Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Alexander Petrovich Dovzhenko or Oleksandr Petrovych Dovzhenko (Ukrainian: Олександр Петрович Ð"овженко, Oleksandr Petrovych Dovzhenko; Russian: Алекса́ндр Петро́вич Ð"овже́нко, Aleksandr Petrovich Dovzhenko; September 10 [O.S. August 29] 1894 â€" November 25, 1956), was a Soviet screenwriter, film producer and director of Ukrainian origin. He is often cited as one of the most important early Soviet filmmakers, alongside Sergei Eisenstein and Vsevolod Pudovkin, as well as being a pioneer of Soviet montage theory.


Alexander Dovzhenko was born in the hamlet of Viunyshche located in Chernigov Governorate, Russian Empire (now part of Sosnytsia town in Chernihiv Oblast, Ukraine), to Petro Semenovych Dovzhenko and Odarka Yermolayivna Dovzhenko. His paternal ancestors were Ukrainian Cossacks (Chumaks) who settled in Sosnytsia in the eighteenth century, coming from the neighbouring province of Poltava. Alexander was the seventh of fourteen children, but due to the horrific rate of child loss he became the oldest child by the time he turned eleven (only Alexander and his sister Polina survived).

Although his parents were uneducated, Dovzhenko's semi-literate grandfather encouraged him to study, leading him to become a teacher at the age of 19. He escaped military service during World War I because of a heart condition, but during the Soviet-Ukrainian War he fought in the army of the Ukrainian People's Republic]] against the Red Army. In 1919 in Zhytomyr he was taken prisoner and sent to a concentration camp. In 1920 Dovzhenko joined the Borotbist party. He served as an assistant to the Ambassador in Warsaw as well as Berlin. Upon his return to USSR in 1923, he began illustrating books and drawing cartoons in Kharkiv.

Dovzhenko turned to film in 1926 when he landed in Odessa. His ambitious drive led to the production of his second-ever screenplay, Vasya the Reformer (which he also co-directed). He gained greater success with Zvenyhora in 1928 which established him as a major filmmaker of his era. His following "Ukraine Trilogy" (Zvenigora, Arsenal, and Earth), although underappreciated by some contemporary Soviet critics (who found some of its realism counter-revolutionary), is his most well-known work in the West. For his film Shchors, Dovzhenko was awarded the Stalin Prize (1941); eight years later, in 1949, he was awarded another Stalin Prize for his film Michurin.

Dovzhenko served as a wartime journalist for the Red Army during World War II. After spending several years writing, co-writing and producing films at Mosfilm Studios in Moscow, he turned to writing novels. Over a 20 year career, Dovzhenko personally directed only 7 films.

He was a mentor to the young Soviet filmmakers Larisa Shepitko and Serhiy Paradzhanov. Dovzhenko died of a heart attack on November 25, 1956 in his dacha in Peredelkino. His wife, Yulia Solntseva continued his legacy by producing films of her own and completing projects Dovzhenko was not able to create.

The Dovzhenko Film Studios in Kiev were named after him in his honour following his death.


  • Love's Berries (Russian: Ягoдки Любви, translit. Yagodki lyubvi, Ukrainian: Ягідки кохання, translit. Yahidky kokhannya), 1926
  • Vasya the Reformer (Russian: Ð'ася â€" реформатор, translit. Vasya â€" reformator, Ukrainian: Ð'ася â€" реформатор, translit. Vasya â€" reformator), 1926
  • The Diplomatic Pouch (Russian: Сумка дипкурьера, translit. Sumka dipkuryera, Ukrainian: Сумка дипкур'Ñ"ра, translit. Sumka dypkuryera), 1927
  • Zvenigora (Russian: Звенигора, translit. Zvenigora, Ukrainian: Звенигора, translit. Zvenyhora), 1928
  • Arsenal (Russian: Арсенал, Ukrainian: Арсенал), 1928
  • Earth (Russian: Зeмля, translit. Zemlya, Ukrainian: Зeмля, translit. Zemlya), 1930
  • Ivan (Russian: Ивaн, Ukrainian: Iвaн), 1932
  • Aerograd (Aerohrad, Russian: Аэроград, Ukrainian: Аероград, translit.), 1935
  • Bukovyna: a Ukrainian Land (Russian: Ð'уковина, земля Украинская, translit. Bukovina, Zemlya Ukrainskaya, Ukrainian: Ð'уковина, зeмля Українськa, translit., Bukovyna, Zemlya Ukrayins'ka), 1939
  • Shchors* (Russian: Щopc, Ukrainian: Щopc), 1939
  • Liberation* (Russian: Освобождение, translit. Osvobozhdeniye, Ukrainian: Ð'изволення, translit. Vyzvolennya), 1940
  • Battle for Soviet Ukraine* (Russian: Ð'итва за нашу Советскую Украину, translit. Bitva za nashu Sovetskuyu Ukrainu, Ukrainian: Ð'итва за нашу Радянську Україну, translit. Bytva za nashu Radyans'ku Ukrayinu), 1943
  • Soviet Earth (Russian: CÑ‚paнa poднaя, translit. Strana rodnaya, Ukrainian: Країна pідна, translit. Krayina ridna), 1945
  • Victory in the Ukraine and the Expulsion of the Germans from the Boundaries of the Ukrainian Soviet Earth (Russian: Победа на Правобережной Украине и изгнание немецких захватчиков за пределы украинских советских земель, translit. Pobeda na Pravoberezhnoi Ukraine i izgnaniye nemetsikh zakhvatchikov za predeli Ukrainskikh sovietskikh zemel, Ukrainian: Перемога на Правобережній Україні, translit. Peremoha na Pravoberezhniy Ukrayini), 1945
  • Michurin (Russian: Мичурин, Ukrainian: Мічурін), 1948
  • Farewell, America (Russian: Прощай, Америкa, Ukrainian: Прощай, Америко, translit. Proshchay, Ameryko), 1949
  • Poem of the Sea* (Russian: Поэма о море, translit. Poema o more, Ukrainian: Поема про море, translit. Poema pro more), 1959

*codirected by Yuliya Solntseva

Further reading

  • Dovzhenko, Alexandr (ed. Marco Carynnyk) (1973). Alexandr Dovzhenko: The Poet as Filmmaker, MIT Press. ISBN 0-262-04037-9
  • Kepley, Jr., Vance (1986). In the Service of the State: The Cinema of Alexandr Dovzhenko, University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 0-299-10680-2
  • Liber, George O. (2002). Alexander Dovzhenko: A Life in Soviet Film, British Film Institute. ISBN 0-85170-927-3
  • Nebesio, Bohdan. "Preface" to Special Issue: The Cinema of Alexander Dovzhenko. Journal of Ukrainian Studies. 19.1 (Summer, 1994): pp. 2â€"3.
  • Perez, Gilberto (2000) Material Ghost: Films and Their Medium, Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0-8018-6523-9
  • Abramiuk, Larissa (1998) The Ukrainian Baroque in Oleksandr Dovzhenko's Cinematic Art, The Ohio State University (UMI).


External links

  • Alexandr Dovzhenko at the Internet Movie Database
  • Chris Fujiwara's review Neglected Giant: Alexander Dovzhenko at the MFA
  • Ray Uzwyshyn Alexandr Dovzhenko's Silent Trilogy: A Visual Exploration
  • John Riley "A (Ukrainian) Life in Soviet Film: Liber's Alexandr Dovzhenko", Film-Philosophy, vol. 7 no. 31, October 2003 â€" a review of George O. Liber (2002), Alexandr Dovzhenko: A Life in Soviet Film
  • Landscapes of the Soul: The Cinema of Alexandr Dovzhenko,
  • "Screenplays About the Earth" by Aleksandr Dovzhenko from SovLit.net
  • Oleksandr Dovzhenko Center

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