Essay Example on The death of Joseph Stalin in 1953








The death of Joseph Stalin in 1953 marked the beginning of a new historical period namely the period of the Thaw the metaphoric label of post Stalinism The term itself was borrowed from the eponymous 1954 novel Оттепель by Ilya Ehrenburg There are different views about the exact date when the Thaw began and about its length Some believe that it started with the death of Stalin while others argue that it began after Nikita Khrushchev's secret speech at the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1956 Similarly some scholars date Thaw from the death of Stalin until 1965 when Khrushchev was replaced while some others state that it continued for nearly four years after Khrushchev's fall Condee 2000 In any case the period of the Thaw is considered a prolonged relaxation of the system of oppression in every sphere of Soviet society including politics economy law sport culture and everyday life After the long years of Stalinism the Thaw culture was somewhat freed from political pressure yet this freedom was still political to a great extent and the right to individual expression was acknowledged In other words the post Stalin culture became more open to artistic experimentation then it was under Stalinism Cinema was the front where the impact of the Thaw was most visible

On the thematic front intimacy everydayness and sincerity became dominant values which deserved attention and which were marginalized under Stalinism Woll 2000 By closely examining Mikhail Kalatozov s film The Cranes are Flying 1957 this essay will analyse the argument that the rediscovery of intimacy and everydayness is considered the chief accomplishment of post Stalin culture by discussing the figuration of the private sphere This film was chosen in particular because it was released one year after Khrushchev's Secret Speech at the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1956 and according to Condee it emerged as a rare instance of Cold War recognition and to be sure the film was a masterpiece 2009 175 Kalatozov s film The Cranes are Flying instantly gained recognition as an emblematic Thaw film from its first screening in 1957 to its triumph at Cannes in 1958 where it won the Golden Palm award as Best Film As Woll notes Cranes transformed the way viewers and reviewers considered the war trauma and their expectations of cinematic representations of it 2000 73 That is to say that for the first time viewers were encouraged by the film to think about their own war experiences by responding to the film s emotional demands

Woll 2000 In contrast to the big ideas and heroes in cinema of the 1920s and the coding of the revolutionary consciousness of the 1930s human values such as intimacy everydayness and sincerity became dominant values on the cinematic stage of the Thaw In The Cranes are Flying all of the characters are shown as private family individuals and viewers can see intimate sides of everyone One example of this is through the character Veronika who emerged in the film as a totally different figure a new subject who is under no circumstances a positive example Zorkaia 2005 Under Stalinism and until the mid 1950s the identification of the central protagonist and the film hero s services to society and state stood in the forefront of cinema Woll 2000 By contrast to the undefeatable infallible main character of the previous decades Veronika represented everydayness sincerity and intimacy As Woll suggests Veronika stands far from the traditional Soviet female models especially those in relation to war She is not simple loving or modest but enigmatic and her decision to marry one man despite the fact that she loves another stands as a paradox in the centre of The Cranes are

Flying because she behaved in an irrational manner Before The Cranes are Flying Veronika s character would have been judged as a purely negative example a faithless fiancée but the film transformed this type into a new subject which caused sympathy and admiration Woll 2000 75 Referring back to the point that the film encouraged the viewers to think about the war and their own experiences it is a key point to remember that the film passed no judgement of Veronika by which it forced the viewers to form their own judgement of her and also themselves Therefore different points of views emerged about Veronika some people denounced her others adored her but either way she became a new yardstick particularly for viewers her own age Woll 2000 75 The film denotes absolute supremacy to feelings Veronika s love could not been destroyed by the war or even by the death of her fiancé Veronika was driven by instincts and feelings like the cranes who operate on a genetically coded drives Woll 2003 Both her salvation and her despair lie not in what others know but in her own subjective faith which made her absolutely unique in Soviet cinema of those years Woll 2003 38

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