Martti Veldi (Estonian University of Life Sciences);
Friedrich Kuhlmann (Estonian University of Life Sciences);
Simon Bell (Estonian University of Life Sciences)
Five-Year Plan in Four:
Kolkhoz Propaganda in Film and Documentaries
In 1951 the first colour film in was produced Soviet Estonia– Valgus Koordis (“Light in Koordi village”). This never-before-seen medium applied effective ideological symbols to visualise the power of collective effort with the scope of difficulties building up the new life in a freshly established collective farm (kolkhoz). It was straightforward propaganda to demonstrate that in spite of difficulties, collective farming was the only correct way to achieve prosperity in the countryside. The theme of the film was to show the goodness of Stalinist improvements in a poor post-war rural community at the end of the 1940s. In a very simple manner, topics such as nationalism, the class struggle, socialist ideology, kulaks, collective ownership, mechanisation of agriculture and large-scale land improvements were presented. To capture the wider audience and to increase social impact, the film also starred the rising opera star Georg Ots, still considered as one of the greatest Estonian opera singers ever. In addition to ideologically charged films, a type of propagandist short documentary, the ringvaade (newsreel) was produced in Soviet Estonia. These concentrated on various aspects of Soviet lifestyle, aiming to demonstrate the achievements of collective ideology, and the high morale of the Soviet working class. We studied these and other examples in order to examine the range of themes and motifs presented in them, focusing on the ideological impact on the rural landscape caused by mechanisation, forest management and land melioration. What is revealed is an attempt to persuade the new kolkhozniki (collective farmers) of the benefits of the new system – which, ironically, had dispossessed many of them of their own farms which they had built up in the inter-war years (and which were restored to them after the collapse of the Soviet system in the 1990s).