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The first films and news chronicles were shown in Russia at the end of the 19th century. After the turn of the century Russian cinematography grew rapidly, and some 2,000 films were produced before World War I. 

The 1917 revolution brought about a reorganization of national cinema prompted by the Bolsheviks’ realization of the unmatched potential of film as a means of political propaganda. In 1919 Russia’s film industry was nationalized and, initially, most of its output were news chronicles and documentaries.

In the 1920s Russian cinema revived and acquired a worldwide reputation, primarily as a result of the work of Vsevolod Pudovkin, Sergei Eisenstein, and Alexander Dovzhenko. These outstanding directors produced such film classics as Battleship Potemkin, October, The Mother, and The Land. Toward the end of the 1920s new, well-equipped studios were built, and a large network of film theaters was constructed.

However, it was during the Stalin period especially, when Soviet directors came under the increasing pressure from the Communist Party to produce politically correct films, and Soviet cinema was largely transformed into a propaganda instrument. The 1930s are notable for the appearance of idealized stories of the Bolshevik struggle against their opponents during the revolution and the civil war (for example, Chapayev by the Vasilyev brothers) and “feel-good” musicals showing the happy life of workers and peasants under the Soviet regime (Grigory Alexandrov’s Jolly Fellows and Ivan Pyriev’s Tractor Drivers).

With the coming of World War II Soviet cinema redirected its efforts to create documentary films and newscasts. After the end of the war, the state-initiated campaigns against cosmopolitanism and the tightening of censorship had a negative impact on further development of art, until the death of Stalin and the beginning of the “thaw”.


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