Analyzing Soviet films and film criticism from the late Stalin period, this article shows how Soviet cinematographers exploited gender discourse to produce Otherness. Cinematic representations of U.S. femininity, masculinity, love, sexuality, and marriage played an important role in constructing external and internal Enemies. Cinematography depicted the U.S. gender order as resulting from the unnatural social system in the United States and as contrary to both the Soviet order and human nature. In line with the notion of “two different Americas,” the films also created images of “good Americans” who aspired to satisfy gender norms of the Soviet way of life. The image of the American Other helped shape Soviet gender and political orders. Internal enemies’ “groveling before the West” on political matters was depicted as causing gender deviancy, and the breaking of Soviet gender norms was shown to lead to political crimes.
“Greta Garbo Wins Elections,” proclaimed a conservative Italian newspaper when reporting the defeat of the Italian Communist Party in the 1948 parliamentary elections.1 The results of the vote constituted one of the turning points of the Cold War in which the spread of Communism to the West was inhibited. The widespread distribution in Italy of the 1939 Hollywood film Ninotchka (starring Garbo and directed by Ernst Lubitsch) had in fact been among the numerous efforts sponsored by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) during the election campaign. At the same time, the film could be seen as nothing more than a love story between a Western man and a Soviet woman. The plot of Ninotchka concerns the devoted Communist Nina Yakushova, who defects from the USSR because of her love for Count Leon d’Algout. Her choice, nonetheless, is ultimately determined by the superiority of Western men over their Soviet counterparts as well as the material abundance of capitalist society, which gives women the opportunity to be attractive and feminine. This episode allows us to suppose that gender discourse served as an effective Cold War weapon that was actively used in cinema.
The intersections of gender and national discourses in U.S. filmmaking during the Cold War have been intensively explored over the past two decades. This research demonstrates the mutual influence of collective identity and gender rhetoric and investigates the role that the two superpowers’ cinematic representations of gender orders played in constructing the Soviet enemy, creating American-ness, and legitimizing and delegitimizing the political system of the United States.2 As for Soviet cinema, the historiography includes some remarkable works devoted to early Cold War films, including works by researchers who have analyzed how the films created images of the Soviet gender order.3 Nonetheless, exploration of the gender dimension of cinematic representations of the American enemy is just beginning.4
This article discusses how Soviet films exploited gender discourse to construct images of the American enemy. The article first characterizes the films and other sources discussed here and then elucidates methodological approaches to researching gender discourse as a Cold War weapon employed by cinema. The next two sections focus on the creation of images of the enemy through cinematic representations of American femininity and masculinity. Finally, the article demonstrates how Soviet representations of U.S. men and women varied depending on their class, race, and political beliefs.
The article shows that gender discourse was used in Soviet Cold War films as a means of explaining to audiences who the USSR's enemies were, as well as to demonstrate the superiority of the Soviet way of life. No homogeneous cinematic image of U.S. masculinity and femininity existed. The Soviet view of the world implied priority of the class principle over the national one and stressed the contradictions and conflicts within capitalist societies. These priorities created a demand for images not only of “bad Americans” but of “good Americans” who resembled the exemplary images of Soviet men and women.
The early stages of the Cold War are notable in Soviet cinema historiography for malokartin’e, or “film famine.” From 1946 to 1953, only 165 films were released, 124 of which were deemed “feature films.”5 The four that focused on depicting the American way of life constitute the main sources of this article.
The Russian Question (Mikhail Romm, 1947) is an adaptation of Konstantin Simonov's play of the same name.6 It was very popular among filmgoers and was shown in more than 600 theaters, including those in Eastern and Central European countries.7 The film depicts New York in the year 1946. Macpherson and Gould, owners of “reactionary bourgeois newspapers,” send correspondent Harry Smith to the Soviet Union. As part of an anti-Soviet propaganda campaign, Smith is assigned to write a book about Soviet leaders’ desire to go to war with the United States. However, after returning from the USSR, Smith decides to write a positive portrayal of the Soviet Union. As a result, he loses his job and is blacklisted in the journalistic community. He is deprived of money as well as his home, and his wife, Jessie, deserts him. Nonetheless, Smith continues fighting against the media tycoons and their bosses on Wall Street, becoming a mouthpiece for the opinions of progressive Americans. The film scholars Mira Liehm and Antonin Liehm thus call The Russian Question “the first film of the Cold War.”8
Meeting on the Elbe (Grigorii Aleksandrov, 1949) is set in the immediate postwar period and describes relations between the population of an imaginary German town, Altenstadt, and Soviet and U.S. troops.9 Major Nikita Kuzmin and Major James Hill meet each other on the Elbe in April 1945 and become friends. Later, they are made commanders of the Soviet and U.S. sectors of the town, respectively. The Nazis, with the help of a U.S. journalist, Janet Sherwood, hatch a plot in the Soviet sector. Hill tries to fulfill his duty to his Soviet allies and fights against the Nazis hand-in-hand with Kuzmin. The conspiracy is unveiled, but Sherwood turns out to be an emissary of the CIA. For foiling Sherwood's efforts, Hill is fired from the U.S.Army and awaits a summons to the House Committee on Un-American Activities. The film ends with Kuzmin's words, “Friendship between the Russian and American peoples is the most important question facing humanity today.”
Farewell, America! (Aleksandr Dovzhenko, 1950) is based on the book The Truth about American Diplomats (1949) by Annabelle Bucard, a U.S. journalist who immigrated to the Soviet Union.10 Anna Bedford, an idealistic U.S. citizen, accepts a State Department assignment to serve in the U.S. embassy in Moscow in the late 1940s. She discovers that nearly the entire staff at the embassy is engaged in espionage and slandering the Soviet state. Her unprejudiced approach to Soviet reality brings her into conflict with her superiors.
The Silver Dust (Abram Room, 1953) is an adaptation of Soviet Estonian playwright August Jakobson's play The Jackals.11 The film shows life in the fictional U.S. city of Fortskill, where the Steal family lives. Professor Samuel Steal invents a radioactive silver dust, a weapon of mass destruction, and tries to test it on six African Americans who were falsely accused of the attempted rape of a white woman. Steal's stepson, Alan O’Connell, together with other U.S. champions of peace, ruins this plan and fights against the invention. In 1953, The New York Times called the film “probably the most venomous anti-American movie in the history of the film industry.”12
The fate of these films varied. The Russian Question and Meeting on the Elbe were given the Stalin Prize, but the two others were much less successful. In April 1951, Dovzhenko was informed that the Mosfilm studio had received instructions from the Kremlin to terminate work on Farewell, America! immediately. Even though the film was not yet half completed, Dovzhenko had apparently already gone too far, slandering the image of the U.S. enemy to the point of absurdity. Similarly, after being shown for a short time in cinemas, The Silver Dust—likely for the same reason of being too odious—was removed from movie theaters.13
Besides these four films, this article considers movies in which Americans are incidental characters. Among these films are box office successes and Stalin Prize laureates The First Glove (Andrei Frolov, 1946), The Court of Honor (Abram Room, 1949), They Have a Motherland (Vladimir Legoshin and Aleksandr Faintsimmer, 1950), The Conspiracy of the Doomed (Mikhail Kalatozov, 1950), Secret Mission (Mikhail Romm, 1950), and several nearly unknown films seen by few.14 Film criticism also provides material for this research—primarily articles from the Communist Party's cultural newspaper Culture and Life (1946–1951) and the magazine Art of Cinema (published since 1931), both of which faithfully reflected the party's line.
The Cinematic Cold War from a Gender Studies Perspective
The postwar confrontation between the USSR and the United States became a unique factor in world largely because of the prominent role of culture, as convincingly shown by works concerning “the cultural turn” in Cold War studies.15 This is entirely true in the case of cinema, which combined three forms of propaganda (production of visual images, narration, and sounds), thus serving as a highly effective tool in ideological confrontation. During the postwar period in the USSR, Iosif Stalin was often quoted for his statement, “cinema in the hands of the Soviet authorities constitutes an inestimable force.”16 His views resulted in the creation of a separate Ministry of Cinematography in 1946. The role of cinema increased especially during the Cold War, when Hollywood became a serious opponent in the ideological confrontation.17 The importance of U.S. cinema in the struggle for hearts and minds was recognized perfectly well by Soviet propagandists, and leading filmmakers expressed this sentiment in public statements.18 As Sarah Davies notes, Soviet cinema was engaged in a permanent “dialogue” with its U.S. counterpart, using Hollywood as its primary point of reference as well as a source of self-definition.19 Cinema was thus one of the main theaters of the cultural Cold War. On both sides of the Iron Curtain, leading directors, actors, screenwriters, and composers were involved in producing films related to the Cold War, including masters of Soviet cinema such as Grigorii Aleksandrov and Lyubov Orlova, Faina Ranevskaya and Mikhail Romm, Mikhail Kalatozov and Dmitry Shostakovich, Rostislav Plyatt, and Aleksandr Dovzhenko.20 Under these conditions, a cinema artist could not stay out of ideological confrontation. Suspicions of any resemblance to bourgeois motion picture art could have the most serious consequences for a Soviet filmmaker. In 1947, Ivan Bolshakov, minister of cinematography, wrote that “a certain section of film industry workers admires bourgeois cinematic art and some of its practitioners. This is reflected in the uncritical … borrowing of directing and screenwriting techniques.”21
The authorities controlled cinema with the help of the Communist Party's Department of Culture and Department of Propaganda and Agitation (Agitprop), the Ministry of Cinematography and its Artistic Council, and the Ministry of State Security (after 1954, the KGB).22 The Communist Party and the state exercised various forms of control over cinema, including meetings within the Organizational Bureau (Orgburo) of the party's Central Committee, resolutions of the Central Committee, and editorials in the leading newspapers. The resulting discourse clarified “Soviet” and “non-Soviet” approaches to making films. For example, the well-known Orgburo decree “On the film The Great Life” (1946) stressed that this movie “ascribes to Soviet people morals and manners that are completely alien to our society. For instance, while wounded Red Army soldiers are left without any help on a battlefield, а miner's wife (Sonya), walking nearby, displays absolute indifference to them.”23
Censorship in distributing foreign films also helped to delineate “good” and “bad.” When cuts of “smutty scenes” were demanded from Western films (e.g., Madame Bovary, Gerhard Lamprecht, 1937; and The Dream of Butterfly, Carmine Gallone, 1939), the line was also drawn for Soviet directors and actors.24 In addition, the “masses” had the opportunity to report films to the organs of control, and their opinions were taken into consideration.25
The early Cold War division of humanity into two poles produced a Manichean picture of the world in which each superpower was believed to be the main enemy of the other. From the mid-1940s onward, “America” was constructed largely through its opposition to the USSR.26 As for Soviet identity, the image of “capitalist encirclement” continually played a key role.27 Soviet efforts to represent U.S. imperialism as the Soviet Union's primary enemy had several stages.28 The move to mark the United States as the “other” was reinforced by a 1949 decree, “The Plan for the Reinforcement of Anti-American Propaganda in the Near Future.” This document called for the unmasking of “the idiocy of bourgeois culture and morals in contemporary America.”29 It recommends emphasizing 37 themes in Soviet anti-American propaganda, including the “Propaganda of amorality and bestial psychology in the USA.”30 The notion of the moral decline of the Western world was one of the cornerstones of Soviet propaganda, thus necessitating the creation of images that would depict a deviant gender order in the United States.
Cynthia Enloe points out that the Cold War was, besides the rivalry between the superpowers, a series of contests over the definitions of masculinity and femininity.31 Gender discourse is a field of heated battle in any conflict. The element of intended audience also matters, labeling given models of masculine and feminine behavior as either canonical or deviant. As an essential part of social order, gender is actively used in creating a holistic picture of the world and organizing relations among different social groups (such as nations and classes). Nonetheless, various factors allow gender to be considered outside relations between the sexes proper—including the role of gender discourse in delineating social boundaries and establishing power relations. The social boundaries between communities, as Fredrik Barth has shown, are established with the help of diacritics, or elements of culture selected by community members themselves in order to emphasize their differences from those around them (i.e., clothes, language, lifestyle).32 Based on these ideas, Nira Yuval-Davis has suggested that gender symbols should be interpreted as “symbolic border guards.” Along with other markers, these identify people as members or non-members of a certain community.33 Images of men and women serve as markers enabling the process of inclusion and exclusion in the formation of collective identity, in separating “us” from “them.”
The relationship of gender discourse to relations of power and subordination is another factor useful to wartime propaganda. To quote Joan Scott, gender is “a primary way of signifying relationships of power.”34 First, gender concerns social relations proper between men and women characterized by the privileged status of men. However, the hierarchical relations between and within genders are further used as a sort of blueprint to legitimize other forms of social inequality. Because gender theory is implicated in power relations, it becomes an essential part of the discourse of war and violence in general. Cultural androcentrism—that is, the presence of a value hierarchy involving masculinity and femininity—also influences the hierarchy of social subjects, in which feminine or masculine markings attribute qualities and appropriate positions in the social hierarchy. Thus, the use of gender metaphors serves as an effective mechanism to produce power hierarchies. Interpreting the feminine as the second-rate and the subordinate constitutes the primary way in which gender metaphors are used, with “us” represented as being masculine and “them” as feminine. Active use of this interpretation has been made in political infighting.35
The question of women's status in society featured prominently in the ideological confrontation between the USSR and United States.36 The tenet of Soviet ideology that the “woman question” had been solved in the USSR was widely propagandized both within the USSR and internationally. The idea that women held high positions in Soviet society played a significant role in arguments for the superiority of socialism over capitalism. Representations of women's status in U.S. society were largely based on Marxist criticism of the bourgeois family. In The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State (1884), Friedrich Engels argues that a woman's subordination is closely related to class oppression and that the relationship between men and women in society is similar to the relations between antagonistic classes.37 Hence, the oppression of women in society is impossible to eliminate without destroying the capitalistic relations of property. As the Soviet film critic V. Grachev wrote, “in bourgeois society, woman is a slave.”38 According to propagandists, this notion manifested itself in attitudes toward woman as a sexual object, leading to the devaluation of her humanity. The U.S. woman's loss of human dignity was reflected particularly in her working conditions. Her boss was in command not only of her working hours but also of her body.
How does The Russian Question elaborate on this tenet? The film begins with a scene in which the journalists Parker and Hardy are discussing Jessie's return to the post of Macpherson's secretary. Commenting on Parker's characterization of Macpherson as a “dirty old man … he is 62 years old, and so tactless,” Hardy says, “If I had his money, I’d be tactless too.” Responding to Jessie's statement that her relations with the boss strictly concern business, Jack Gould comments cynically, “And is it strictly business? Then the boss has grown old indeed.”39 As one critic stressed, “it's impossible to be employed by Macpherson and not be his girlfriend.”40 In another scene, a barber in New York asks Harry Smith, “Why do Russians have common wives. … How people live in a country where they can't have their own bicycle or a wife—this I cannot understand.” Besides ridiculing the ignorance of U.S. philistines who blindly believe the myths of anti-Soviet propaganda, this scene from The Russian Question aims to demonstrate that women in capitalist society are perceived as commodities. As powerful Communist Party Secretary Andrei Zhdanov said in 1946, “In America, one can buy everything. One can buy women, the title of mayor, honor, and respect.”41
This tendency of U.S. society to make women into commodities revealed itself in prostitution. Prostitution had been represented as an inherent vice of Western society since the beginning of Soviet gender discourse, with significant reinforcement coming from cinema.42 The prostitute Flossie Bate in The Silver Dust exposes the amorality of “respectable Americans,” their dissoluteness and dissimulation, disclosing that even a local pastor has harassed her. Religion was one of the main targets of propaganda, including propagandist films, and the theme of the hypocrisy of ministers occupied an important place.43
While depicting U.S. women as victims of the capitalist system, Soviet propaganda simultaneously portrayed some of them as a component of the enemy world, possessing all of its vices. They were represented as heartless, narrow-minded, greedy, selfish, profligate, and full of racist and anti-Communist prejudices. The goal was to convince the audience that these vices of U.S. femininity were engendered by the very essence of bourgeois society. The negative image of U.S. women served as a background for constructing the ideal of the Soviet woman that included—apart from stereotypical feminine qualities (kindness, compassion, chastity, and motherhood, among others)—the traits of the New Soviet Person: learning, collectivism, selflessness, internationalism, love for the Soviet motherland, and devotion to Communist ideals.44
According to Soviet propaganda, the capitalist system deprived women of qualities that should be inalienable to female nature, including compassion. Ascribing heartlessness to U.S. women was an important discursive practice in constructing the enemy. In Meeting on the Elbe, the image of Mrs. McDermott personifies this cruelty.45 In her brutality, she far surpasses her husband, General McDermott. For example, she says to him, “Be a man, and not a chicken in uniform! You are not in a general's uniform to nurse the Germans.” As Peter Kenez emphasizes, “It is, of course, especially demeaning that it is a woman, a Lady Macbeth, who gives commands to her husband.”46 The audiences for Meeting on the Elbe would be able to judge the heartlessness of U.S. women through a scene in which white U.S. soldiers beat up a black compatriot. Whereas the German women's faces express horror and compassion, the U.S. women watch the proceedings with almost sports-like passion. Doris Steal from The Silver Dust also embodies heartlessness. She has no compassion for the black teenager Ben Robinson, sending him to his death even though his mother, Mary, had worked as a maid in the Steals’ house for twenty years.47
Another of Mrs. Steal's notable traits is her narrow-mindedness. The film ridicules her piety as well as her racist and anti-Communist prejudices. As Soviet propaganda stressed, socialist society created opportunities for women's self-realization and the equality of the sexes, whereas the capitalist system aimed to restrict U.S. women's life goals.48 In this context, criticizing the consumerism that was deemed an essential component of the American way of life was very important. Rhiannon Dowling analyzes how in 1948 in Berlin, Ninotchka and The Russian Question were widely distributed by the U.S. and Soviet occupation authorities, respectively: at the center of the cinematic duel was the issue of consumerism. Ninotchka demonstrates the material superiority of capitalist society. Because consumerism and domesticity were supposedly what women naturally desired, women found it especially difficult to resist the temptations of material abundance. In turn, The Russian Question shows that U.S. material superiority was linked to that society's moral corruption. In the West, abundance came at a much greater moral and social cost than in the socialist world.49
In this context, the image of Jessie is essential, representing probably the most complicated and ambiguous image of an American woman in early Cold War Soviet cinema. The presentation of her character is much more nuanced than the typical one-dimensional images of U.S. characters. Many of Jessie's personal traits were attractive to the Soviet audience. She loves Harry and is willing to devote herself to him; she wants to be happy, to be a wife and a mother, to have a suburban home and a car. Jessie is an exemplary U.S. housewife. However, once Harry loses his job, she deserts him. In Soviet theatrical performances of Simonov's play, the role of Jessie was performed by many well-known actresses, including Lyubov Orlova and Valentina Serova, who created varying interpretations of the role. Theater critics constantly debated how it should be performed.50 Some critics believed Jessie was above all a victim of U.S. society and that actresses should perform the role with sympathy.51 For the film version, Romm instructed the actress Elena Kuz’mina to “play Jessie so that the spectator doesn't feel pity for her but, on the contrary, condemns her.”52
The most ideologically loaded trait of Jessie's image is a consumerism that overshadows any lofty ideals and morality. As film critic Anatolii Abramov writes about Jessie's view of the world,
a standard, banal home, muslin curtains, an apple pie, and a nice wife in a nice housedress—what a petty, vulgar-philistine ideal of human happiness! And the issue is certainly not that the home is comfortable, the wife is nice, and the apple pie is tasty, but that one can sacrifice consciousness and honor in the name of this “happiness.” In my view, that is a double-dyed banality, a complete expression of this narrow-minded “philosophy.”53
Jessie is completely indifferent to Harry's moral dilemma: to be poor and honest or to be rich and corrupt. Abramov emphasizes the political consequences of this philosophy of consumerism. Jessie's political indifference and devotion to the “American dream” allow Macpherson and Gould to use her as one of their main weapons against Smith. It is notable that in The Russian Question the woman is the one who embodies petite-bourgeois ideology. She is subject to the seduction of consumerism to a greater extent than men. Moreover, a woman's consumerism might lead a man who loved her into moral and political corruption. Such gender marking of consumerism as a “female sin” is reflected in numerous films of this period devoted to the moral issues facing Soviet society.54
The image of Jessie betraying her husband displays one further trait ascribed to the typical U.S. bourgeois woman: that of egotism or inability to sacrifice and to love. In Soviet ideology, the idea that a man and woman had to share a burden (following the essence of Marxist views on the Communist family) found support in beliefs rooted in classic Russian literature and philosophy: a strong woman had to save a weak man.55 Propaganda thus had to accentuate these differences between imaginary Soviet and U.S. women—to stress that the cult of money and individualistic property relations made bourgeois women incapable of true love.
With the choice she makes, Jessie displays another trait—a mercenary spirit—that, according to Soviet propaganda, was widespread among U.S. men and women. Soviet films gave the impression that commercial gain was the main reason for marriage in the United States.56 Engels and his successors, while admitting the progressiveness of the bourgeois family, simultaneously criticized its vices: the commercial character of marriage, the submission of women, profligacy, and prostitution as an “addition” to monogamy. They believed that only proletarians who were deprived of private property could marry for love.57 Because marriage in the United States was constrained by class, individual preferences in love could not be achieved. This tragedy of love in bourgeois society was a recurring theme of Soviet Cold War discourse reflected in many movies of this period.
According to Soviet propaganda, the substitute for love in U.S. society was sex. Sexual profligacy served as an important marker to distinguish American-ness, and the propagandists emphasized that this vice was inherently part of the American way of life.58 Its societal prominence was attributed to several factors, above all the flourishing of pornography in U.S. cinema, theater, fiction, and mass media, which aimed with all its might to distract the U.S. electorate's attention from serious social problems.59 “The nude female body is a national trademark,” the director Sergei Gerasimov emphasized in a 1949 article sharing impressions of his trip to the United States.60 Thus, the movies not only had to demonstrate the chastity of “us” but the profligacy of “them.” Kenez stresses: “The notion of profligacy has always fascinated Soviet observers. Many of them imagined modern-day America as Rome just before its fall.”61 To represent the United States in such a way certain way, Soviet filmmakers used images of pin-up girls, which became a distinctive sign of American-ness. Such images appear in the closing scenes of Meeting on the Elbe on the windshield of Captain Tommy's jeep and in the pages of a journal that a radio journalist peruses in The Russian Question. The U.S. occupation zone is depicted as a nest of vice in Meeting on the Elbe. The Soviet audience's moral sentiment was allegedly shocked by an announcement at the entrance of a U.S. soldiers’ club called Paradise: “Girls of any nationality are welcome! You must provide evidence of political reliability and an STD certificate.”
Scenes in spy films that employed the theme of the “honey trap” were also apparently aimed at proving the lasciviousness of U.S. women. The idea that sexual seduction can be a weapon in the hands of the class enemy goes back to the first Soviet films.62 The “honey trap” is part of the plot of many Soviet (as well as U.S.) movies.63 In such films the motif was intended to confirm the Soviet audience's opinion that U.S. women were ready to do anything to achieve their goals and saw chastity as worthless. (Needless to say, in Soviet films, female Soviet intelligence agents never resort to such tactics). One female spy who tries to seduce a Soviet military officer (Major Kuzmin) is Sherwood from Meeting on the Elbe. The Soviet movie star who performed this role, Lyubov’ Orlova, later reflected:
This role was very difficult for me. In my earliest films I identified with my characters, related to them, lived some time in their lives. As for playing Sherwood, I had to renounce myself, transmigrate to a strange and alien soul. It's important to note that when choosing from my memory the traits that would define this character, I had to use exclusively observations I made abroad—in Iran, Paris, Italy, and Germany. The Soviet people did not give me the materials for this role. Foreign countries were where I observed this kind of woman—well-groomed, beautiful, stylish, and at the same time spiritually empty, without lofty aims, without sincere feelings and affections, cold, selfish, ambitious, who believe only in bank accounts and worship only the dollar.64
In analyzing Meeting on the Elbe, Shaw and Youngblood point out that “although most of the villains are male, it gradually becomes clear that American villainy gendered female, initially through the person of Mrs. McDermott, and later through Sherwood.”65 Indeed, Sherwood looks like a much more dangerous enemy than the U.S. men who are represented more in caricature. Moreover, Orlova's performance of Sherwood created probably the most sinister image of the American enemy in early Cold War Soviet cinema: smart, cruel, unscrupulous, and undefeated. Shaw and Youngblood indicate that the images of bossy, heartless, smart, and greedy U.S. women in Meeting on the Elbe were meant to suggest that even U.S. generals and senators were not man enough to control their women.66 In this way, the characterization was a means of demasculinizing American men.
Rivalry in international relations is often represented as a competition in masculinity.67 Discourse on international affairs serves in turn to shape and reshape gender orders.68 J. Ann Tickner points out that “the historical construction of the state, upon which the unitary-actor model in international theory is based, represents a gendered, masculine model.”69 That was especially visible in the early Cold War, and the masculinization of representations of international affairs is particularly reflected in the popularity of sexual images and metaphors in the discourse of the two superpowers’ confrontation.70 In this context, an expression routinely used by the general secretary of the Union of Soviet Writers, Aleksandr Fadeev, is notable: According to a Ministry of State Security informer, Fadeev would often “repeat that the war has proved that the Russian people have a male sexual organ” (presumably in somewhat earthier wording).71 Fadeev thus interpreted the victory over the Wehrmacht as evidence of the superiority not only of socialism over capitalism but also of Soviet over German (and Western) masculinity.
Filmmakers used a variety of ways to demonstrate the superiority of Soviet over U.S. manhood. One prominent plot device was victory in a duel, whether in sport, a physical fight, or warfare. Some movies (e.g., The First Glove) presented Soviet athletes’ victories over their U.S. counterparts as the fulfillment of their duty to the motherland and evidence of the superiority of the USSR's masculinity. Soviet characters also defeated Americans during physical fights in adventure films (e.g., Mountain Outpost, Konstantin Yudin, 1953).72 Finally, several movies contained scenes of decisive Soviet victories over U.S. troops in clashes of regular military units using modern weapons (e.g., In Peaceful Days, Vladimir Braun, 1950).73
In addition to overt representations of U.S. men's weakness and cowardice, Soviet cinema used subtler methods to demasculinize the enemy. U.S. characters’ excessive concern with fashion, according to Soviet beliefs and traditions, also testified to their lack of masculinity. For instance, all the male staff of the U.S. embassy in Farewell, America! wear unthinkably bright ties. The same style of tie is a sign of internal otherness in portraying the stiliagi—representatives of a hip Soviet youth subculture from the late 1940s to early 1960s distinguished by their negative attitudes toward the Soviet way of life and their admiration for the U.S. lifestyle, music, and fashions. In the eyes of Soviet propaganda, the stiliagi embodied U.S.—and therefore illegitimate—forms of masculinity. The authorities persecuted them, including ridiculing them in movies.74
The image of a Western masculinity that lacks genuine manhood, concealing egoism and hubris beneath a superficial polish, has a long history in Russian culture. In direct contrast, Soviet/Russian masculinity contained real firmness, comradeship, and love for the motherland, despite its modesty and humility.75 Apart from the values of Communist ideology, the Cold War canon of Soviet masculinity refers to the values and traditions of Russian culture. For instance, Soviet directors, referring to the national canons of manhood, exploited the belief that an ability to drink liquor testifies to real masculinity. In Meeting on the Elbe, Major Kuzmin visits the U.S. zone of occupation, entertaining the American beau monde with Zveroboi vodka. The Siberian vodka knocks the U.S. officers down, but Kuzmin stays sober.76
Soviet propaganda aimed to demonstrate that the deviancy of U.S. masculinity was a regular phenomenon caused by the nature of capitalist society. This masculinity reflected socioeconomic relations based on individualism. Males in the United States were considered victims of the capitalist system. For this reason, the deformation of U.S. masculinity was depicted sometimes even with compassion. Major Hill tries to be fair to their recent companions in arms. However, U.S. society is organized in such a manner that an honest man cannot meet the requirements of the main criterion of Western masculinity—personal success—and therefore loses his masculinity. In one of the last scenes of the film, Sherwood reprimands Hill: The woman, standing on the gangway to a plane to the United States, towers above the man. Her face expresses power and disdain, whereas his shows dismay, humiliation, and submission. Unlike Soviet men, those in the United States could not be honest and successful simultaneously. These images of oppressed masculinity were designed to convince the audience that only Soviet men could afford to be true men. Nobility, mutual help, comradeship, and respectful attitudes toward women—these were the attributes of masculinity that U.S. males failed to show not because of their personal inferiority but because of the very essence of capitalist society.
Another method of symbolic demasculinization especially popular in Cold War cinema is the love story of a man who is one of “us” and a woman who is one of “them.” In Hollywood, this plot was canonized in Ninotchka and later reproduced in about a dozen movies (Comrade X, King Vidor, 1940; The Red Danube, George Sidney, 1949; Never Let Me Go, Delmer Daves, 1953; The Iron Petticoat, Ralph Thomas, 1956; Jet Pilot, Josef von Sternberg, 1957; Silk Stockings, Rouben Mamoulian, 1957; and others). In these films, Soviet women fall in love with Western (mostly U.S.) men and defect from the USSR. The plot provides a clear picture of the superior masculinity of “us” and the emasculation of the enemy, thus demonstrating U.S. supremacy in gender relations.
The “mirror plot” in Soviet cinema—a sort of From America with Love—was already in use in 1936, as seen in Aleksandrov's comedy Circus.77 Marion Dixon, a U.S. circus artist, becomes a victim of racism after giving birth to a black baby and must leave the United States. In the USSR, she meets artist Ivan Martynov, with whom she falls in love. The Soviet way of life and Soviet masculinity help her to restore her human dignity. Under the conditions of the early Cold War, when Soviet law prohibited marriages with foreigners (from 1947 to 1953), such an overt “love story” was hardly possible. However, one can see similar discursive practices in Meeting on the Elbe. Sherwood says contemptuously to Hill, “I even respect this Bolshevik, Kuzmin. He is … a real man. And you?!”
Sherwood's use of the term “real man” here is noteworthy. In early Cold War Soviet cinema, the term “real man” is never employed by a positive character. Instead, it is said only in an ironic sense, as a concept out of bourgeois ideology. Apparently, the words “real” and “man” in this context were chosen to express suspicion of the Hollywood concept of masculinity. Paradoxically, the term “real man” in Soviet films was a way of delegitimizing the enemy's masculinity.
Using the term in this context is tied to another tendency of criticizing the masculinity of the enemy. Not only a lack of masculine traits but also an excess of masculinity could testify to the enemy's perversion and inferiority. Demasculinization of the enemy is a leading tendency of anti-American discourse, but it is not the only one. The enemy was invented to terrify, which is why U.S. imperialism is depicted, with the help of various discourses, including gender, as a mortal danger. By highlighting the vulnerability of “us” and thereby mobilizing the male identity, Cold War rhetoric sometimes depicts the enemy in a hypermasculine guise, at times representing it as a “sexual aggressor.”78 Gender identity has long been a tool societies invoke to induce men to fight.79 Masculinity is associated with the cult of heroism and strength, and warriors are represented as defenders of women and children in order to make war attractive and justify the killing of human beings.80 The image of the suffering women among “us” is widely exploited in war propaganda as an appeal to masculine identity.81 A special form of these representations is the image of the enemy dishonoring and raping women, both physically and metaphorically.82 In Cold War discourse, rape was as a popular metaphor for characterizing the events of world politics.83 In the United States, the image of a Communist rapist was exploited in comics and literature as well as in film (e.g., Invasion, U.S.A., Alfred E. Green, 1952).84 Soviet propaganda also used this theme, although cinema did not underscore it (mainly because of a certain puritanism in Soviet art);85 Nonetheless, Soviet cinema relied on other ways of portraying the enemy's hypermasculine traits, such as the cult of force, aggressiveness, pitilessness, and lack of emotion. These views of Western masculinity formed part of the accusations against Hollywood.
An article by director Grigorii Roshal’ discusses Soviet criticism of the U.S. (or, to be more precise, the Hollywood) concept of masculinity. He starts by arguing that the main function of U.S. cinema is to foster a staunchly loyal citizenry. Roshal’ describes the typical man produced by the U.S. cinema as “very charming. … He is rather simple, rather coarse; however, he has a good heart. He may even become sentimental. Girls adore him.” But that is only upon first glance. According to Roshal’, the typical U.S. man is a ‘bestial person who climbs over others to get ahead … This charming simpleton professes only one religion—that of the sharp elbow and steel fist. Such traits are called “initiative, personal luck, the ability to stand up for themselves.” It is worthy of a man.’86
Roshal’ insists that this kind of masculinity is gangsterish, imperialistic, and bestial. According to Soviet propaganda, the imperialists’ masculinity, built on the cult of aggression and violence, does not contain qualities that express the essence of a human being. The discourse of Soviet cinema often uses the epithet “bestial” (zverinyi) to characterize U.S. imperialism. Dehumanizing the enemy in order to delegitimize it was a popular method of propaganda actively exploited during the Cold War confrontation.87 The opposition of “human” and “bestial” also occupied an important place in the portrayal of Nazism. At a meeting of the Communist Party's Central Committee devoted to cinema issues in April 1946, Zhdanov referred to the words of Stalin, who a year earlier had said “the first task of Soviet culture is to annihilate the beast in humans, exterminate the beast in humans, or at least to diminish the bestial in humans. The Nazi in fact cultivated the beast in humans; meanwhile we set ourselves the task of annihilating the beast in humans.”88
In his article, Roshal’ also draws a parallel between the U.S. model of masculinity and the masculinity of Nazism, claiming that Hollywood was responsible for Nazi crimes. He tells the audience that “wild horses couldn't drag Hitler away from the theater where American movies were shown.”89 The question of the opponent's closeness to Nazism occupies a central place in the propaganda of the main Cold War participants. Emphasizing the enmity between the two sides is one of the discursive practices of making the enemy. Soviet propaganda connected U.S. imperialism with the USSR's previous mortal rival. The propagandists thus actively exploited Nazism, placing the new U.S. enemy within a clear and established system of moral and political landmarks.90
As early as March 1946, Stalin, reacting to Winston Churchill's Fulton speech, was already characterizing Nazi race theory as the ideological basis for the idea of the Anglo-Saxon race's supremacy.91 Early Cold War Soviet cinema thus actively exploited the theme of the closeness of U.S. imperialism to Nazism.92The Russian Question illustrates this point with Gould's words: “The Germans made only one mistake: It's not them but us, the Anglo-Saxons, who are the highest race.” Farewell, America! shows how U.S. diplomats expressed sympathy for the Nazis during World War II. In Meeting on the Elbe, the CIA agent tries to help a Nazi escape punishment, whereas The Silver Dust depicts a former Nazi scientist assisting American imperialists in creating a weapon of mass destruction and starting a new world war. Film criticism also employed these ideas, as evinced by a review of They Have a Motherland.93 The plot of this film revolves around a West German orphanage for Soviet children forcibly taken away during the Great Patriotic War. U.S. and British intelligence agents supervise the orphanage as part of their aim to turn the Soviet children into cannon fodder for a new war. The film critic Irina Kokoreva calls the agent, Captain Scott, the “real successor of the German fascists.” In her opinion, his task is to turn the Soviet boys into “real men capable of anything.”94 The term “real man” is again employed to mark an alien, un-Soviet interpretation of masculinity.
Images of the enemies created by the cinematic industries of the two Cold War antagonists have often been seen as “mirror images” in the academic literature.95 Soviet representations of the United States are largely similar to images of the USSR in U.S. Cold War cinema, which also aimed to depict the gender order of the primary enemy as contrary to its own, unnatural and contrary to human nature, and an inevitable consequence of an unnatural social and political system. At the same time, the differences in the two superpowers’ identity politics are also important. The very essence of Soviet ideology—emphasizing class over the national principle and highlighting the contradictions within capitalist societies—called for images of both “bad Americans” and “good Americans.” This ideological necessity is made clear in Agitprop's reaction to the manuscript of Ilya Erenburg's book The Night of America (1949). The Soviet propagandists criticized Ehrenburg for not drawing a clear line between the common people of the United States and their oppressors, U.S. imperialists.96
The idea of “two Americas” is formulated clearly in Simonov's play:
For a long time, this man Smith naively imagined there was only one America. But he now knows there are two. And if fortunately for him, yes fortunately, there is no place for this man Smith in the America of Hearst, then he’ll join the other America—the America of Abraham Lincoln, the America of Roosevelt.97
One of the reviews of the play is even titled, “A Play about Two Americas,” and the play was performed under the title “Two Americas” in a theater in Riga.98 Similar ideas were heard from the screen. Smith speaks of “two different Americas” as he criticizes his opponents, warmongers from Wall Street, for being the enemies not only of the USSR but also of the United States. Major Kuzmin asserts, “We Russians love America. We love this country of brave and honest people. We love the America of Whitman, Mark Twain, Edison, Jack London, and Roosevelt.” In The Silver Dust, Allan O’Connell—a “champion of peace”—speaks of the “genuine, honest Americans” who want to work and live in peace. In his view, U.S. warmongers “praise the America of the invaders, the America of the rapists.”
In line with the idea of “two Americas,” each of the films discussed in this article portrays “good Americans” among its main characters (Smith and the secretary Meg Stanley in The Russian Question; the G.I. Harry Perebeinoga and, to some extent, Major Hill in Meeting on the Elbe; Anna Bedford and Armand Howard in Farewell, America!; Jen and Alan O’Connell, Mary and Ben Robinson, and others in The Silver Dust). Among the “good Americans,” one can find representatives of the working class, the “common people,” and Communists. However, the images of the “good Americans” who belong to the middle class (above all, that of Smith) were no less valuable for the purposes of propaganda.99 They make the “right” choice not because of their political engagement but because of their honesty, bravery, and honor.
In addition to the characters’ physical appearance and clothing, filmmakers used music to differentiate the “bad guys” from the “good guys.” The soundtracks to the films were created by prominent Soviet composers; for instance, Aram Khachaturian and Dmitrii Shostakovich for The Russian Question and Meeting on the Elbe, respectively. In representing the enemy, the filmmakers often employed jazz music. Early Cold War official Soviet culture interpreted jazz as a type of music that embodied many of the negative traits of masculinity and femininity: profligacy, bestiality, aggression, cruelty, and lack of lofty ideals, among others.100
The main trait that characterizes the “good Americans” in these movies is their progressive political views and positive attitudes toward the USSR. These two groups of characters differ with regard to gender norms. The “good Americans” often resemble the Soviet characters in this respect. A progressive political position thus leads to exemplary behavior in aspects of masculinity and femininity, and vice versa. The “good” American men display honesty, courage, and physical fighting prowess. They fought against Nazi Germany during World War II and place a high value on male friendship, which is tied to the experience of wartime camaraderie.101 They have respectful (and even chivalrous) attitudes toward women. For instance, Allan O’Connell (The Silver Dust) displays not only political rectitude in unmasking the warmongers but also defends the prostitute Flossie Bate when he says to a gangster, “Keep your paws off ! You can't talk to a woman that way!” “Good” American women have progressive political views, fighting against racism, anti-Sovietism, and warmongerism. They aim to free themselves from the restrictions of the narrow world of bourgeois femininity.102 At the same time, they remain traditionally feminine: physically attractive, kind, compassionate, and chaste.
Soviet cinematic images of African Americans are a special case. The image of black Americans was an essential part of Soviet propaganda from the beginning of the Cold War, and racial discrimination was portrayed as an inalienable part of the American way of life. Considered the most oppressed segment of the U.S. population, African Americans thus seemed potential allies of Communists and the USSR. The Russian Question begins by contrasting black rural poverty to the wealth of white capitalists. In Meeting on the Elbe, African Americans are represented as the victims of white U.S. soldiers’ violence: a black G.I. is beaten by them, and his girlfriend is dragged off to be raped. The Silver Dust centers on the problem of racism, depicting both racists and their victims. The cinematic images of African Americans have many positive traits that resemble the images of positive Soviet characters (i.e., honesty, kindness, and firm family bonds). However, they also confirm Allison Blakely's conclusion about Soviet culture's attitudes toward black people in general: The Soviet public is conditioned more to pity than respect. “Firmly cautioned against the evils of racism,” Blakely points out, “the Soviet public may inadvertently be led to believe in a false inferiority.”103 Only in The Silver Dust are black U.S. citizens shown as protesters who fight against racists and warmongers. However, even this film continues the tradition of depicting African Americans as victims. They are rescued by progressive white Americans.
Cinematic representations of the U.S. gender order served as a weapon of the Cold War. Gender discourse played an important role in othering the United States and providing evidence for the inevitable victory of socialism on the world stage. The aim in depicting the superiority of Soviet over U.S. gender norms was to convince the audience of the superiority of the Soviet social system in general. U.S. gender norms were thus represented as contrary to Soviet ones, as absurd and undesirable. Determined by the very nature of capitalist society, they could be eradicated only by the destruction of capitalism. Those who belonged to “us” embodied normal masculinity and femininity, whereas “they” expressed deviant versions. The men and women of the latter category possessed all the negative traits of capitalist society, including egoism, greed, and racism.
At the same time, in the eyes of Soviet cinema, U.S. masculinity and femininity did not exist as homogenous categories but instead varied depending on class, race, and political beliefs. The vices of the U.S. gender order were determined not by national culture but by the essence of the capitalist system. Soviet ideology's priority of the class principle over the national principle created a demand for cinematic images of “good Americans”—laborers, Communists, “champions of peace,” and African Americans. Their masculinity and femininity differentiated them from the “bad Americans,” in many aspects resembling the gender norms of Soviet society.
Gender analysis in film studies often explores the differences between the approaches of female and male directors. In the case of early Cold War Soviet films, one can hardly discern these differences. This is due not only to the small number of female directors but also to the influence of strict censorship. Filmmakers had to follow the tenets of the state ideology. Changes in how U.S. citizens were portrayed over the course of this period are also hard to discern. Moreover, even the cinema of the “Khrushchev Thaw” did not see significant alterations. Although Soviet gender models changed, the image of U.S. men and women became no less abnormal, though they may have become less intimidating in some films.104 As Yana Hashamova states, “even in the films of the Thaw period, anti-American propaganda appropriates tendencies of Stalinist aesthetics.”105
U.S. femininity is depicted in a similar fashion. For instance, with the image of Suzy Hagger from The Court of Madmen (Grigori Roshal, 1961), her love for the protagonist and scientist Werner is accompanied by the hope that commercial benefit will accrue to their eventual marriage.106 Furthermore, the demasculinization of the enemy continued to be the principal means of depicting U.S. men, evinced for example by the U.S. Marine, aggressive but cowardly and hysterical, performed by Vladimir Vysotsky in “713” Requests Permission to Land (Grigori Nikulin, 1962).107 At the same time, the cinema produced images of the oppressed masculinity of an ordinary U.S. citizen who could not be happy because of the abnormal essence of capitalist society. This model is depicted in the journalist Homer Jones in The Russian Souvenir (Aleksandrov, 1960) and in the pilot Ben Ansley in The Last Inch (Theodor Vulfovich and Nikita Kurikhin, 1958).108
Many of the films analyzed in this article are far from receding into history. Over the last fifteen years, stories and images from Cold War cinema have been featured prominently in the anti-Americanism of Vladimir Putin's Russia, continuing a cinematic tradition that exploits gender imagery.109 This has become especially visible during Putin's third term as president, which commenced in 2012. The protest movement in Russia, alongside Russia's confrontation with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, have encouraged the authorities to exploit gender discourse in legitimizing their power, positioning Russia in the international arena, and shaping Russian national identity through the differentiation of boundaries that distinguish Russia from the “morally corrupt” West.110
I am deeply grateful to Denise Youngblood and Tatiana Riabova for reading an earlier draft of this article and providing valuable comments. Research on the article was supported by the Russian Foundation for Humanities Project 15–03–00010, “The Symbol of Motherland in Contemporary Russian Symbolic Politics.”
Tony Shaw, Hollywood's Cold War (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2007), p. 26.
Tony Jackson, “The Manchurian Candidate and the Gender of the Cold War,” Literature-Film Quarterly, Vol. 28, No. 1 (2000), pp. 34–40; Dana Heller, “A Passion for Extremes: Hollywood's Cold War Romance with Russia,” Comparative American Studies, Vol. 3, No. 1 (March 2005), pp. 89–110; Michael Kackman, Citizen Spy: Television, Espionage, and Cold War Culture (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2005); and Helen Laville, “‘Our Country Endangered by Underwear’: Fashion, Femininity, and the Seduction Narrative in Ninotchka and Silk Stockings,” Diplomatic History, Vol. 30, No. 4 (2006), pp. 623–644. I share Robert Connell's interpretation of gender order as being both a system of power relations between men and women and a specific understanding of masculinities and femininities. See Robert W. Сonnell, Gender and Power: Society, the Person and Sexual Politics (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1987), pp. 98–99.
Peter Kenez, Cinema and Soviet Society, 1917–1953 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1992); Maya Turovskaya, “Soviet Films of the Cold War,” in Richard Taylor and Derek Spring, eds., Stalinism and Soviet Cinema (London; New York: Routledge, 1993); David Gillespie, Russian Cinema (New York: Longman, 2002); Denise J. Youngblood, Russian War Films: On the Cinema Front, 1914–2005 (Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 2006); Evgeny Dobrenko, Stalinist Cinema and the Production of History (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2008); Peter Rollberg, Historical Dictionary of Russian and Soviet Cinema (Lanham, MD; Toronto; Plymouth, UK: Scarecrow Press, 2008); Stephen M. Norris and Zara M. Torlone, eds., Insiders and Outsiders in Russian Cinema (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2008); Birgit Beumers, A History of Russian Cinema (New York: Berg Publishers, 2009); and Aleksandr V. Fedorov, “Obrazy kholodnoi voiny: Proektsiya politiki protivostoyaniya na ekrane,” Polis, No. 4 (2010), pp. 48–64. For works analyzing the gender dimension of Soviet films, see John Haynes, New Soviet Man: Gender and Masculinity in Stalinist Soviet Cinema (Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2003); Jill Steans, “Revisionist Heroes and Dissident Heroines: Gender, Nation and War in Soviet Films of ‘the Thaw,’” Global Society, Vol. 24, No. 3 (2010), pp. 401–419; and Marko Dumanĉić, “Rescripting Stalinist Masculinity: Contesting the Male Ideal in Soviet Film and Society, 1953–1968,” Ph.D. Diss., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2010.
Tony Shaw and Denise Youngblood, Cinematic Cold War: The American and Soviet Struggle for Hearts and Minds (Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 2010); Oleg V. Ryabov, “‘Mister Dzhon Lankaster Pek’: Amerikanskaya maskulinnost’ v sovetskom kinematografe Kholodnoi voiny (1946–1963),” Zhenshchina v rossiiskom obshchestve, No. 4 (2012), pp. 11–27; and Rhiannon Dowling, “Communism, Consumerism, and Gender in Early Cold War Film: The Case of Ninotchka and Russkii vopros,” Aspasia: The International Yearbook of Central, Eastern, and Southeastern European Women's and Gender History, Vol. 8 (2014), pp. 117–132.
This includes 22 films in 1946, 22 in 1947, 16 in 1948, 17 in 1949, 12 in 1950, 9 in 1951, 23 in 1952, and 44 in 1953. See Kenez, Cinema and Soviet Society, p. 210.
The Russian Question, directed by Mikhail Romm (Moscow: Mosfilm, 1947).
David Caute, The Dancer Defects: The Struggle for Cultural Supremacy during the Cold War (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), pp. 110–111.
Quoted in Dowling, “Communism, Consumerism, and Gender in Early Cold War Film,” p. 28.
Meeting on the Elbe, directed by Grigorii Aleksandrov (Moscow: Mosfilm, 1949).
Farewell, America!, directed by Aleksandr Dovzhenko (Moscow: Mosfilm, 1950–1996).
The Silver Dust, directed by Abram Room (Moscow: Mosfilm, 1953).
Quoted in Caute, The Dancer Defects, p. 158.
Oleg Kovalov, “Zvezda nad step’yu: Amerika v zerkale sovetskogo kino,” Iskusstvo kino, No. 10 (2003), pp. 73–98.
The First Glove, directed by Andrei Frolov (Moscow: Mosfilm, 1946); The Court of Honor, directed by Abram Room (Moscow: Mosfilm, 1949); They Have a Motherland, directed by Vladimir Legoshin and Aleksandr Faintsimmer (Moscow: Gorky Film Studio, 1950); The Conspiracy of the Doomed, directed by Mikhail Kalatozov (Moscow: Mosfilm, 1950); and Secret Mission, directed by Mikhail Romm (Moscow: Mosfilm, 1950). For a detailed description of these films, see Shaw and Youngblood, Cinematic Cold War, pp. 41–47.
Robert Griffith, “The Cultural Turn in Cold War Studies,” Reviews in American History, Vol. 29, No. 1 (March 2001), pp. 150–157; and Gordon Johnston, “Revisiting the Cultural Cold War,” Social History, Vol. 35, No. 3 (August 2010), pp. 290–307.
Iosif V. Stalin, “Pis’mo tovarishchu Shumyatskomu,” Pravda (Moscow), 11 January 1935, p. 1.
On exploiting Hollywood in the Cold War confrontation, see Shaw, Hollywood's Cold War, p. 26.
See Grigorii Aleksandrov, “Gollivud v nashi dni,” Iskusstvo kino, No. 3 (1951), p. 47. See also Vsevolod Pudovkin and Еlena Smirnova, “Peredovoi otryad mirovogo kinoiskusstva,” Iskusstvo kino, No. 7 (1947), p. 13.
Sarah Davies, “Soviet Cinema and the Early Cold War: Pudovkin's Admiral Nakhimov in Context,” in Rana Mitter and Patrick Major, eds., Across the Blocs: Cold War Cultural and Social History (London: Routledge, 2004), p. 50.
Aleksandr V. Fedorov, Transformatsii obraza Rossii na zapadnom ekrane: Ot epokhi ideologicheskoi konfrontatsii (1946–1991) do sovremennogo etapa (1992–2010) (Moscow: Informatsiya dlya vsekh, 2010).
Ivan Bol’shakov, “God perestroiki,” Iskusstvo kino, No. 6 (1947), pp. 1–3.
On film censorship, see Aleksandra G. Kolesnikova, “Igrovoi kinematograf serediny 1950-kh—serediny 1980-kh gg. kak instrument sovetskoi propagandy: Formirovanie i aktualizatsiya obraza vraga,” Bylye gody, Vol. 19, No. 1 (2011), p. 69; and Richard Taylor, “Seeing Red: Political Control of Cinema in the Soviet Union,” in Daniel Biltereyst and Roel Vande Winkel, eds., Silencing Cinema: Film Censorship around the World (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), pp. 97–108.
“O kinofil’me ‘Bol’shaiya zhizn’,’” in Aleksandr Yakovlev, ed., Vlast’ i khudozhestvennaya intelligentsiya: Dokumenty TsK RKP(b)—VKP(b)—VChK—OGPU—NKBD o kul’turnoi politike, 1917–1953 (Moscow: Demokratiya, 1999).
“Spisok zagraniсhnykh kinofil’mov dlya vypuska na zakrytyi i shirokii ekran (27 avg. 1948 g.),” in Kirill M. Anderson et al., eds., Kremlyevskii kinoteatr, 1928–1953: Dokumenty (Moscow: Rosspen, 2005), pp. 803–805.
“Anonimnoe pis’mo v Komitet partiinogo kontrolya pri TsK VKP(b) o propagande amerikanskogo obraza zhizni cherez sovetskii kinoekran (ranee 3 noyabrya 1950 g.),” in Anderson et al., eds., Kremlyevskii kinoteatr, p. 852. Kenez mentions discussions of The Girl of My Dreams in the pages of Culture and Life (March 1947). Spectators condemned it as a film that “caters to the basest tastes.” See Kenez, Cinema and Soviet Society, 1917–1953, p. 213.
Joanne Sharp, Condensing the Cold War: Reader's Digest and American Identity (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000), pp. 29, 73.
Dzhangir Nadzhafov, “K voprosu o genezise kholodnoi voiny,” in Natalya I. Egorova and Aleksandr O. Chubar’yan, eds., Kholodnaya voina 1945–1963 gg: Istoricheskaya retrospektiva (Moscow: Olma-Press, 2003), pp. 53–56; and Ted Hopf, Reconstructing the Cold War: The Early Years, 1945–1958 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012).
Vladislav Zubok and Eric Shiraev, Anti-Americanism in Russia: From Stalin to Putin (New York: Palgrave, 2000).
“Plan meropriyatii po usileniyu antiamerikanskoi propagandy na blizhaishee vremya,” in Dzhangir Nadzhafov, ed., Stalin i kosmopolitizm, 1945–1953: Dokumenty Agitpropa TsK KPSS (Moscow: Demokratiya, 2005), p. 322.
Ibid., p. 324. On the role of moral issues in Soviet cinema's creation of the American enemy during the nascent Cold War, see Davies, “Soviet Cinema and the Early Cold War,” pp. 57–61.
Cynthia H. Enloe, The Morning After: Sexual Politics at the End of the Cold War (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993), pp. 18–19.
Fredrik Barth, “Introduction,” in Fredrik Barth, ed., Ethnic Groups and Boundaries: The Social Organization of Culture Difference (London: Allen & Unwin, 1969), p. 14.
Nira Yuval-Davis, Gender and Nation (London: Sage Publications, 1997), p. 23.
Joan W. Scott, “Gender: A Useful Category of Historical Analysis,” The American Historical Review, Vol. 91, No. 5 (December 1986), p. 1067.
Katherine K. Verdery, “From Parent-State to Family Patriarchs: Gender and Nation in Contemporary Eastern Europe,” East European Politics and Societies, Vol. 8, No. 2 (Spring 1994), p. 228; and Thomas H. Eriksen, “The Sexual Life of Nations: Notes on Gender and Nationhood,” Kvinder, køn og forskning, No. 2 (2002), pp. 52–65.
Elaine Tyler May, Homeward Bound: American Families in the Cold War Era (New York: Basic Books, 1988), p. 18; Dzheyms Rikhter, “Ideologii o roli zhenshchiny v obshchestve v SShA i Rossii v period ‘kholodnoii voiny,’” Zhenshchina v rossiiskom obshchestve, No. 3 (1997), pp. 91–104; Laura Belmonte, Selling the American Way: U.S. Propaganda and the Cold War (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008); and Mary Brennan, Wives, Mothers, and the Red Menace: Conservative Women and the Crusade Against Communism (Boulder: University Press of Colorado, 2008).
Frederick Engels, The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State (Sydney: Resistance Books, 2004), p. 151.
V. Grachev, “Voprosy semeinoi morali v kinoiskusstve,” Iskusstvo kino, No. 2 (1950), p. 11.
Farewell, America! contains a scene of sexual harassment as well. The counselor of the U.S. embassy, Marrow, offers Anna Bedford help in obtaining a quick promotion but gives a broad hint about what he expects in exchange.
Anatolii Abramov, “‘Russkii vopros’—Tema, geroi, fil’my,” Iskusstvo kino, No. 2 (1948), p. 16.
A. A. Zhdanov, “Stenogramma vystupleniya A. A. Zhdanova na soveshchanii TsK KPSS po voprosam kino, 26 April 1946,” in Anderson et al., eds., Kremlevskii kinoteatr, p. 725.
Peter Kenez, “The Picture of the Enemy in Stalinist Films,” in Stephen M. Norris and Zara M. Torlone, eds., Insiders and Outsiders in Russian Cinema (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2008), p. 105.
On the role of religious themes in Soviet cinema, see John B. Dunlop, “Religious Themes in Recent Soviet Cinema,” Religion in Communist Lands, Vol. 16, No. 3 (1988), pp. 210–226.
Lynne Attwood, Creating the New Soviet Woman: Women's Magazines as Engineers of Female Identity, 1922–53 (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1999).
Shaw and Youngblood, Cinematic Cold War, p. 88.
Kenez, “The Picture of the Enemy in Stalinist Films,” p. 110.
In August Jakobson's play The Jackals (1951), on which the screenplay is based, Doris expresses a wish to attend the execution in person. See August Yakobson, Shakaly (Moscow: Sovetskii pisatel’, 1952), p. 89.
Rikhter, “Ideologii o roli zhenshchiny v obshchestve,” p. 40.
Dowling, “Communism, Consumerism, and Gender in Early Cold War Film,” pp. 28, 30.
Caute, The Dancer Defects, pp. 103–104.
In the 1970s, History of Soviet Cinema rated the role as follows: “You feel more sorry for her than condemnatory because she cannot bear the half-starving (polugolodnyi), destitute life awaiting her. … Kuzmina reveals the tragedy of the woman; corrupted but understanding her corruption, she lacks the strength and willpower to live differently.” See Caute, The Dancer Defects, p. 115.
Elena Kuz’mina, O tom, chto pomniu (Moscow: Iskusstvo, 1989), p. 169.
Abramov, “‘Russkii vopros,’” p. 16.
See, for instance, the 1949 animated film The Ambulance (Lamis Bredis). In analyzing how the film criticism of the “Khrushchev Thaw” criticized consumerism and domesticity, Marko Dumančić points out that the approach was quite misogynistic. See Marko Dumančić, “The Cold War's Cultural Ecosystem: Angry Young Men in British and Soviet Cinema, 1953–1968,” Cold War History, Vol. 14, No. 3 (2014), pp. 403–422.
Vera Sandomirsky Dunham, “The Strong-Woman Motif,” in Cyril E. Black, ed., The Transformation of Russian Society: Aspects of Social Change since 1861 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1960), pp. 459–483; and Oleg Ryabov, “Rossiya-Matushka”: Natsionalizm, gender i voina v Rossii XX veka (Stuttgart: Ibidem-Verlag, 2007), pp. 216–217.
V. Grachev, Obraz sovremennika v kinoiskusstve: Kriticheskie zametki o dramaturgii sovetskikh fil’mov (Moscow: Goskinoizdat, 1951), p. 110. In The Russian Question, Gould openly tells Jessie that he had got married only for money to a “really unattractive but very rich woman.”
Engels, The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State, pp. 78–80. In the propagandistic literature of that period, family relations in American society are depicted in even darker colors: See Yakov E. Pesin, Sem’ya v sotsialisticheskom obshchestve (Tashkent: Gosizdat UzSSR, 1955), p. 10. For more detail, see Oleg Ryabov, “‘Ikh nravy’: Amerikanskaya sem’ya v zerkale sovetskoi propagandy ‘kholodnoi voiny,’” in S. Ushakin, ed., Semeinye uzy: “Modely dlya sborki” (Moscow: NLO, 2003), pp. 173–187.
On the issue of sexuality in picturing “us” in Stalinist cinema, see Haynes, New Soviet Man, pp. 82–83.
For instance, Zinaida Guseva, Voprosy sem’i, lyubvi i nravstvennosti i khudozhestvennaya literatura (Penza, USSR: n.pub., 1952), pp. 5–10. As for the cinema, profligacy served as a sort of calling card for “imaginary Hollywood.” Journalists, film critics, leading directors, and the chief leaders of Soviet cinema wrote about “Hollywood's defilers.” See, for instance, Мikhail Chaureli, “Peredovaya kul’tura mira,” Iskusstvo kino, No. 5 (1948), p. 7; and Pudovkin and Smirnova, “Peredovoi otryad mirovogo kinoiskusstva,” p. 13. Hence, directors’ attention to the sexual aspects of human life received the mark of “Hollywoodness” and therefore ideological and aesthetical alienness. Soviet filmmakers, censors, and critics had to take this into serious consideration.
The director writes: “American advertising is unspeakably indecent. And it is very strange and unpleasant to see American women calmly walk past this cascade of vulgar and garish pornography. … The most unpleasant thing is that the women walking down the street stopped noticing long ago how insulting is the part assigned to them by American commercial ‘culture.’” See Sergei Gerasimov, “Dvenadtsat’ dnei v Amerike,” Literaturnaya gazeta, No. 37 (1949), p. 14.
Kenez, “The Picture of the Enemy in Stalinist Films,” p. 109.
On the use of this theme in Hollywood films, see Cynthia Hendershot, Anti-Communism and Popular Culture in Mid-Century America (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2003), p. 9.
Quoted in Grigorii Aleksandrov, Epokha i kino (Moscow: Politizdat, 1976), p. 297. The film critic Aleksandr Maryamov writes that in this movie Orlova “parodies the image of la femme fatale known from Hollywood films. That is rather logical because it is Hollywood's output that serves as the instructional material for bringing up the scum of the earth who join the American intelligence service. A cold, excessively rational, mendacious Janet Sherwood shifts from a declaration of love to feigned tears, and from tears to an arrogant speech delivered before her departure for America.” See Aleksandr Mar’yamov, “Bor’ba za mir,” Iskusstvo kino, No. 2 (1949), p. 12.
Shaw and Youngblood, Cinematic Cold War.
Carol Cohn, “Wars, Wimps, and Women: Talking Gender and Thinking War,” in Miriam Cooke and Angela Woollacott, eds., Gendering War Talk (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993), pp. 239–241.
Charlotte Hooper, Manly States: Masculinities, International Relations, and Gender Politics (New York: Columbia University Press, 2001), pp. 84–88.
J. Ann Tickner, Gendering World Politics: Issues and Approaches in the Post–Cold War Era (New York: Columbia University Press, 2001), p. 54.
Tyler May, Homeward Bound, p. 98. For instance, U.S. international politics in the late 1970s received the following evaluation: “under Jimmy Carter, the United States is spreading its legs for the Soviet Union.” See Сohn, “Wars, Wimps, and Women,” p. 236. David Campbell demonstrates the gendered character of the Cold War exclusion of American Communists through demasculinization, as indicated by the abusive term “pinko.” See David Campbell, Writing Security: United States Foreign Policy and the Politics of Identity (Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 1992), pp. 157–158.
Quoted in Andrei Fateev, Obraz vraga v sovetskoi propagande 1945–1954 gg (Moscow: Institut rossiiskoi istorii RAN, 1999), p. 82.
Mountain Outpost, directed by Konstantin Yudin (Moscow: Mosfilm, 1953).
In Peaceful Days, directed by Vladimir Braun (Kyiv film studio, 1950).
Richard Stites, Russian Popular Culture: Entertainment and Society since 1900 (Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press, 1992), pp. 126–127; and Elena Zubkova, Poslevoennoe sovetskoe obshchestvo: Politika i povsednevnost’ (Moscow: Yurist, 1999), pp. 53–54. For instance, to meet Western fashion requirements, stilyaga Gleb (The Peers, Vasilii Ordynsky, 1959) steals a brightly colored scarf from his younger sister. In this way, U.S. men's fashion is obviously demasculinized as well.
In Imperial Russia, this contrast was sometimes expressed with the help of the opposition of the “Russian bogatyr’ vs. the Western knight.” See Ryabov, “Rossiya-Matushka,” pp. 126–127, 159–160. In post-Soviet Russia, an image of national masculinity—that of the Russian muzhik—is actively exploited to legitimize the political system of the 2000s. See Tatyana Ryabova and Oleg Ryabov, “The Real Man of Politics in Russia (On Gender Discourse as a Resource for the Authority),” Social Sciences, Vol. 42, No. 3 (2011), pp. 58–71.
Later, the ability to drink as evidence of the superiority of Russian over Western masculinity was depicted in Sergei Bondarchuk's Destiny of a Man (Moscow: Mosfilm, 1959).
Circus, directed by Grigorii Aleksandrov (Moscow: Mosfilm, 1936).
Frank Costigliola, “‘Unceasing Pressure for Penetration’: Gender, Pathology, and Emotion in George Kennan's Formation of the Cold War,” Journal of American History, Vol. 83 (March 1997), p. 1310.
Joshua S. Goldstein, War and Gender: How Gender Shapes the War System and Vice Versa (Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press, 2001), p. 252.
Tickner, Gendering World Politics, p. 57.
Yuval-Davis, Gender and Nation, p. 94. On this issue and with regard to the Soviet experience in World War II, see Ryabov, “Rossiya-Matushka”; and Helena Goscilo, “Graphic Womanhood under Fire,” in Helena Goscilo and Yana Hashamova, eds., Embracing Arms: Cultural Representation of Slavic and Balkan Women in War (Budapest: Central European University Press, 2012).
For example, Sam Keen, Faces of the Enemy: Reflections of the Hostile Imagination (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1986); and Thomas H. Eriksen, Ethnicity and Nationalism: Anthropological Perspectives (London: Pluto Press, 1993), p. 108.
Sharp, Condensing the Cold War, p. 193. In Cold War Europe, the nationalist backlash against the United States was also generated with the help of representations of U.S. soldiers as rapists and seducers of local women. See Valur Ingimundarson, “Immunizing against the American Other: Racism, Nationalism, and Gender in U.S.-Icelandic Military Relations during the Cold War,” Journal of Cold War Studies, Vol. 6, No. 4 (Fall 2004), pp. 66–68.
Michael Barson and Steven Heller, Red Scared! The Commie Menace in Propaganda and Popular Culture (San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2001), pp. 153, 159.
For instance, in 1952 the Ministry for State Security published The Bestial Character of American-English Imperialism, a book that presents U.S. soldiers’ behavior in the Russian Far East during the Russian Civil War in the following way: “Americans attacked women and girls like beasts, arranging outright raids. The invaders raped them, locked them in train cars, and then threw them out of the train at full speed. Dozens of female corpses mutilated beyond recognition were found near Zaigraevo station. It turned out that the invaders first raped the women, then killed them, and desecrated their corpses.” See “O chudovishchnykh zverstvakh amerikano-angliiskikh imperialistov na Sovetskom Dal’nem Vostoke (Po materialam okruzhnykh gazet politotdelov okrugov),” in Zverinyi oblik amerikano-angliiskogo imperializma (Moscow: Politupravlenie pogranvoisk MGB SSSR, 1952), p. 88.
Grigorii Roshal’, “Geroi standartnogo gollivudskogo fil’ma,” Iskusstvo kino, No. 5 (1947), pp. 30–31. Note once again the ironic use of the phrase “real man.”
Keen, Faces of the Enemy. On the dehumanization of the USSR through the image of the “Russian bear,” see Oleg Ryabov, “‘V lesu est’ medved’’: Medvezh’ya metafora kak oruzhie Kholodnoi voiny,” in Oleg Ryabov and Andrzej de Lazari, eds., “Russkii medved’”: Istoriya, semiotika, politika (Moscow: NLO, 2012).
Iosif V. Stalin, “Beseda s delegatsiei obshchestva ‘Finlyandiya—SSSR,’ 8 oktyabrya 1945,” in Sochineniya, Vol. 16 (Moscow: ITRK, 2011), ch. 1; and A. A. Zhdanov, “Stenogramma vystupleniya A.A. Zhdanova na soveshchanii TsK KPSS po voprosam kino, 26 apr. 1946 g.,” in Anderson et al., eds., Kremlevskii kinoteatr, p. 727.
Roshal, “Geroi standartnogo gollivudskogo fil’ma,” pp. 30–31.
One can find analogous ways of representing the enemy on the opposite side of the Iron Curtain. See Suzanne Clark, Cold Warriors: Manliness on Trial in the Rhetoric of the West (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2000), p. 37.
Iosif V. Stalin, “O rechi Cherchillya: Otvet korrespondentu ‘Pravdy,’” Pravda (Moscow), 14 March 1946.
A. Solov’ev, “Dramaturgiya kinoproizvedenii, posvyashchennykh bor’be za mir,” Iskusstvo kino, No. 2 (1951), p. 22.
Irina Kokoreva, “V zashchitu spravedlivosti,” Iskusstvo kino, No. 2 (1950), p. 30. The critic depicts U.S. women in analogous ways. A journalist from the movie, Mrs. Dodge, is characterized as a “Nazi storm trooper under the guise of a representative of the free press.”
Jerome D. Frank, Sanity and Survival: Psychological Aspects of War and Peace (New York: Random House, 1967), p. 26.
“Dokladnaya zapiska Agitpropa TsK M. A. Suslovu o rukopisi knigi I. G. Erenburga ‘Noch’ Ameriki,’” in Nadzhafov, ed., Stalin i kosmopolitizm, 1945–1953, pp. 497–498.
Quoted in Caute, The Dancer Defects, p. 100.
D. Zaslavskii, “P’esa o dvukh Amerikakh,” Kul’tura i zhizn’, No. 9 (1947), p. 3.
Caute, The Dancer Defects, p. 112.
Viktor Gorodinskii, Muzyka dukhovnoi nishchety (Leningrad: Muzgiz, 1950), pp. 56–59.
Caute, The Dancer Defects, p. 95.
In this respect, the image of Cynthia Kidd, a character from Boris Lavrenev's play The Voice of America (1949) is significant. She protests against the subjugation of women in the American family order, confessing to her husband, “I want to be your friend and comrade; I want to be a human being. That is not customary in America. But I want that.” See Boris Lavrenev, Golos Ameriki (Moscow: Iskusstvo, 1952), p. 39.
Allison Blakely, Russia and the Negro: Blacks in Russian History and Thought (Washington, DC: Howard University Press, 1986), p. 141. The same tendency displays itself in other branches of Soviet propaganda—for example, in caricature. See Oleg Riabov, “B&W Graphics: Black and White Americans in the Soviet Caricatures during the Cold War,” in Yuri P. Tretyakov and Elena M. Apenko, eds., Russian-American Links: African Americans in Russia (St. Petersburg: Nauka Publishers, 2009), pp. 295–304.
For instance, The Cranes Are Flying, directed by Mikhail Kalatozov (Moscow: Mosfilm, 1957), and Ballad of a Soldier, directed by Grigorii Chukhray (Moscow: Mosfilm, 1959), challenge the primacy of the political man and the warrior hero, valorizing the private over the public. See Steans, “Revisionist Heroes and Dissident Heroines,” pp. 401–419; Gillespie, Russian Cinema, p. 88; and Shaw and Youngblood, Cinematic Cold War.
Yana Hashamova, Pride and Panic: Russian Imagination of the West in Post-Soviet Film (Chicago: Intellect Ltd., 2007), p. 27. On the same tendency in representations of foreigners in general, see Julian Graffy, “Scant Sign of Thaw: Fear and Anxiety in the Representation of Foreigners in the Soviet Films of the Khrushchev Years,” in Stephen Hutchings, ed., Russia and its Other(s) on Film: Screening Intercultural Dialogue (Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008), pp. 27–46.
The Court of Madmen, directed by Grigorii Roshal’ (Moscow: Mosfilm, 1961).
“713” Requests Permission to Land, directed by Grigori Nikulin (Leningrad: Lenfilm, 1962).
The Russian Souvenir, directed by Grigorii Aleksandrov (Moscow: Mosfilm, 1960); and The Last Inch, directed by Theodor Vulfovich and Nikita Kurikhin (Leningrad: Lenfilm, 1958).
Susan Larsen, “National Identity, Cultural Authority and the Post-Soviet Blockbuster: Nikita Mikhalkov and Aleksei Balabanov,” Slavic Review, Vol. 62, No. 3 (Autumn 2003), p. 501; Nancy Condee, The Imperial Trace: Recent Russian Cinema (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), ch. 8; and Tatyana Ryabova and Anastasiya Romanova, “Gendernoe izmerenie sovremennogo rossiiskogo antiamerikanizma,” Zhenshchina v rossiiskom obshchestve, No. 3 (2012), pp. 21–35.
Oleg Riabov and Tatiana Riabova, “Remasculinization of Russia? Gender, Nationalism and Legitimation of Power under Vladimir Putin,” Problems of Post-Communism, Vol. 61, No. 2 (2014), pp. 23–35; and Valerie Sperling, Sex, Politics, and Putin: Political Legitimacy in Russia (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014).