Blockbuster History in the New Russia: Movies, Memory, and Patriotism

Blockbuster History in the New Russia: Movies, Memory, and Patriotism

Blockbuster History in the New Russia: Movies, Memory, and Patriotism

Blockbuster History in the New Russia: Movies, Memory, and Patriotism

Synopsis

Seeking to rebuild the Russian film industry after its post-Soviet collapse, directors and producers sparked a revival of nationalist and patriotic sentiment by applying Hollywood techniques to themes drawn from Russian history. Unsettled by the government's move toward market capitalism, Russians embraced these historical blockbusters, packing the American-style multiplexes that sprouted across the country. Stephen M. Norris examines the connections among cinema, politics, economics, history, and patriotism in the creation of "blockbuster history"-the adaptation of an American cinematic style to Russian historical epics.

Excerpt

On July 13, 2008, I was fortunate enough to meet Grigorii Chkhartishvili. Better known by his pseudonym, Boris Akunin, he suggested that we meet at a coffee shop in Moscow’s Chistie prudy neighborhood. After I interviewed him about his work on the film The Turkish Gambit (he wrote the screenplay), our conversation turned to politics. He joked that Russia’s two greatest problems in 2008 were traffic and Putin—in that order. When I pressed him about Putin, who had recently returned to the office of prime minister, Chkhartishvili turned more serious, telling me that Putin’s seemingly extraordinary popularity did not have as much to do with what he did—his particular policies—as what he did not do. The state, he suggested, had mostly left people alone for the last eight years. As a result, Russians had learned how to be individuals: they cared about the cost of a car, the cost of food and apartments, the cost of their children’s education, and the traffic. Eventually, Chkhartishvili concluded, Russians will become more and more individualistic, more and more secure in their lives, and will care more about the specific policies of the state.

Over the next three years, as I finished research on this book, wrote a draft, received feedback on it, and then went through the process of submission, peer review, editing, and publication, I came to realize just how much Grigorii Chkhartishvili had articulated something significant on that Sunday in July. This project originated from my general . . .

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