“Screen on the Chum”: Social Reconstruction and Mobile Film Propaganda in the North of the Ob region in the 1930s

Agapov M.G.




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Drawing on the example of agitation and propaganda campaigns carried out in the north of the Ob region in the 1930s among the indigenous population, a specific tool of the Soviet ideological indoctrination of the Great Break period — a mobile cinema (installations designed to screen silent and sound films to a small audience in open areas and in premises not equipped with stationary film projectors) — has been comprehensively studied. The mobile cinema is considered as one of the varieties of cultural management technologies that are equally characteristic of all states and empires of the modern era, including the USSR, where, due to the existence of state ideology and low literacy of the population, it was even more important than other cultural technologies. The management supported and strengthened the centralized power, serving as a complement to force and coercion. Based on the materials of the State Archive of the Socio-Political History of the Tyumen Region, it has been established that the first mobile cinema in the north of the Ob region was created under the auspices of the Committee of the North under the All-Russian Central Executive Committee of the USSR, but it reached its fullest flourishing in the area during the period when the region came under the jurisdiction of the Chief Directorate of the Northern Sea Route (1935–1938). The repertoire of a mobile cinema was compiled centrally, and it included popular science and feature films, united by a common goal, which was the ideological indoctrination of the audience. For representatives of the indigenous peoples of the North, movie screening itself was the most important experience of joining a new life, akin to the rite of initiation. Indigenous peoples were most interested in movies that narrated about their own daily life: hunting, fishing, travelling. Mobile cinemas were moved around the north by sled and specially equipped boats. The work of a mobile cinema in the north of the Ob region was associated with constant overcoming of a number of problems: the shortage of films, frequent breakdowns of movie cameras, and the lack of qualified projectionists. Nevertheless, mobile cinemas made significant contribution to the modernization of everyday life and worldview of the indigenous peoples of the Ob North.

Keywords: Tobolsk North, Committee of the North, The Chief Directorate of the Northern Sea Route, a mobile cinema.


Funding. The study was carried out within the framework of the project “Rethinking the history of modernization in imperial Russia and the USSR: paradigms of development and development as practices and languages of social and political imagination” of the “Mirror Laboratories” program of the Center for Historical Research of the National Research University Higher School of Economics in St. Petersburg and the Laboratory of Historical Geography and Regionalistics of Tyumen State University.


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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Accepted: 27.02.2023

Article is published: 15.06.2023


Agapov M.G., Tyumen State University, Lenina st., 23, Tyumen, 625000, Russian Federation, E-mail: magapov74@gmail.com, https://orcid.org/0000-0002-3433-1516