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Filming Terror in the USSR: Between History and Memory? (with Kristian Feigelson)

February 6 @ 4:30 pm - 6:00 pm

How is the Gulag represented in the former Soviet Union? Many books have been published both by former prisoners who describe the day-to-day of Soviet concentration camps, and by numerous historians who attempt to analyze the subject. Paradoxically, though, very few films have examined the history and visual reality of the camps, due in part to the fact that “the Gulag” remains an administrative designation estranged from all concrete traces of the camps, which, (unlike those of the Nazi system), have been erased from history. This is despite the efforts of associations such as Memorial to perpetuate historical remembrance in Russia since 1989. In 1988, the documentarist Marina Goldovskaya provoked a widespread debate on the origin of the Gulag with her film “The Power of the Solovki;” but this controversy was short-lived. A rare few fictional films and television series based on literary works about the Gulag were produced in the ex-Soviet Union. Dr. Feigelson will analyze the paradoxes which span post-Soviet society, torn between impossible remembrance and the camps recreated in the imagination. He derives this study from research conducted since 2012 in the Solovki Islands, which in the 1920s prefigured the entire Soviet prison camp system, as well as from the film documentation of the GPU from 1927-1929. How can we analyze and consider today the complicated visual traces of these camps?

This event will be hosted in person and virtually on Zoom. Non-NYU affiliates must RSVP for in-person campus access. 

Kristian Feigelson is a sociologist and Professor of Film studies at the University of the Sorbonne Nouvelle (Ircav). He has contributed to several French journals (Esprit, Les Temps Modernes…)  and has published numerous works on Russia and the Soviet Union, including Les Etats post-soviétiques : identités en construction, transformation politique et trajectoires économiques, (Armand Colin, Paris, 2004) and Caméra politique/Cinéma et stalinisme (Théorème 8, PSN, Paris, 2005). His work about « Filming the Gulag » has been published in Revista o Olho da Historia  Salvador / Brazil, 2017 and Avanca/Cinema University of Aveiro,Portugal/ 2018 « Filmar o Gulag, imitar o terror de massa ? », Le Temps des Médias n°33/2019 « Filmer le Goulag : entre histoire et mémoire »,  in Sensdessus L’Oubli n°28/2021 « Images filmiques des camps : entre mémoire et oubli »Filming the Gulag is part of a program, supported by the University Sorbonne-Nouvelle, which has given rise to various conferences and screenings, including those at the Oody Library and Filmotek in Helsinki, Museum Akhmatova in St Petersburg/ Russia, and various universities Europe,Canada/USA, Japan.


February 6
4:30 pm - 6:00 pm


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