Archival Ethnographic Films as a Historical Source

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УДК 778.5.03.03.с(09)+778.5ср(092)

DOI 10.28995/2073-0101-2018-3-692-703

Ivan A. Golovnev

Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography, Russian Academy of Sciences, St. Petersburg, Russian Federation

Archival Ethnographic Films as a Historical Source


The article draws on text and visual archival documents to study nature and informative value of Soviet ethnographic films. Ethnographic cinema is a phenomenon almost unstudied by both ethnography and cinematology. Analyzing an illustrative experience of film director A. A. Litvinov and researcher V. K. Arsenyev, who were at tip of the spear in Soviet ethnocinema, the author investigates effective methodology of their scientific and cinematographic work: from script based on scientific texts to lengthy ethnographic filming expeditions to editing of the films assisted by scientific advisors. The choice of the chronological framework rests on the fact that late 1920s – early 1930s was a time of growth for ethnographic filming in the Soviet Union, characterized by both quantity and quality of ethnographic films. It was a time when a panorama of ethnographic films about different peoples of the multinational Soviet country was created, in production of the most significant of these professional scientists were involved. A series of ethnographic films about ethnic groups of Primorye (the Udege), Kamchatka (the Koryaks, the Lamuts), and Chukotka (the Chukchi), a collaboration of A. A. Litvinov and V.K. Arsenyev, received recognition from the public, and also from the scientific community. These film documents are among first photovisual records on the ethnography of the peoples of the Far East. From the point of view of ethnographic cinematology, the article concludes that ethnographic films, if approached scientifically, become a form of research, film as a ‘document’ of the period providing historical and ethnographic data. Little-studied archival ethnographic films are a promising area of research, well deserving being included into the scholarship. Their creators’ experience is of practical interest for modern ethno-cinematographers.

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Archival ethnographic films, historical source, visual anthropology, history of the small-numbered peoples of the USSR.


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About author

Golovnev Ivan Andreevich, PhD in History, Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography, Russian Academy of Sciences, researcher, St. Petersburg, Russian Federation, +7-922-600-46-41, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Grant information

This work was supported by the Russian Foundation for Basic Research (RFBR) as part of project no. 17-01-00141 ‘Anthropology of the movement: Theoretical and scientific and practical potential.’

Submitted 12.03.2018, published:

GOLOVNEV, I. A. Arkhivnoe etnograficheskoe kino kak istoricheskii istochnik [Archival Ethnographic Films as a Historical Source. In Russ.]. IN: Vestnik arhivista / Herald of an Archivist, 2018, no. 3, pp. 692-703. doi 10.28995/2073-0101-2018-3-692-703

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