Guest lecture: Stephen Norris

Blockbuster History 2.0:  Movies, Patriotism, and Politics in the Era of Putin 2.0.


Vladimir Putin and Russian flag.

Stephen M. Norris will discuss how Russian patriotic cinema has become much more state-centered in its use of historical memory. Illustration photo: (CC0 1.0) 

About the lecture

Maria Lipman has recently argued that the second presidency of Vladimir Putin should be termed "Putin 2.0," for it has coincided with increased crackdowns in the cultural sphere that did not occur during Putin's first presidency (2000-2008).

This presentation will build on Lipman's notion and will examine the state of Russian popular cinema during the era of Putin 2.0 (2012-present). Building on Stephen M. Norris' previous work, Blockbuster History in the New Russia, which examined the rise of Hollywood-style blockbusters in Russia between 1998 and 2008, this presentation will analyze the major changes in the politics of memory since 2012.

Norris' book had a somewhat optimistic tone to it, arguing in part that cinematic examinations of the past served as a means to generate extensive, probing discussions about concepts such as patriotism, nationhood, and memory. 

The Russian state, while benefiting in part from the patriotic culture generated from these films and their discussions, did not intervene in the production process. This has changed since 2012 and since the appointment of Vladimir Medinsky as Minister of Culture in the Russian Federation.  Using a handful of case studies 

  • Fedor Bondarchuk's Stalingrad (2013),
  • Dmitry Meskhiev's Battalion (2014),
  • Khusein Erkenov's Ordered to Forget (2014),
  • Andrei Shal'opa's Panfilov's 28,
  • and Andrei Kravchuk's Viking (2016)

Norris will discuss how Russian patriotic cinema has become much more state-centered in its use of historical memory.  Instances where directors do not follow Medinsky's line find their films threatened with bans for "historical falsification," as was the case with Erkenov's movie.  At the same time, two recent films backed by Medinsky and his ministry – Dmitry Kiselev's Spacewalk and Aleksei Uchitel''s Matilda – have either flopped or produced protests. 

The cultural practices of Putin 2.0, in other words, have produced mixed results.

About the guest lecturer

Stephen M. Norris is Walter E. Havighurst Professor of Russian History and Director of the Havighurst Center for Russian and Post-Soviet Studies at Miami University (OH). 

He is the author and editor of seven books, including A War of Images:  Russian Popular Prints, Wartime Culture, and National Identity, 1812-1945 (Northern Illinois University Press, 2008) and Blockbuster History in the New Russia:  Movies, Memory, Patriotism (Indiana University Press, 2012). 

He has published articles on Russian visual culture and propaganda, Soviet and Post-Soviet films, historical memory in contemporary Russia, and Kazakh cinema. 

He is currently writing a biography of the Soviet political caricaturist, Boris Efimov, tentatively entitled Communism's Cartoonist: Boris Efimov and the Soviet Century

Published Dec. 14, 2017 11:35 AM - Last modified Jan. 18, 2018 11:14 AM