OSA | Visions after the Fall: Program

Visions after the Fall: Museums, Archives and Cinema in Reshaping Popular Perceptions of the Socialist Past

Barbara Wurm: Dance Floors of Liberation Waltzes. Post-Communist Perspectives on the Shaping of an Imaginary Neutral Center of Cold War Europe (Austria in Soviet Newsreel and Documentaries)

For war- and postwar Russia/USSR Austria, compared to other Central European countries, always seemed to have been a dance floor for freedom waltzes. Austria – or rather its imaginary community - "truly" seemed to welcome "liberation" by the Red Army, since it helped to establish what later became the great mythological foundation of its neutral status – being "liberated" meant being considered the first victim of fascist Germany (and not, as in fact was the case, a congenious partner of an unforced alliance). For the Soviet Union, on the other hand, what could have been a more convincing ally than a country and its people, who neither shared the image of the cruel enemy, nor the obvious "forced happiness" of the yet-to-be communist brothers.
In my paper I want to stress the mutual shaping of these images, as they reveal themselves in newsreels and documentaries as well as in some intriguing institutional reflexions of this symbiosis. Austria and the Soviet Union build a surprisingly efficient couple. The waltzing starts even before the first Soviet soldiers cross the borders (and within a few minutes visit the Johann-Strauß-monument in the Wiener Stadtpark and take a walk to the Wienerwald - as in Posel'skijs documentary Vena, 1945). It starts with the legendary Johann-Strauß bio-pic The Great Waltz (USA 1938), which apparently Stalin loved so much that from June 1940 it was shown all over the Soviet Union and had a considerable impact not only on "Red Hollywood" but also on the future occupants / liberators. The linking between the "musical" shaping of Austrian post-war images and Soviet liberation is also obvious in Val's svobody (1965, Anatolij A. Kološin).
Although none of these films have ever been forbidden or locked away, there are certain reasons for their rediscovery (opening up the archives still does have a lot to do with it) and reevaluation from a post-communist point of view, since it is not only the writing of Soviet history that is being touched by the political changes, but Austria's self-image as well.

Barbara Wurm is a film expert and is currently working on her doctoral project "Biopolitics and the Visual Regime. "New Man" and "New Seeing" in Early Soviet Documentary Film (1920s)" at the Humboldt-University, (Berlin). She holds a graduate degree in Russian/Slavic Studies, German Studies and Comparative Literature from the University of Vienna. From 2004 Barbara Wurm is a member of the selection committee of the International Leipzig Festival for Documentary and Animated Film, and in 2006 she worked as a programmer and consultant for cinema-theatres in Leipzig, Munich, Berlin & Vienna (Kino-Revolution, 2006, Österreichisches Filmmuseum.)Her primary research and teaching interests are film, media and literary theory and history, with the focus on Russian/Eastern European Culture. Barbara Wurm is an author of numerous articles, translations, film reviews, co-author and editor of 8 books on the history of early Soviet cinema, Russian culture and literature, including, most recently, Dziga Vertov. Die Vertov-Sammlung im Österreichischen Filmmuseum (2006) (with Thomas Tode).

« Back

Date: June 10, Saturday

Time: 11.30-12 am



© 1995-2012 OSA Archivum at Central European University