Soviet cinema is most often represented on Western screens by Russian films that stress a voluntaristic and event-oriented vision of the world and of the national past. For this reason students of Soviet society have often drawn an analogy between communist values and the epic or didactic themes expressed in these films.
This standard view is valid for the Stalin era throughout Russian and non-Russian territory: for some thirty years, artistic creation was frozen into nationalistic and dogmatic propaganda. Historians are quite familiar now with the ideological mechanisms of this history: cinema is a fundamental issue of the contemporary world since it competes with the school-taught version of history. Nevertheless, ways of representing history have been diversified since the Second World War for two major reasons: liberalization of society since 1953, and emergence of cinema in the non-Russian republics. Soviet cinema of the early 1980s gives evidence of two characteristics: the heroic inspiration of Russian films wears away, and the vision of history in the non-Russian is usually limited to traditional and local philosophies. The Russian version of the past is based on the contrast between twentieth-century events and the inertia of a very literary nineteenth century. The southern and eastern republics describe peasant societies faced with destruction of social fabric by the inroads of urban civilization. These tendencies constitute effective counterpoints to socialist realism and indicate that the transmission of the collective past is undergoing a crisis.