Soviet Cinema

1917 - 1953


"The cinema of the Soviet Union, not to be confused with "cinema of Russia" despite films in the Russian language being predominant in the body of work so described, includes films produced by the constituent republics of the Soviet Union reflecting elements of their pre-Soviet culture, language and history, albeit they were all regulated by the central government in Moscow.

Most prolific in their republican films, after the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, were Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Ukraine, and, to a lesser degree, Lithuania, Belarus and Moldavia.

At the same time, the nation's film industry, which was fully nationalized throughout most of the country's history, was guided by philosophies and laws propounded by the monopoly Soviet Communist Party which introduced a new view on the cinema, socialist realism, which was different from the one before or after the existence of the Soviet Union."

List of films -
All films have English subtitles or click on captions / subtitles symbol


Revolution and Civil War

"The first Soviet Russian state film organization, the Film Subdepartment of the People's Commissariat for Education, was established in 1917. The work of the nationalized motion-picture studios was administered by the All-Russian Photography and Motion Picture Department, which was recognized in 1923 into Goskino, which in 1926 became Sovkino. The world's first state-filmmaking school, the First State School of Cinematography, was established in Moscow in 1919.

During the Russian Civil War, agitation trains and ships visited soldiers, workers, and peasants. Lectures, reports, and political meetings were accompanied by newsreels about events at the various fronts."


"In the 1920s, the documentary film group headed by Dziga Vertov blazed the trail from the conventional newsreel to the "image centered publicistic film", which became the basis of the Soviet film documentary.

Typical of the 1920s were the topical news serial Kino-Pravda and the film Forward, Soviet! by Vertov, whose experiments and achievements in documentary films influenced the development of Russian and world cinematography.

Other important films of the 1920s were Esfir Shub's historical-revolutionary films such as The Fall of the Romanov Dynasty. The film Hydropeat by Yuri Zhelyabuzhsky marked the beginning of popular science films. Feature-length agitation films in 1918-21 were important in the development of the film industry.

Innovation in Russian filmmaking was expressed particularly in the work of Eisenstein. Battleship Potemkin was noteworthy for its innovative montage and metaphorical quality of its film language. It won world acclaim. Eisenstein developed concepts of the revolutionary epic in the film October. Also noteworthy was Vsevolod Pudovkin's adaptation of Maxim Gorky's Mother to the screen in 1926. Pudovkin developed themes of revolutionary history in the film The End of St. Petersburg (1927).

Other noteworthy silent films were films dealing with contemporary life such as Boris Barnet's The House on Trubnaya. The films of Yakov Protazanov were devoted to the revolutionary struggle and the shaping of a new way of life, such as Don Diego and Pelagia (1928). Ukrainian director Alexander Dovzhenko was noteworthy for the historical-revolutionary epic Zvenigora, Arsenal and the poetic film Earth."

Strike! -Sergei Eisenstein (English Complete) (1924)
Strike was Sergei Eisenstein's first film (1924). It depicts life at a factory complex in Tsarist Russia and the conditions the workforce experienced. The plot is about the workers organising a strike which due to repression escalates into a full blown occupation. Its most famous scenes like Battleship Potemkin where the violent measures used by the Tsarist authorities. Acting mainly involved members of the First Workers Prolecult theatre an experimental movement in the Soviet Unions early years that attempted to replace the importance of plot with the power of performance aided by special effects. Sergei Eisenstein was a member of the Prolecult theatre before moving onto film and incorporated most of that style into his films. Contains both Russian and English inter titles.

Better quality version:


The Extraordinary Adventures of Mr. West in the Land of the Bolsheviks movie (1924)
The film chronicles the adventures of an American, "Mr. West," and his faithful bodyguard and servant Jeddie, as they visit the land of the horrible, evil Bolsheviks. Through various mishaps, Mr. West discovers that the Soviets are actually quite remarkable people, and, by the end of the film, his opinion of them has changed to one of glowing admiration!
Running time 1:13:37


Battleship Potemkin movie (1925)

Battleship Potemkin (Russian: Броненосец «Потёмкин», Bronenosets Patyomkin), is a 1925 Soviet silent film directed by Sergei Eisenstein and produced by Mosfilm. It presents a dramatized version of the mutiny that occurred in 1905 when the crew of the Russian battleship Potemkin rebelled against their officers. Battleship Potemkin was named the greatest film of all time at the Brussels World's Fair in 1958. The film is set in June 1905; the protagonists of the film are the members of the crew of the Potemkin, a battleship of the Imperial Russian Navy's Black Sea Fleet. Eisenstein divided the plot into five acts, each with its own title: Act I: "Men and Maggots" in which the sailors protest at having to eat rotten meat; Act II: "Drama on the Deck" in which the sailors mutiny and their leader, Vakulinchuk, is killed; Act III: "A Dead Man Calls for Justice" in which Vakulinchuk's body is mourned over by the people of Odessa; Act IV: "The Odessa Steps", in which imperial soldiers massacre the Odessans; Act V: "One against all" in which the squadron tasked with intercepting the Potemkin instead declines to engage; lowering their guns, its sailors cheer on the rebellious battleship and join the mutiny. Directed by Sergei M. Eisenstein Running time 1:11:38


Mother movie (1926)

In this film, the mother of Pavel Vlasov is drawn into the revolutionary conflict when her husband and son find themselves on opposite sides during a worker's strike. After her husband dies during the failed strike, she betrays her son's ideology in order to try, in vain, to save his life. He is arrested, tried in what amounts to a judicial farce, and sentenced to heavy labor in a prison camp. During his incarceration, his mother aligns herself with him and his ideology and joins the revolutionaries. In the climax of the movie, the mother and hundreds of others march to the prison in order to free the prisoners, who are aware of the plan and have planned their escape. Ultimately, the troops of the Tsar suppress the uprising, killing both mother and son in the final scenes.
Running time 1:27:06

The End of St. Petersburg (1927) movie



October (Ten Days that Shook the World) movie  (1928)
In documentary style, events in Petrograd are re-enacted from the end of the monarchy in February of 1917 to the end of the provisional government and the decrees of peace and of land in November of that year. Lenin returns in April. In July, counter-revolutionaries put down a spontaneous revolt, and Lenin's arrest is ordered. By late October, the Bolsheviks are ready to strike: ten days will shake the world. While the Mensheviks vacillate, an advance guard infiltrates the palace. Anatov-Oveyenko leads the attack and declares the proclamation dissolving the provisional government.
Directed by Grigori Aleksandrov, Sergei M. Eisenstein
Running time 1:42:20


Zvenigora (Alexander Dovzhenko) (1928)


The House on Trubnaya (1928) movie


Eisenstein - 'The General Line' (1929)
'The General Line' aka 'Old and New' ('Translit. Staroye i novoye') is a 1929 Soviet film directed by Sergei Eisenstein.
Running time 2:00:51



The New Babylon movie (1929)
In the beginning of the industrial revolution, the Paris Commune was established in 1871 against the rich and the powerful, and violently repressed by the army that remained faithful to a tamer form of Republicanism. How could the love story between a young sales girl and a soldier unable to decide if he was pro or against the radical fashion? Two short months were needed for the answer to be found - in blood and tears, and under rain that washes all past memories. Any day, a New Babylon shop will open with frilly things for the bourgeois girls. The washerwomen will be there to wash them.
Running time 1:33:27

Arsenal (1929) movie




"In the early 1930s, Russian filmmakers applied socialist realism to their work. Among the most outstanding films was Chapaev, a film about Russian revolutionaries and society during the Revolution and Civil War. Revolutionary history was developed in films such as Golden Mountains by Sergei Yutkevich, Outskirts by Boris Barnet, and the Maxim trilogy by Grigori Kozintsev and Leonid Trauberg: The Youth of Maxim, The Return of Maxim, and The Vyborg Side.

Also notable were biographical films about Vladimir Lenin such as Mikhail Romm's Lenin in October and Lenin in 1918. The life of Russian society and everyday people were depicted in films such as Courageous Seven and City of Youth by Sergei Gerasimov. The comedies of Grigori Aleksandrov such as Circus, Volga-Volga, and Tanya as well as The Rich Bride by Ivan Pyryev and By the Bluest of Seas by Boris Barnet focus on the psychology of the common person, enthusiasm for work and intolerance for remnants of the past.

Many films focused on national heroes, including Alexander Nevsky by Sergei Eisenstein, Minin and Pozharsky by Vsevolod Pudovkin, and Bogdan Khmelnitsky by Igor Savchenko. There were adaptations of literary classics, particularly Mark Donskoy's trilogy of films about Maxim Gorky: The Childhood of Maxim Gorky, My Apprenticeship, and My Universities.

During the late 1920s and early 1930s the Stalin wing of the Communist Party consolidated its authority and set about transforming the Soviet Union on both the economic and cultural fronts. The economy moved from the market-based New Economic Policy (NEP) to a system of central planning. The new leadership declared a "cultural revolution" in which the party would exercise control over cultural affairs, including artistic expression. Cinema existed at the intersection of art and economics; so it was destined to be thoroughly reorganized in this episode of economic and cultural transformation.

To implement central planning in cinema, the new entity Soyuzkino was created in 1930. All the hitherto autonomous studios and distribution networks that had grown up under NEP's market would now be coordinated in their activities by this planning agency. Soyuzkino's authority also extended to the studios of the national republics such as VUFKU, which had enjoyed more independence during the 1920s. Soyuzkino consisted of an extended bureaucracy of economic planners and policy specialists who were charged to formulate annual production plans for the studios and then to monitor the distribution and exhibition of finished films.

Meanwhile, the USSR cut off its film contacts with the West. It stopped importing films after 1931 out of concern that foreign films exposed audiences to capitalist ideology. The industry also freed itself from dependency on foreign technologies. During its industrialization effort of the early 1930s, the USSR finally built an array of factories to supply the film industry with the nation's own technical resources.

In Enthusiasm: The Symphony of Donbass (1930), his documentary on coal mining and heavy industry, Dziga Vertov based his soundtrack on an elegantly orchestrated array of industrial noises. In The Deserter (1933) Pudovkin experimented with a form of "sound counterpoint" by exploiting tensions and ironic dissonances between sound elements and the image track. And in Alexander Nevsky, Eisenstein collaborated with the composer Sergei Prokofiev on an "operatic" film style that elegantly coordinated the musical score and the image track.

As Soviet cinema made the transition to sound and central planning in the early 1930s, it was also put under a mandate to adopt a uniform film style, commonly identified as "socialist realism". In 1932 the party leadership ordered the literary community to abandon the avant-garde practices of the 1920s and to embrace socialist realism, a literary style that, in practice, was actually close to 19th-century realism."

Zemlya Earth (1930) Dovzhenko


Enthusiasm by Dziga Vertov - Full Movie (1930)



The Great Consoler movie (1933)
The film takes place in America in 1899, and in its principal plot depicts Bill Porter, who is the great consoler of the title, in prison. His writing skills earn him privileges from the governor and he is spared the inhumane treatment meted out to other prisoners. Porter is very much aware of the brutality around him but, mindful of his better conditions, refuses to write about prison life. He prefers to console his less-well-treated friends, and indeed all his readers, with excessively romantic fantasies in which good invariably triumphs.
Running time 1:31:32

Дезертир / Deserter (1933)



Thunderstorm movie (1934)
In a provincial town on the Volga River, the young and sensitive Katerina marries Tikhon, a violent drunkard, and thus enters the crude milieu of greedy salesmen, the "dark kingdom". Her mother-in-law, Kabanikha, rules the family with an iron fist and endlessly harasses Katerina. One day, when Tikhon is away, she meets Boris, a man who embodies everything Katerina is longing for.
Running time 1:20:14


A Strict Young Man movie (1935)
The characters debate the role of free love and free will within the Soviet social and political economy.
Running time 1:34:42

The Childhood of Maxim Gorky (1938) movie


My Universities (1939) movie




1940s and 1950s

"Immediately after the end of the Second World War, color movies such as The Stone Flower (1946), Ballad of Siberia (1947), and Cossacks of the Kuban (1949) were released. Other notable films from the 1940s include the black and white films, Alexander Nevsky, Ivan the Terrible and the Encounter at the Elbe.

The Soviet film industry suffered during the period after World War II. On top of dealing with the severe physical and monetary losses of the war, Stalin's regime tightened social control and censorship in order to manage the effects recent exposure to the West had on the people. The postwar period was marked by an end of almost all autonomy in the Soviet Union. The Catalogue of Soviet Films recorded remarkably low numbers of films being produced from 1945 to 1953, with as few as nine films produced in 1951 and a maximum of twenty-three produced in 1952."


Masquerade movie (1941)
The play begins when beautiful Nina (Makarova) loses a bracelet during a masked ball. Another woman finds it and without revealing who she is gives it to an ardent Calvary officer admirer at the ball. This officer had earlier spend the evening learning how to gamble from Nina's husband Arbenin (Mordvinov). When the young officer shows the bracelet to Arbenin, the husband starts to suspect that he has been betrayed by his wife, Nina. The film depicts the effects of Arbenin's jealousy on everyone around the couple, leading to a quarrel with and calculated humiliation of the officer, Arbenin poisoning his wife, and finishes with a strange out of left field "I told you so" from someone who Arbenin had injured a decade earlier.
Running time 1:41:15


The Fall of Berlin documentary film (1945)
Fall of Berlin – 1945, The Fall of Berlin, or just Berlin is a Soviet documentary film about the Battle of Berlin, titled in Russian Битва за Берлин 1945 г., literally The Battle for Berlin – 1945. The film was directed by Yuli Raizman and Yelizaveta Svilova. The film begins with an animated map of Eastern Europe with Soviet soldier double exposed on the bottom. The narrator lists the names of the rivers that the Red Army crosses as they march west: Volga, Don, Desna, Dnieper, Bug, Dvina, Neman, Vistula, and finally, Oder. The Soviet arrival at the Oder river is shown, along with the broken bridges across it. The undeterred men of the Red Army are shown as they cross the river while under German fire. The use of missile artillery by the Soviet forces is showcased. After the Oder is crossed, the assault on Berlin itself begins. Footage of the actual battle is shown, as the Red Army fights German troops, street by street and building by building. This is interspersed with shots of Nazi propaganda films showing parades in the same areas, providing a sense of irony. A dramatic sequence follows a detachment of the Red Army in the assault on the Reichstag, which ends with the famous photograph, raising the Red Flag over the Reichstag.
When the Russian troops entered Berlin, they began to push forward to the Reichstag. There were soldiers from every available battalion, with flame throwers, rifles, sniper rifles, automatic weapons, like the PPSh-41, and others. There were over 40 Soviet T-34 tanks that were pushing the German soldiers back. The battle for Berlin was one of the longest battles for a city in the years 1900-2000.Shortly before the Russian troops entered Berlin, Hitler was ready to make a half-peace with England and the USA, giving away Berlin to them. He said: "I'd rather give Berlin to the Americans or the English, only to prevent Russian forces from taking it over!", but he thought of this too late. Shortly after that the Russians approached and attacked Berlin. On the 8th of May, 1945, the flag of the USSR replaced the Nazi German flag in Berlin. This was the end of World War II in Europe.
Running time 1:03:09


The Village Teacher movie (1947)
Village Teacher was the first postwar production by Soviet director Mark Donskoy, of "Gorky Trilogy" fame. Vera Maretskaya stars as Varenka, a starry-eyed young Moscow teacher who accepts a post in a forsaken Siberian village. The story follows Varenka's career from the pre-revolutionary Czarist regime to the end of WWII. It is a period of great unrest in the world and shattering personal heartbreak for Varenka.
Running time 1:38:17


Падение Берлина. Серия 1 / The Fall of Berlin film 1 (1950)
Part 1
Alexei Ivanov, a shy steel factory worker, greatly surpasses his production quota and is chosen to receive the Order of Lenin and to have a personal interview with Joseph Stalin. Alexei falls in love with the idealist teacher Natasha, but has difficulties approaching her. When he meets Stalin, who tends his garden, the leader helps him to understand his emotions and tells him to recite poetry to her. Then, they both have a luncheon with the rest of the Soviet leadership in Stalin's home. After returning from Moscow, Alexei confesses his love to Natasha. While they are both having a stroll in a wheat field, their town is attacked by the Germans, who invade the Soviet Union.
Alexei loses his consciousness and sinks into a coma. When he awakes, he is told that Natasha is missing and that the Germans are at the gates of Moscow. In the capital, Stalin plans the defense of the city, explaining to the demoralized Georgy Zhukov how to deploy his forces. Alexei volunteers for the Red Army, takes part in the parade in the Red Square and in the Battle of Moscow. At Berlin, after receiving the blessings of his allies – Turkey, the Vatican, Romania and Japan – and watching a long column of Soviet slaves-laborers, Natasha among them, Adolf Hitler is furious to hear that Moscow has not fallen. He dismisses Walther von Brauchitsch from his office and offers the command of the army to Gerd von Rundstedt; the latter refuses, saying that Stalin is a great captain and Germany's defeat is certain. Hitler orders to attack Stalingrad. In the meanwhile, Göring negotiates with British capitalist Bedstone, who supplies Germany with needed materials. After the Soviet victory in Stalingrad, Vasily Chuikov tells Ivanov that Stalin is always with the Red Army. The storyline leaps to the Yalta Conference, where Stalin and his Western Allies debate the future of the war. The treacherous Winston Churchill intends to deny the Soviets access to Berlin and almost manages to convince the gullible Franklin Delano Roosevelt to accept his plans. And the war rages on toward Moscow, with Alexei in the midst of battle and Natasha trapped in the concentration camp.
Running time 1:10:45


Падение Берлина. Серия 2 / The Fall of Berlin film 2 (1950)
Part 2
Stalin asks his generals who will take Berlin, they or the Western Allies. The generals answer that they will capture the city. Alexei's Guards Army advances towards Berlin, while Hitler has a nervous breakdown and demands that his soldiers fight to the end. The Germans plan to execute the inmates of the concentration camp in which Natasha is held before the arrival of the Red Army, but Alexei's unit liberates the prisoners before they carry through their design. Natasha faints, and he does not find her. Hitler and the German leadership fall into despair and lose their grip on reality the closer the Soviets get to Berlin. Hitler orders to flood the subway stations as the Soviets approach, drowning thousands of civilians. He then marries Eva Braun and commits suicide. Gen. Hans Krebs carries the news of Hitler's death to the Red Army and begs for a ceasefire. Stalin orders to accept only an unconditional surrender. Alexei is chosen to carry the Victory Banner, alongside Mikhail Yegorov and Meliton Kantaria. Their division storms the Reichstag and the three hoist the banner atop of it. The Germans surrender and Red Army soldiers from throughout the USSR celebrate victory. Stalin's plane lands in Berlin, and he is greeted by an enthusiastic crowd of peoples of "all the nations", holding posters with his picture and waving various nations' flags. Stalin carries a speech in which he calls for world peace. Standing in the crowd, Alexei and Natasha recognize each other and are reunited. Natasha asks Stalin to let her kiss him on the cheek, and they hug while prisoners praise Stalin in numerous languages. The film ends with Stalin wishing all peace and happiness.
Running time 1:15:01




Books on Soviet cinema

Cinema and Soviet Society: From the Revolution to the Death of Stalin (KINO: The Russian Cinema Series) Paperback – 15 Dec 2000 by Peter Kenez (Author)

Film Form: Essays in Film Theory by Sergei Eisenstein (1969-03-19) Paperback

Early Soviet Cinema: Innovation, Ideology and Propaganda (Short Cuts S.) Paperback – 15 Sep 2001
by David Gillespie (Author)

Soviet Cinema in the Silent Era, 1918-1935 (Texas Film & Media Studies Series) Paperback – 1 May 1991
by Denise J. Youngblood (Author)

The Red Screen: Politics, Society, Art in Soviet Cinema Paperback – 26 Mar 1992
by Anna Lawton (Author)

Soviet Cinema: Politics and Persuasion under Stalin (KINO: The Russian Cinema Series) Paperback – 25 Nov 2009
by Jamie Miller (Author)

Inside the Film Factory: New Approaches to Russian and Soviet Cinema Paperback – 12 Sep 1994
by Ian Christie (Editor)

New Soviet Man: Gender and Masculinity in Stalinist Soviet Cinemas Paperback – 1 May 2013
by John Haynes (Author)

Movies for the Masses: Popular Cinema and Soviet Society in the 1920s Paperback – 26 Nov 1993
by Denise J. Youngblood (Author)

The Men with the Movie Camera: The Poetics of Visual Style in Soviet Avant-Garde Cinema of the 1920s Paperback – 1 Feb 2016
by Philip Cavendish (Author)

Forward Soviet!: History and Non-fiction Film in the USSR (KINO: The Russian Cinema Series) Hardcover – 31 Dec 1999
by Graham Roberts (Author)

Everyday Life in Early Soviet Russia: Taking the Revolution Inside Paperback – 25 Nov 2005 by Christina Kiaer (Editor), Eric Naiman (Editor)
See: Chapter 2  Visual Pleasure in Stalinist Cinema- Ivan Pyr'ev's The Party Card.

The New Theatre and Cinema of Soviet Russia: Being an analysis and synthesis of the unified theatre produced in Russia by the 1917 Revolution, and an account of its growth and development from 1917 to the present day (Hardcover)
by Huntley Carter (Author) 1924

Soviet cinema links

Kuleshov effect

Soviet montage theory

Creative geography

Cinema of the Soviet Union

Lists of Soviet films

Greetings and best wishes to the workers of the Soviet cinema on its glorious fifteenth anniversary.
J. V. Stalin / Letter to Comrade Choumiatsky / 11 January 1935

Soviet cinema theory documentaries

1925: How Sergei Eisenstein Used Montage To Film The Unfilmable