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Monday, 7 June 2010

Some Russian Cinema Journals

A recent article in the newspaper 'Novaya Gazeta' mentioned the fact that the journal 'Seance' is celebrating its twentieth anniversary. An anniversary to celebrate as this is undoubtedly one of the most outstanding journals devoted both the contemporary and to the history of Russian and Soviet cinema. However, the article also notes that the journal is under threat of closure due to financial reasons. Financial reasons that appear inextricably linked to recent trends in Russian cinematography which seem to strangle any independent thought and action in favour of a ahistorical myhtology. Seance's incredible legacy over the past twenty years is associated with two names that represent the best of criticism and scholarship: those of the late Sergei Dobrotvorsky and Liubov Arkus. The Seance team have not merely worked on the journal but have published books on contemporary Russian film and have worked on the very best source of information for contemporary Russian film - the Encyclopedia of Russian Film (a massive seven volumes which is the most vital resource for all Russian film scholars who are working on the period from the fall of the Soviet Union). The internet site gives informtion regarding the whole history of Russian and Soviet film and is one of the best sources of information on the web in its field. The loss of this Petersburg journal would be a tragedy for the whole of Russian cinema just as the loss of Moscow's Museum of Cinema was five years ago.

Another journal in difficulty is the Moscow-based 'Iskkustvo Kino' (Art of Cinema) which has been going for decades. Providing some excellent reviews, scripts, roundtable discussions and articles on general intellectual trends it also has contributed to keeping alive intellectual discussion on cinema. Its director Daniil Dondurei (a media sociologist by training) has been a critical voice with regard to the Mikhalkov project and, unsurpisingly, the journal was soon to have the threat of eviction hanging over it by the Mikhalkov-run administration of the Filmmakers Union.

The most outstanding scholarly journal with regards to Soviet (and world) cinematic history is Kinovedcheskie Zapisky. This journal keeps alive the highest standards of film scholarship and has contributions from the giants of film scholarship in Russia: Naum Kleiman, Evgeny Margolit, Oleg Aronson, Maya Turovskaya, Irina Grashchenkova and many more. For those interested in film scripts there is also an excellent journal 'Kinostsenari' which includes interviews and critical articles. Recent editions of the journal have been devoted to the work and scripts of Paradjanov, Peter Lutsik and Otar Ioseliani. For anyone interested in contemporary cinematography of former soviet states there is the journal 'Kinoforum'.

These journals have kept alive the intellectual reception of both contemporary film in Russia and the former Soviet Union as well as providing a historical link. The existence of such a community of scholars and attentive critics means that all is not lost but the precarious financial and institutional state of many of these journals is, nonetheless, a worrying sign.


  1. Kinovedcheskie Zapisky has had some fantastic animation articles as well, for example about Shostakovich's work on what was to be the first Soviet animated feature in the early 1930s.

    (most of it was destroyed in WW2, and only a small segment survives: )

    I wish I knew where to find any of their issues here in Toronto...

  2. Yes, there is quite a bit on animation in KZ. There is a fair amount which you can access from their website using their search. I've just made a search with the word animatsiya and here was my result:

    The Erdman article (serach item 2) interests me a lot as does the article on Vertov and animation and I hope to read them soon.

    Number 55 has the diaries of Tsekhanovsky but unfortunately is not available from the site. If you are ever in the UK - the School of Slavonic and East European Studies has a full collection in their library. I have the oportunity to photocopy articles (I go up to London once or twice a month while in the UK) so if there were any articles you are desparate to consult I could send on the copy - either by post, or once I find an opportuinty to scan them I could send them on by email (my email is

    The site also indicates how you can order whole issues:

    In Moscow I was unable to watch videos properly on an old cranked out computer- the images didn't run at the right speed. Fortunately now I have this opportunity so am slowly looking through your excellent blog - you have some great films and I am spreading your site by word of mouth as the best place to go for Russian/Soviet animated films. The subtitling work is absolutely precious as many of my friends interested in Russian film are not Russian speakers.