Russian and Soviet film history.

  • Leyda, Jay. Kino: A History of the Russian and Soviet Film. London: Allen & Unwin, 1960.

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    The first history of Russian cinema, covering prerevolutionary developments and focusing primarily on the author’s firsthand knowledge of the 1920s and 1930s.

  • Norris, Stephen M., and Zara M. Torlone, eds. Insiders and Outsiders in Russian Cinema. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2008.

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    The volume is ambitious in scope, covering the entire 20th century and beyond, looking at images of the foreigner in Soviet and Russian cinema, but also exploring Otherness and images of the enemy. Includes contributions from leading scholars in the field, including Julian Graffy, Yuri Tsivian, Josephine Woll, and Joan Neuberger.

  • Zorkaya, Neya. The Illustrated History of the Soviet Cinema. New York: Hippocrene, 1989.

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    A richly illustrated survey of Soviet cinema from the 1920s to the onset of glasnost. The author’s often subjective and personal insights provide a unique picture of the subject. Organized chronologically by decades.

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