Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of History

Content Description

1 online resource (ii, xiv, 340 pages)

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Nadiezda Kizenko

Committee Members

Carl Bon Tempo, H. Peter Krosby, Richard Fogarty


Biographical Film, Cold War, Russian, Soviet, xenophobia, zhdanovshchina, Motion pictures, Soviet, Motion pictures, Russian, Biographical films

Subject Categories



Between 1947 and 1953, the Soviet Union produced fourteen biographical films about writers, composers, and scientists. These films supported the cultural policies of the zhdanovshchina, a period characterized by Andrei Zhdanov’s policies asserting Russia’s leading role in world science and culture while downplaying Western influence. These biographical films involved some of the top cinematic talent in the Soviet Union, including Nikolai Cherkasov, Aleksandr Dovzhenko, Vsevolod Pudovkin, and Grigorii Kozintsev. Although national pride was central to all the biographical films, this dissertation argues that once their historical context is restored, the cultural and scientific biographical films comment on the demonization of the enemy and the struggle for peace during the Cold War by metaphorically projecting Cold War conflicts onto the historical past. By shifting the focus of the biographical films away from war and toward pursuits of peace, the Soviet Union hoped to portray the Russians as a peace-loving people who were not interested in provoking war. Instead, conflict in these films arises from either malevolent influence from the west (usually England) or those within Russian/Soviet society who seek to derail the Russians from their “progressive destiny” by making them “subservient to the west.” Although these films are notorious for their lack of character development and other deficiencies, the lessons learned from these films laid the foundation for Soviet cinema’s reemergence on the international scene during the Thaw.

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