Changes in Soviet Values Films in the Soviet Union during Stalin’s rule were primarily made for propaganda purposes. Some of the most famous films at the time were “Chapaev,” “Circus,” and “Moscow Doesn’t Believe in Tears,” which were all were aimed at describing Soviet Values during and after Stalin’s rule. The film “Chapaev” was produced in 1934 and was set during the Russian Civil War, and like “Circus,” which was produced two years later, they both reflected Soviet ideals of Stalin’s rule. “Moscow Doesn’t Believe in Tears” was produced in 1980, and it showed the changes in Soviet values after Stalin’s reign in the 1950’s and 1970’s.
Even though each of these propaganda films is set in different time periods, each one illustrates the changing social values of that time. The movie “Chapaev” was directed by the Vasilyev brothers and was produced in 1934. The movie depicts the story of a soldier made commander named Vasily Ivanovich Chapaev, who led the Red Army to victory in the Russian Civil War. The main theme portrayed in “Chapaev” is the idea of “social realism,” and to show this the producers tell the story of the Soviet principals of equality within society, and the growth of the party.
In one scene of the movie, Chapaev’s men loot local farmers, and Chapaev’s newly appointed commissar arrests the men involved and return the livestock. Initially, Chapaev was angry with his new commissar for arresting his men, as he feels he was undermining Chapaev’s power, but he learned to agree with him because the peasants supported him upon the safe return of their livestock. Chapaev’s new commissar explained to him that the entire war was being fought for the peasants, and by stealing from them it was hurting their image.
This scene shows the equality within society that the Bolsheviks party was going for, and therefore the party gained more support. This scene in particular was propaganda because in war, armies do steal from farms, that’s just a fact, but when they return the livestock it makes the Bolshevik party look patriotic and respectful. In this movie Chapaev is portrayed as a flawless example of what a Soviet man should be like. He is a man who believes in every man being equal and in order for a party to strive it has to be focused on the needs of the group not just the individual.
In Soviet History Chapaev is considered a hero and rightly so, his stand against theft and sacrifice for the war effort makes him an ideal Soviet man. The movie “Circus” was directed by Grigori Aleksandrov and was produced in 1936. Similar to the movie “Chapaev,” the theme in “Circus” is focused on equality in the society and the growth of the party. The movie depicts the story of Orlova, an American circus artist who is forced to flee the racism in America after giving birth to a black baby. Orlova ends up in Russia and start her circus career there, and she becomes a huge star.
In fear of being exposed, Orlova stays in the circus and works for her cruel German boss von Kneishitz. Von Kneishitz is the only person in Moscow who knows about her black baby, but he is also the only person in Russia who cares that her baby is black. The movie climaxes with the revealing of her baby to her beloved audience, but in contrary to what Kneishitz thought would happen, the audience shows the baby love by passing him around and singing a lullaby to him. When Marion asks the Ring Master to explain everyone’s reaction, he says, “In our country, we absolutely love children.
You may have a child of any color here: black, white, red, or even striped like a zebra or polka-dotted. Whatever’s your pleasure! ” It cannot be denied that this movie is a propaganda film. It portrays that everyone is equal in the Soviet Union and that everyone is antiracist. In fact, in the 1930’s Jews were highly discriminated against, as proof through public anti-Semitism. Therefore, we see the films impression of racial equality as false. The movie “Moscow Doesn’t Believe in Tears,” (“Moscow” for short) was directed by Vladimir Menshov and was produced in 1980.
The movie begins in the 1950’s and goes until the 1970’s. Although this film accurately shows a change in Soviet ideals, it is important to note that “Moscow” does have some levels of propaganda. For example, Katerina’s lover, Gosha, is seen as the ideal model citizen, especially when Katerina and Gosha talk about how Gosha is perfect and flawless. It need not be said that nobody is perfect, but the films portrays Gosha as the ideal citizen. This time period was significant in Soviet history because it showed a transition in Soviet values.
This movie shows how traditional values in the Soviet Union became modernized as time progressed in the post Stalin era. During the 1970’s, the Soviet Union became neo-traditionalist, in the sense that they held on to their old values while attaining new ones. For example, we get a clear understanding of how Russia was adjusting to time with the development of Tonya, Ludmilla, and Katerina’s live styles. Of all the three main women in the play, Tonya is the best example of a traditional Soviet lifestyle. She marries at a young age and settles for a domestic life with a man that makes a respectable living.
Katerina, on the other hand, marries at a much older age but to a man named Gosha who exhibits traditional Soviet values as well. For example, after Gosha gets in a fight, Katerina forbids him from ever fighting again, and Gosha agrees, but tells Katerina if she ever yells at him again he will leave her. Later in the same conversation, Gosha tells Katerina that it goes against his values that a woman makes more money than a man. This shows that there are still traces of traditional Soviet values in 1970 Russia.
Tonya and Gosha both show that there are links to traditional soviet values even though its thirty years after Stalin’s reign. In contrast to the way Tonya and Gosha live, the lives of Ludmilla and Katerina give us examples of how Soviet values changed and modernized over time. For example, in the beginning of the film, signs of change in Soviet values are apparent. Early in the film, Katerina and Ludmilla go to the French Film Festival to admire the rich and famous. Ludmilla admits to Katerina how she thinks one of the female actresses is beautiful, and how she would love to live the life of her.
This shows how people, especially women, were being exposed to materialism in Russia, and it was socially acceptable to aspire to be rich and famous. Katerina also shows a change in Soviet values for women. She is the head of a corporation after a series of floor promotions, and she lives in a nice apartment providing for her family. This is a perfect example of Soviet values changing from the idea that women in the Soviet Union didn’t have rights or power, to the modernized Soviet values where women were powerful.
In conclusion, the movies “Chapaev,” “Circus,” and “Moscow Doesn’t Believe in Tears” are all largely applauded films that show the history and progression of changing Soviet values. “Chapaev” and “Circus” were both produced under Stalin’s reign, and they both contain some amount of Soviet propaganda as well as accurate references to Soviet values. They portray the traditional Soviet ideals of equality and unity of the Bolshevik party and how they were foremost in Soviet society.
On a different note, “Moscow” takes place in a much later time, and proves that some Stalin era Soviet ideals were kept, but the attempt for modernization brought a necessary change in the ways people lived. As a result of the two sets of values portrayed through Gosha and Tonya, and Ludmilla and Katerina respectively, we see that Soviet ideals eventually became neo-traditionalistic. The shift in Soviet ideals occurred because Stalin’s long and influential reign came to an end. After such a long time of repression, it can be argued that this change was inevitable.
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