History, University of Wisconson - Madison
My dissertation explores the Stalinist state’s efforts at crafting an official memory of the Second World War through its documentary filmmaking practices. I argue that the Stalinist propaganda state was far more sophisticated and far-sighted than most scholars have recognized. The Soviet government began radically reconfiguring its documentary filmmaking practices beginning in the late 1920s and into the 1930s to not only document the historic epoch underway in the country but to film war and to be ready to create a memory of a coming war. The Soviet state then skillfully harnessed the personnel, practices, and institutions developed during the 1930s to document and institutionalize the memory of war once it came. It produced a vast store of war-related documentary footage in the form of frontline newsreels, documentaries, and archived footage (kinoletopis’). Publicly it glorified and popularized its documentary and newsreel cameramen for audiences even as it ruthlessly squeezed thousands of meters of footage out of them. Finally, in the post-war years, the Party successfully tapped its documentary filmmaking practices to successfully institutionalize an official memory of the Second World War, ensuring the regime’s legitimacy and longevity in the post-war period.
Benjamin Raiklin is a PhD candidate in the Department of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he is currently writing his dissertation on the development of Stalinist documentary filmmaking practices and the making of the memory of the Second World War. His dissertation is based on research conducted in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kiev, and Washington DC. He has been awarded a number of research grants including the Kennan Institute Summer Research Scholarship and the George L. Mosse Graduate Exchange Fellowship. He has presented his research at various academic venues and conferences, such as the Annual Convention of the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies (ASEEES) and the University of Wisconsin. In 2009, he published a refereed article in the journal Studies in Russian and Soviet Cinema entitled “Soviet cinema in the wake of the terror: The Artistic Council at Mosfilm, 1939–41.”
Photo from the field - Benjamin Raiklin