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Cinema of Crisis: Russian Chernukha Cinema, Its Cultural Context and Cross-Cultural Connections Open Access


Other title
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Isakava, Volha
Supervisor and department
Siemens, Elena (Modern Languages and Cultural Studies)
Beard, William (English and Film Studies)
Examining committee member and department
Cisneros, Odile (Modern Languages and Cultural Studies)
Marples, David (History and Classics)
Rolland, Peter (Modern Languages and Cultural Studies)
Borenstein, Eliot (Russian and Slavic Studies, New York University, U.S.A.)
Department of Modern Languages and Cultural Studies
Slavic Languages and Literatures
Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
The present work explores Russian cinema of perestroika, specifically the bleak trend known as chernukha. The project offers a comparative analysis of chernukha and film noir, looking into how these cinemas of crisis channel social anxieties in times of transition. It illuminates the significance of chernukha art for understanding the traumatic history of the perestroika and early post-Soviet years, its ties to Russian and international cultural context as well as the function of chernukha’s dark vision in Russian culture. The thesis traces the roots of chernukha cinema to the Russian 19th century natural school, and compares the cinematic trend with the neo-naturalist fiction of the perestroika era and the postmodernist prose of the time. The thesis argues that chernukha cinema relates directly to both representations of history and questions of ethics. Chernukha’s transgressive visceral visual style and pessimistic narratives function as an unmediated traumatic re-enactment of the collapse of the Soviet way of life, offering a nihilistic deconstruction of previous dominant narratives and articulating an ethical breech in cultural expectations and representations. Using the concept of film world I argue that, similar to film noir and neo noir, chernukha presents a film world that is a distinct universe, to which there seems to be no alternative or any counteractive sense of normalcy. To present a systemic study of chernukha cinema in addition to history, cultural context, visual style and narrative strategies, the thesis also examines the patterns of characterization in chernukha cinema and the representations of body, sexuality and gender.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
Citation for previous publication
Isakava, Volha. "The Body in the Dark: Body, Sexuality and Trauma in Perestroika Cinema". Studies in Russian and Soviet Cinema. Issue 3 (2), 2009. 201-214

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