3.28.2011

A Glimpse in to Animated Soviet Propaganda: Onward to the Shining Future (Inspiration)

I am no historian, merely an individual intrigued by specific aspects of history. I have begun some modicum of self-education on the broad subject of the Soviet Union as seen through propaganda films, and with the assistance of a generous Soyuzmultfilm Studios collection I present to you an introduction to the animated variety. This installment, 5 preferentially descending films emboldening Soviet ideals: Forward March, Time!, Results of a XII Party Congress (of Cooperation), Soviet Toys, Plus Electrification and Samoyed Boy.



Vperëd, vremya! (Forward March, Time!)
Vladimir Tarasov, 1977
Uncompromisingly nightmarish, this pre-Shooting Range short from the distinctive Tarasov harshly and grippingly parallels the purported glory of the USSR in its autumn years against the truth of the state's ruined and restless people. Framed around 1920s poetry, music and advertisements by Vladimir Mayakovsky, articles of Soviet pride are sideshows; grand buildings are in shambles. Through paintings, photography and abstract animation, a chronicling of Soviet milestones unfolds alongside urgings for the tenements of old to give way. Is Tarasov more lamenting the crumble of his government or heralding the dawn of a new one? One image in particular stands out, of a spaceship's robotic arms shattering a ceramic coin jar. This appears to suggest that however history carries forth, the hope is the Soviet effort will not have been for nothing - that lessons will be taken. Further research indicates this bank-breaking (followed by a chest's wrapping and casting off) actually represents a condemnation of Lenin's New Economic Policy (limited private enterprise, post-Revolution), but hey, what would this be without personal interpretation? Watch Forward March, Time!.











Rezul'taty XII s'ezda partii kooperatsiya
(Results of a XII Party Congress (of Cooperation))
Director Unknown, ~1925
Apparently a sum-uppance of the Bolsheviks' final congress of the Lenin regime, this poster depicts the benefits of agricultural cooperation in direct contrast to the benefit of individual merchants. We are presented first with the ideological conclusion then shown an example of three farmers who opt for collectivization over competition and succeed as well as their former distributor had prior to the union. As straight-forward as they come, Results has a leg up on most of its ilk for focusing on a solution for the latent threat of capitalism; how, through working together as one, Soviets can not only overcome but prosper greatly in the process. Watch Results of a XII Party Congress (of Cooperation).











Sovietskie igrushki (Soviet Toys)
Dziga Vertov, 1924
Where warring church factions fail in this, the strange and whimsical first animated Soviet film, a hammer and sickle-wielding pair attempt to repair a New Economic Policy-man's stubborn gluttony. Apparently the popular and fitting metaphor of obesity for capitalism began early as the core of this man's selfish ideals is his bulbous belly, larger with each indulgence food or otherwise. Ultimately, Soviet soldiers form a Christmas tree from which the man, his mistress and church representatives are hung - as in from nooses - as ornaments (referred to in Russia as "toys"). The USSR being the first state to aim for the elimination of religion, Vertov (of Kino-Pravda notoriety), through caricatures popularized in the newspaper "Pravda", strongly suggests the superiority of Soviet ideals to religious ones, oddly through use of one of the biggest Christian holiday's key totems (albeit one not explicitly linked to Christ). Also, note the conveniently alternative and questionably prurient fashion by which the woman is hung in image seven. Watch Soviet Toys.











Plyus elektrifikatsiya (Plus Electrification)
Ivan Aksenchuk, 1972
Spurred by Lenin's declaration that Soviet power plus electricity will equal a successfully communist society, the arguably formalist Plus Electrification smacks of a Soviet Carousel of Progress (an animatronic presentation in Walt Disney World's The Magic Kingdom detailing the evolution of technology and its speculated future). Transmission towers, partially represented by a charioting Helios, the Greek god of the sun (or solar titan, according to some tellings), march through towns and o'er countrysides bestowing light in the night via street lamps and giving way for a more efficient and comfortable lifestyle. Also suggested are eased diplomacies and trade agreements with outlying countries. Subjectively demonstrative animation couples with footage of electrical equipment and its operators to exemplify realized potential. Soon a pollutive factory is converted to clean electricity, commencing the prediction that a grand Soviet future will unfold with superior agriculture, improved recreation and even satellite-controlled weather, all apparently controlled by one man and in direct parallel to the progress charted thus far. While acceptably hopeful, some of these technologies are suspect for their presentations, particularly in the weather control's case. Towering over what appears to be Mongolia's Gobi Desert, a satellite dish forcefully attacks the sky to manipulate the clouds. Perhaps it's all the advanced-technology-gone-horribly-awry science fiction we've been fed over the past several decades, but this brief sequence appears unconsciously sinister to me. That aside, Plus Electrification and Lenin's relevant theory make me wonder if the notion of artificially intelligent robots aiding communism as mentioned in my thoughts on Shareholders isn't as off-base as it immediately sounds. Watch Plus Electrification.











Samoedskiĭ malʹchik (Samoyed Boy)
Valentina & Zinaida Brumberg, Nikolai Khodataev & Olga Khodatayeva, 1928
Soviet anti-mysticism strikes again in this, the alleged first Soviet film for children, as an Eskimo boy makes a fool of his tribe's fabled shaman and exiles himself to soon discover education in Leningrad. Perhaps the best aspect here is that we are allowed to believe in the works of the shaman until the very moment our protagonist no longer does. To this extent his journey becomes our own over the modest seven-minute runtime. Interestingly, though belief in the unseeable is unequivocally spurned in favor of Marx and Lenin's teachings , our final moments are of reflective homesickness. Watch Samoyed Boy.








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