The Distribution, Censorship and Reception of German films in Soviet Russia of the 1920s

Natalja Poljakowa

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Despite the huge amount of research on European cinema of the 1920s, little attention has been paid to the influence of cross-cultural encounters on the trajectory of national film histories. This study argues that Soviet film was shaped by the reception of German film to an extent that existing scholarship has not acknowledged. It focuses on the impact of German and Austrian films on the revival of the Soviet film industry in the period of the New Economic Policy. German films helped to fill in the gaps in Soviet film distribution, as until the mid-1920s Soviet Russia was not able to revive its own film production and entirely relied on foreign film imports. However, all imported films were thoroughly examined, classified and, in most of cases, ‘adjusted’ to the Soviet ideology through re-editing. This thesis explores previously ignored aspects of the film exchange between the Weimar Republic and Soviet Russia: the process of selection and purchase, the censorship control over content, the reception of the films in little-known periodicals and film brochures and, finally, the influence of the imported productions on the Soviet audience. The thesis attempts for the first time to describe the mechanisms and the process of film censorship in Soviet Russia of the 1920s, with particular attention to censorship policy towards foreign cinema. Describing the German productions that reached Soviet film theatres after 1922, the thesis explores the attitude to foreign cinema in the context of the ideologically-uncompromising Soviet censorship, with the focus on the conflict between the inviolability of an author’s conception and the ideological necessity of film re-editing. The thesis offers an analysis of the cultural dialogue between the Weimar Republic and Soviet Russia on the basis of the rare archival material and the surviving copies of the re-edited German films in the Russian State Film Archive.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Hughes, Jon, Supervisor
Award date1 Jan 2017
Publication statusUnpublished - 2015


  • cinema
  • film censorship
  • film distribution
  • silent film
  • Soviet cinema
  • German cinema
  • 1920s
  • Weimar Republic
  • film history

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