Saint Petersburg is the trailblazer for movies in Russia

Saint Petersburg was the first city in Russia where movies arrived. The first movie was filmed in France in the middle of the 1890's, and the first films arrived to St. Petersburg just a few years later. Researcher Pentti Stranius from the University of Joensuu says, that the October Revolution - the center of which St. Petersburg was - is also linked to cultural revolution.

- Movie has a broad contact surface to revolutionary ideology and that is one of the reasons why Eisenstein's revolutionary movies became so noteworthy in all of the Soviet Union. They were almost reality, these Eisenstein's fictious revolutionary movies which originated from the studio in St. Petersburg - for example Strike, Battleship Potemkin and October, Stranius characterizes and continues:

Lenin had stated that for them movies were the most important art form. In a way it was legible art for the people who could not read. 80 percent of the population in Russian countryside were illitarate. Movies were a way to produce cultural revolution and also to make propaganda for the Bolshevist ideas.

But Lenin also saw movies as art. According to Stranius, the leaders of the cultural revolution were able to give movie making the role it deserved. Because of this, the Soviet movies gained world-wide appreciation in the 1920's. Experiments were allowed and movies were financed, even though the country was otherwise struggling.

The proximity of Leningradaffected Finland as well

Before the year 1917 movies were spreading via St. Petersburg to Helsinki. In the 1920's and 1930's the border was closed, and the proximity of Leningrad did not affect Finnish movies. After World War II the situation changed slightly.

Stranius says that there are hints of socialist realism in Finnish movies. He mentions Mikko Niskanen's movies The Boys and Eight Deadly Shots as examples.

Alternative movieswere made in Leningrad

St. Petersburg is historical cultural centre of Russia, and in a way it has always been in opposition to Moscow. This is visible in films as well.

Text:   Marita Korpela
Translation:   Petri Kiukkonen and Tytti Pohjola

Read more:
The History of St. Petersburg Is a Part of Russian History (FN 5.3.2003)
The Sights of St. Petersburg (FN 5.3.2003)