Issues of Post-Soviet Visual Culture

Wallflower Press are pleased to offer all students of ISSUES OF POST-SOVIET VISUAL CULTURE a 20% discount off their related titles. Vouchers to claim this 20% off will be inside the course packs which are given out at the first lesson of the course.  The vouchers are redeemable in Cornerhouse’s ground-floor bookshop. 

Cinema of the Other Europe: The Industry and Artistry of East Central European Film is a comprehensive and original study, examining important themes of history, memory and morality and drawing attention to the area’s unique contribution to film history. Part of our 24 Frames series, The Cinema of Central Europe contains 24 essays each focusing on one particular film from Hungary, Poland or Czechoslovakia, including Ashes and Diamonds (1958), Knife in the Water (1962), Closely Observed Trains (1966), Alice (1988), and Satantango (1994).

The Czechoslovak New Wave examines the origins and developments of the Czech New Wave against a background of the political cultural developments of the 1960s leading to the Prague Spring of 1968. Hungary’s cinema heritage is explored in-depth in Hungarian Cinema: From Coffee House to Multiplex whilst The Red and White: The Cinema of People’s Poland takes a fascinating look at the history of post-war Polish cinema and how it was affected by political, social and cultural upheavals. Discounted copies of these titles will be available for students from the Cornerhouse bookshop.

For more information on these and other Wallflower Press titles, including full contents lists, sample chapters and reviews please visit

Wallflower Press would also like to give students the opportunity to make advance orders for their forthcoming title, The Cinema of Russia and the Former Soviet Union, another book belonging to the 24 Frames series. Films have been chosen to represent both the classics of Russian and Soviet cinema as well as those films that had a more localised success and remain to date part of Russia’s cultural reference system. The volume also covers a range of national film industries of the former Soviet Union in chapters on the greatest films and directors of Ukrainian, Kazakh, Georgian and Armenian cinematography.

Students can order their copies by e-mailing or calling 020 7436 9494.


Mon 15th January

Introduction to the Course

Matrioshka dolls, cheap vodka and Kalashnikovs aside, how much do we really know about the former Soviet Union? From central Europe to the Far East, this great empire once covered one-sixth of the world’s surface, yet it remains little known and understood in the West. This session will introduce the themes that we will deal with throughout the course.

Mon 22nd January

Moscow: The Seat of Power

The city of billionaires, recently ranked in 3rd place among the most expensive cities in the world, Moscow the bright centre of Russia’s political and economic universe. This session will explore the streets of this rapidly modernizing city through a discussion of its architectural landmarks; from 16th century onion domes via Soviet palaces and metro stations to glass and steel skyscrapers.

Mon 29th January

Sots-Art vs. Socialist Realism

Socialist Realism, the official art of the Soviet Union, was a realist school based on a categorical rejection of Western developments such as modernism and post-modernism. Sots-art evolved in the 1970s as an underground movement that referenced the American pop artists in its reflexive appropriation of Soviet culture. In the 1990s Sots-art entered the mainstream to fill the vacuum left in the wake of Socialist Realism. We will look at the key figures of the post Soviet art world such as the eccentric Komar & Melamid and the notorious Aleksandr Shilov.

Mon 5th February

Gangsters and Mafiosi

This session will visit the dark underbelly of Russian society through the medium of film. The Russian gangster movie is a popular subgenre of naturalistic, low-budget filmmaking that emerged in the late 1990s. Films such as Brat (1997), Sestry (2001, which will be screened in its entirity) and Zhmurki (2005) depict a culture of opportunism, corruption, and casual violence set against a stark and distinctly unglamorous backdrop.

Monday 12th Februay NO COURSE

Mon 19th February

How to Remember, How to Forget?

The political entity of the Soviet Union may have collapsed in 1991, but it lives on in the visual culture of Russia and Eastern Europe. How have buildings and public spaces been reclaimed? What has become of the fallen monuments? We will look at case studies including the 2003 movie, GOODBYE LENIN! and Lithuania’s Grutas Park, a controversial museum of Soviet era monuments.

Mon 26th February


Free to Course members, limited public tickets available

Mon 5th March

The Legacy of the War

On 9th May 2005 a vast parade was held on Red Square, attended by dozens of world leaders, to commemorate the 60th anniversary of victory in the Great Patriotic War. The horrific events of the 1940s continue to resonate in hearts and minds throughout Russia and Eastern Europe. This session looks at the ways in which the War is represented in contemporary art and film and analyses its appropriation by the Putin regime as a symbol of stability and strength.

Mon 12th March

The Bright Future: Post Soviet Consumer Culture

‘Canned goods are a tasty and nutritious product’. In the Soviet Union advertising, synonymous with propaganda, promoted the socialist way of life rather than a specific brand or company. Now advertising has been adapted to the demands of capitalism, sometimes with humorous results. How has Western consumer culture infiltrated the former Soviet Union? How susceptible is Russia to the pervasive effects of globalization?

Recommended reading

There’s no prior reading required for this course but course participants may be interested in the following books.

Andrei Kurkov, Trans. by George Bird, Death and the Penguin, Harvill Press, 2002

Viktor Pelevin, Trans. by Andrew Bromfield, Babylon, Faber and Faber, 2000.

Anna Politkovskaya, Trans. by Arch Tait, Putin’s Russia, Harvill Press, 2004.

There are few Russian language films available with English subtitles, but these are certainly worth a look:

Timur Bekmambetov, Night Watch, 2004

Nikita Mikhailkov, Burnt by the Sun, 1994

Andrei Zvyagintsev, The Return, 2003

The decline and fall of the Soviet Union has been called ‘the end of history’ and ‘the largest geopolitical catastrophe of the century’. Fifteen years on and the visual landscape of the Russia and the former Soviet Republics is still locked in a period of transition. Russia is rarely out of the press, but there is more to this superpower than scandals, spies and corrupt politics. So just what does life look like in the land of the oligarch?

Through the medium of film, art, architecture and popular culture this course opens up the former Soviet Union, exploring its vast territory and investigating many of the issues that define it today.

Led by Oliver Johnson, University of Sheffield. Beginners’ level – no prior knowledge required.

This course will coincide with the Central Asian Project, opening at Cornerhouse in February.

Beginners level – no prior knowledge necessary

£60 full / £45 concs