Filming the terror in USSR: between history and memory?
CBEES Advanced Seminar with Kristian Feigelson, Sociologist, Professor of Film Studies at the University of the Sorbonne Nouvelle (Ircav)
Speaker: Kristian Feigelson, Sociologist, Professor of Film Studies at the University of the Sorbonne Nouvelle (Ircav)
Discussant: Malin Wahlberg, Professor in Cinema Studies at Stockholm University
Abstract: How is the Gulag represented in the ex-Soviet Union? Many books have been published both by former prisoners (Chalamov, Solzhenitsyn), who describe the day-to-day of the Soviet concentration camp, and by numerous historians who attempt to analyze the subject. Paradoxically, though, very few films have examined the history and visual reality of the camps, due in part to the fact that “the Gulag” remains an administrative designation estranged from all concrete traces of the camps, which, (unlike those of the Nazi system ), have been erased from history. This despite the efforts of associations such as The Memorial to perpetuate historical remembrance in Russia since 1989. In 1988, the documentarist Marina Goldovskaya provoked a widespread debate on the origin of the Gulag with her film “The Power of the Solovkis,” but this controversy was shortlived. A rare few fictional films and television series based on literary works about the Gulag were produced in the ex-Soviet Union. I wish to analyze the paradoxes which span the whole of post-Soviet society, torn between impossible remembrance and the camps recreated in the imagination. I will derive this study from research I conducted since 2012 in the Solovkis Islands, which 1920 prefigured the entire Soviet prison camp system, as well as from the filmic documentation of the Guepeou from 1927-1929. The Solovkis islands will actualize the Leninist expression of the "class enemy" in order to eliminate those designated. What are the traces of these images and how can we consider today a fake and propaganda film from the Solovki experience (1927) which remind the Theresinstadt one (1944)? How can we analyse and consider to-day the traces of these images?
Kristian Feigelson, sociologist, Professor of Film studies at the University of the Sorbonne Nouvelle (Ircav). He contributed to different French journals (Esprit, Les Temps Modernes…) and has published numerous works on Russia and the Soviet Union, including Les Etats post-soviétiques : identités en construction, transformation politique et trajectoires économiques, (Armand Colin, Paris, 2004) and Caméra politique/Cinéma et stalinisme (Théorème 8, PSN, Paris, 2005). His work about « Filming the Gulag » have been published in Revista o Olho da Historia Salvador / Brazil, 2017 and Avanca/Cinema University of Aveiro,Portugal/ 2018 « Filmar o Gulag, imitar o terror de massa?», Le Temps des Médias n°33/2019 « Filmer le Goulag: entre histoire et mémoire », in Sensdessus L’Oubli n°28/2021 « Images filmiques des camps : entre mémoire et oubli »,... Filming the Gulag is a part of a program, supported by the University Sorbonne-Nouvelle which has given rise to various conferences and screenings (Oody Library and Filmotek in Helsinki, Museum Akhmatova in St Petersburg/ Russia, and various universities Europe,Canada/USA, Japan…)