The Evolution of Homo Sovieticus: The Representation of the Scientist in Post-war Soviet Film

If you are in London, be sure to check out the Russian Cinema Research Group’s event at UCL next week:



Time: Oct 13, 2014 6:00:00 PM

Place: Room 433, UCL SSEES Building, 16 Taviton Street, London, WC1H 0BW

Tom McLenachan (UCL SSEES)

This paper explores the representation of the scientist in Aleksandr Razumnyi’s Miklukho-Maklai(1947) as a means of addressing cultural and ideological debates on the role of science in the Soviet Union. The film, portraying the life of N. N. Miklukho-Maklai (1846-1888) and his pioneering anthropological research in New Guinea, offers a lens through which to inspect both Russia’s reaction to contested evolutionary theories in the nineteenth century (including Darwinism, Lamarckism and Monogenism/Polygenism) and the Soviet Union’s re-evaluation of these debates during late Stalinism.Miklukho-Maklai is considered alongside other biographical films about scientists from the period, such as Michurin (1948) and Akademik Ivan Pavlov(1949), highlighting key tropes and nonconformities that serve to envisage, mythologise and reflect on the role of the scientist in the Soviet project. Special attention is given to one of the ethnographic research methods used by Miklukho-Maklai in the film, scientific illustration, which will pave the way for further discussion about the relationship between science, the arts and ideology in the Soviet Union.

Tom McLenachan is a second-year research student at UCL SSEES, working under the supervision of Dr Philip Cavendish on a thesis that explores the representation of the scientist in Soviet film between the post-war era and the end of the Soviet period. His article ‘Truth is Stranger than Science Fiction: The Quest for Knowledge in Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris and Stalker’ has been selected for publication in Slovo, SSEES’s postgraduate-run academic journal, to which Tom also contributes film reviews and editorial advice. Tom’s film-related research interests include: the cinema of Andrei Tarkovskii and Sergei Parajanov; Soviet science-fiction film; and new musical accompaniments to 1920s silent film.

Find more details about the research group and the event here.


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