Fading, Crumbling Images of Soviet History

Article excerpt

Leonid Lyubimov spends his days among stacks of film cans at the Sverdlovsk Film Archive he heads in Ekaterinburg. One of the largest archives in Russia: it has over 10,000 newsreels, 7,000 documentaries, 200 feature films and fifty animated films.

The collection is housed in five cramped rooms in a nondescript office block. Film cans and paper records are stored in the corridor and every nook and cranny. Only one room is climate-controlled, with appropriate temperature and humidity for film storage; elsewhere, documentaries and newsreels are slowly decaying. Some films from the 1940s are so bad that they cannot be screened.

Until the early 1990s, the archive was part of the Sverdlovsk Film Studio. In late 1941, as the German armies advanced on Moscow, directors, cinematographers, designers and artists moved east to Sverdlovsk, where many war munitions plants were located. The Sverdlovsk Film Studio became the fourth largest in the USSR, and for fifty years, it turned out newsreels that now provide a fascinating historical chronicle, not only of Soviet-era propaganda but of everyday urban and rural life. …