Comments

A dissertation submitted to the faculty of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the Department of History

Abstract

This dissertation traces the evolution of a new type of cinematic masculinity in the fifteen years following Joseph Stalin’s death and examines how controversial post-Stalinist movie heroes became a battleground for the country’s postwar values and ideals. During the 1950s and 1960s, postwar Soviet leadership faced the kinds of sociopolitical ruptures that were also evident on the other side of the Iron Curtain; the Communist Party leadership struggled to moderate the combined destabilizing effect of consumerism, a recalcitrant youth (sub)culture, and Cold War anxieties. Nowhere was the angst of the postwar period more obvious than in the way Soviet filmmakers portrayed their movie heroes. Unlike their hardbodied and zealous Stalinist counterparts, post-Stalinist protagonists conveyed physical imperfection and ideological ambivalence. Stalin’s successor, Nikita Khrushchev initially promoted the turn to more realistic protagonists as part of his de-Stalinization campaign. His inconsistent and unclear policies, however, gave filmmakers the leeway to project a post- Stalinist vision that went beyond Khrushchev’s agenda. For a group of the nation’s major filmmakers, the struggle to define post-Stalinist masculinity therefore represented a selfconscious mission to discredit the system’s reliance on rigid dogma, moral conservatism, and suffocating collectivism. In an ironic twist, reformist filmmakers took advantage of the Soviet leadership’s intention to humanize the Communist system and turned it into a broader conversation about the system’s ethical and political principles. My dissertation demonstrates the indispensability of masculine images to the state’s propaganda mission and identifies the processes that governed the production of gendered images within a censorship regime. I also reveal the porousness of Cold War borders by analyzing the momentous effect of American and West European cinema on Soviet filmmakers. Moreover, this research identifies the critical influence “peripheral” East European regimes exercised on the Soviet center. Moscow’s aggressive assimilation of so called satellites ironically allowed Czech and Polish experimental cinematography to act as a conduit for liberal ideals. Overall, the interdisciplinary and transnational approach I employ allows me to go beyond the Cold War flashpoints of the 1950s and 1960s, to reveal a society engaged with the outside world and engrossed in a public renegotiation of its collective identity.

Disciplines

Film and Media Studies | History of Gender | Political History | Slavic Languages and Societies | Social History