Visualization of the image of «enemies» and «heroes» from the period of the Ukrainian Revolution of 1917–1921 in Soviet narrative films

  • A. М. Pyzhyk Taras Shevchenko Kyiv National University
Keywords: cinematography, imagology, narrative film, Soviet authority, Ukrainian SSR, Symon Petlura, Oleksandr Dovzhenko


The Soviet authorities paid a considerable attention to the development of the cinematography. The cinema was recognized in decisions taken by congresses of the Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks), and in works of party ideologists, as an important tool of influence for masses. The Soviet movies carried an ideological burden - they played a role of party agitators and imposed images of the «heroes» and «enemies» on viewers. The purpose of the article is to examine how the image of «heroes» and «enemies» from the period of revolution was developed in the Soviet narrative films of 1920th-1950th. The analysis of papers and books on the history of Ukrainian cinematography proves that the problem was not properly investigated by researchers. The article, by applying approaches of the historical imagology, explores the process of how the images of «heroes» and «enemies» in the Ukrainian Soviet films were created and popularized. One of the main topics of the Soviet cinema was the history of the revolutionary events, which were presented according to ideological requirements of the authorities. Films of various genres reflected the struggle of the Bolsheviks for the establishment and maintenance of the power in 1917-1921. They formed a stable perception of the images of the «enemy» and «hero» of the revolution. For example, in the 1920th, «enemies» were depicted as insidious, corrupt, ruthless and at the same time – as miserable and comic in such films as «Ostap Bandura» (1924), «Piłsudski bought Petlura» (1926), «Two days» (1927), «Zvenyhora» (1927), «Arsenal» (1929), «Night driver» (1929). Instead, the «heroes» were simple, accessible, open. In the 1930th, when the building of a totalitarian system in the USSR had been completed, the images obtained some additional features. Thus, in Oleksandr Dovzhenko’s films «Shchors» (1939) and Ihor Savchenko’s «The Riders» (1939), «enemies» became increasingly hidden, insincere and hypocritical, and «heroes» were purposeful, straightforward and confident of victory. In the films made during and after the German-Soviet war «enemies» were depicted contemptuously. They were uncertain and weak-willed. While the revolutionary «heroes», on the contrary, were calm, conscious and acting in accordance with the plan. Such images were embodied in the films «Alexander Parkhomenko» (1942) and «The Truth» (1957). Soviet films impose images of the «enemies» which weak, anti-popular, dependent on external support and struggling against Soviet power in vain. Symon Petlura was the main personified «enemy» in the Soviet films. The images of the «heroes» were the embodiment of the glorious revolutionary past, the force of the Soviet power, the victorious progress of the communist revolution. The Soviet cinematography throughout its existence opposed the images of the «enemy» and «hero» and presented the inevitable defeat for one and the victory for the other. Nowadays, the creation of new visual images of «heroes» and «enemies» of the Ukrainian Revolution of 1917–1921 remains an urgent task for Ukraine.


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How to Cite
Pyzhyk, A. (2018). Visualization of the image of «enemies» and «heroes» from the period of the Ukrainian Revolution of 1917–1921 in Soviet narrative films. Grani, 21(6), 28-38.