Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Media, Art, and Text

First Advisor

Oliver Speck


This dissertation examines fifteen films produced in seven political eras from 1926 thru 2008 in Soviet / Post-Soviet Russia. Its aim is to determine if the cinematic presence of Bakhtin’s ten signifiers of the carnivalesque (parody, death, grotesque display, satirical humor, billingsgate, metaphor, fearlessness, madness, the mask, and the interior infinite) increase in their significance with the historical progression from a totalitarian State (e.g., USSR under Stalin) to a federal semi-residential constitutional republic (e.g., The Russian Federation under Yeltsin - Putin). In this study, the carnivalesque signifiers act as a gauge of dialogism, the presence of which is indicative of some cinematic freedom of expression. The implication being, that in totalitarian States, a progressive relaxation of censorship in cinema (and conversely, an increase in cinematic freedom of expression) is indicative of a move towards a more representative form of governance, (e.g., the collapse of the totalitarian State). The fifteen films analyzed in this study include: Battleship Potemkin (1925), End of St. Petersburg (1927), Chapaev (1934), Ivan the Terrible, Part II (1946, released in 1958), Spring on Zarechnaya Street (1956), The Cranes are Flying (1957), Stalker (1979), Siberiade (1979), The Legend of Suram Fortress (1984), Repentance (1984, released in 1987), Cold Summer of 1953 (1987), Little Vera (1988), Burnt by the Sun (1994), House of Fools (2002) and Russian Ark (2002). All fifteen films were produced in the Soviet/Post-Soviet space and directed by Russian filmmakers; hence, the films portray a distinctly Russian perspective on reality. These films emphasize various carnivalesque features including the reversal of conventional hierarchies, usually promoting the disprivileged masses to the top, thus turning them into heroes at the expense of traditional power structures.


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Date of Submission

May 2014