קונגרס העולמי ה-18 למדעי היהדות

The New Old Other: Soviet Jews in Contemporary Russian Cinema

The lecture compares the Soviet and contemporary Russian representations of Jews in historical and social context. The proposed analysis pursues to reveal how contemporary Russian cinema represents the Soviet past in both mass-production and elitist “auteur” cinema. Since the government propaganda uses soviet as a synonym of “bright and glorious,” the state-supported film-makers produce engaged war, sport and space heroic films. In distinction, independent filmmakers re-envision the Soviet past to convey their attitude to the problematic Russian present. I focus on the Soviet cinematic Jews, Efim Magazannik (in the film Komissar, 1967) and Buba Kastorskiy (Imperceptible Avengers, 1967) as compared to Vladimir Fertman (Made in the USSR, 2011), Boris Arkadyev (The Humorist, 2019), and Karl Eliasberg and Vladimir Kleiman (The Seventh Symphony, 2021).

Recently, Jews appear in cinematic projects as protagonists and plot-constructing characters more often than before. Jews are no longer depicted through ethnic stereotypes within Russian cinema. Moreover, Soviet Jew as contradictory construct of national and social identities is an ideal embodiment of an Other in Soviet and Russian Self-versus-Other dichotomy. In contrast to the representation of Jews in Soviet cinema reduced to external ethnic and national features, now the cinematic Soviet Jew is elaborated and multilayered character.