The Rise of a New Culture

Source: Williams , Albert Rhys. Through the Russian Revolution. New York: Boni and Liveright. 1921

One of the most fascinating things about history is how it affects the culture and customs of the generations of that time and the generations to come. The Revolutions of 1917 in Russia embarked on a cultural transformation that affected millions of people throughout Eastern Europe and Northern Asia and still affects them to this day.

The revolutions marked an end to Imperial Russian culture, which resulted in the destruction of thousands of churches, monuments, and building to be replaced with Soviet style  building and monuments.


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This transformation however is more deeply rooted  than just in the stylistic approach to architecture. The changes in terms of  culture and ideology can be found physically emulated in the cinematic approaches depicted within the Soviet Union.



Source: Aleksandr, Grinberg. Portrait of Vera Kholodnaya. 1921.

In the early years of the Bolshevik rule many movie stars and directors fled the country due to them being unable to conform to the Soviet Society. One such star was Vera Kholodnaya, she was considered to be the most famous Russian actress of the Silent Film Era. Starring in as many as 50 films, Kholodnaya died in 1925 while fleeing from the Bolsheviks. With her death it is considered the end of an era. Not just an era of cinema but the era of a culture.(Geldern)



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One of the first films that emulates the ideologies  set in place by the Revolution is”Battleship Potemkin”. A film by Sergei Eisenstein, “Battleship Potemkin” takes place during the Revolution of 1905. Mutiny occurs on a the ship Potemkin against the officers, after the crew was fed raw meat. This film serves to portray such marxist ideals such as the revolution of the proletariat .While history tells us the revolution of 1905 was a failure, the film depicts a successful outcome, which begins the use of cinema as a means of political propaganda.



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The film “Circus” further depicts ideologies set by the Revolution which are the inclusivity of everyone regardless of race, class, or nationality. The basis of the film resides on an American woman who seeks refuge in the USSR due to her having a child with an African American man. The last scene of the movie beautifully captures this idea  by the audience members of the Circus all singing a lullaby to the child.

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The ironically named film “The Vanished Empire”, directed by Karen Shaknazorov, tells a story about teenage life within the Soviet Union. While a more recent film it focuses on the affects the soviet union had on the people of Russia. Even though during the movie all of the characters are scene listening to American music and purchasing American clothing via the black market. In the end the characters long for the Soviet Union and all of its ideals.




In one scene, the main character of The Vanished Empire” travels to Iran to view this once great empire that is now deteriorating.




Taken in Narva- Joesuu, Estonia by Katelyn Sater. 2016

Now today anyone can gaze at the fallen empire of the Soviet Union.  It is not to say however that the ideas and culture of the revolution have gone missing. They live on within the former inhabitants of the Soviet Union.








Geldern, James von. Culture and Revolution. Retrieved from

Geldern, James von. Death of the Old Culture. Retrieved from:








7 thoughts on “The Rise of a New Culture

  1. So I also focused on cultural changes for my blog post but what I love so much about this post is the details you went into. I really enjoy the specific examples you listed and how you took some of the films scene by scene. It is intensely interesting to see the changes in culture reflected in film and literature from the time. It also speaks to how so many values changed before and after in terms of plot lines and what was considered scandalous or eye catching.

    • Thank you Diana! I really appreciate the feedback! I highly suggest you watch these movies if you are interested in cultural changes etc. All of them can be found with English subtitles on youtube.

  2. Katelyn, this post was so interesting! I love how you focused on the cultural effects of the revolution and included so many interesting visuals. I’ve always been fascinated by how the Soviets changed not only the political climate, but really took hold of all the cultural aspects as well. I noticed that you took the last picture from Lithuania, which is really awesome! I’d love to hear more about that.

    • On my trip to Estonia, the town we stayed in was littered with old soviet buildings and monuments. Most of the apartments in the part I was in were from the soviet era.

  3. Wow this is a great post! I like how you decided to go into depth and actually research film and culture during this age. You can tell that you actually enjoyed doing research on this topic. I wish I was able to visit Russia during this drastic time change and see the before and after of the architecture. You mentioned Vera Kholodnaya, and I was wondering how she died? You said that she was fleeing but was she murdered by a Soviet officer or caught a disease while fleeing?

    • There are actually a lot of conspiracies theories about her death. One is that she was killed by a Frenchman in hotel because she was a double agent for the bolsheviks. Another is that the bolsheviks killed her. But her official death was ruled as death by the flu.

  4. Wow this blog is amazing. I never realized along with revolutions comes changes in culture along the lines of movies. The way you presented the information was great and interesting.

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