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Location & Connections

 

Visiting Fellows 2014-2015

Christine Engel, University of Innsbruck, Austria

“Eurasianism and Lev N. Gumilev's Heritage in Recent Russian Cinema"
(May-June 2015)


Biography:
Christine Engel has specialized on Russian culture, first of all on literature and film. After her studies at the universities of Graz, St. Petersburg (Leningrad) and Innsbruck she dedicated her first doctoral thesis to the literary movement of the so-called Young Prose during the Thaw-period. In her PhD thesis (Habilitation) she was concerned with the changes in the Russian literary system during the years of perestroika. As a follow-up of her interest in cultural processes in Russia she wrote the chapter on contemporary Russian literature in Russische Literaturgeschichte (22011, ed. K. Staedtke). Her recent studies on Viktor Erofeev and Evgenii Popov will appear in 2014 in the comprehensive volume Die Russische Kurzgeschichte (ed. B. Zelinsky). Back in the 1980s she took up her film studies and edited the volume Geschichte des sowjetischen und russischen Films in 1999. A number of her articles are dedicated to the interconnections between literature, film, and film adaptations of literature. In her lectures and classes as a professor for Russian literature and culture in the Slavic Department of Innsbruck University it has been important to her to connect contemporary cultural discourses with central key-discourses of Russian intellectual history. One of the ways to achieve this with the students was the translation and publication of contemporary short fiction. At the time being Christine Engel takes a closer look at the influence of Neo-Eurasian thought on Russian cinema.

Abstract of current research:
Titled Eurasianism and Lev N. Gumilev’s Heritage in Recent Russian Cinema, my envisioned chapter offers an analysis of films that show the ongoing conglomeration of imperialism, patriotism and orthodoxy in Russia. A number of films draw on historical events and are instrumental in constructing the history of Russia as one long and continuous sequence of great historic moments. One particular variety of historical construction is found in films which look at the relationship between the mediaeval Russian principalities and the Golden Horde, including Mongol (2007, dir. Sergei Bodrov sen.), Taina Chingis Khaana (2009, dir. Andrei Borisov) and Orda (2012, dir. Andrei Proshkin).These films share a glorification of an iron-willed ruler who creates a gigantic empire by demanding unconditional discipline. The message of films like these is that Mongolian brutality and Russian capacity for suffering form a potent mix that lays the mental foundation for an empire. Moreover, in this conglomeration one can see clear echoes of neo-Eurasianism, with the thought of Lev. N. Gumilev (1912–1992) playing a particularly significant role. Gumilev's writings cover a wide range of subjects with which the films can engage. These include his biologistic approach, his theory of history, his theories on ethnogenesis, and Russia's relationship to Europe, to name just a few. His ideas turn up in both mainstream cinema and art house productions with their very different agendas. My research project will look primarily at films by Nikita Mikhalkov, Sergei Bodrov and Aleksei Balabanov. A separate section will be devoted to the above-mentioned 'Mongol films'. Another aspect of the project concerns the private entanglements of the film-makers among neo-Eurasianist circles and organisations such as the Gumilev Centre in Moscow and its St. Petersburg branch. Drawing on actor-network-theory, the study aims to obtain a more concrete picture of the relationships between cultural spheres and political Eurasianism.

Email: christine.engel [at] uibk.ac.at

Academic hosts at the Aleksanteri Institute: Sanna Turoma and Ira Österberg