Children at the Movies: A Child's Reception to Early Russian and Soviet Cinema

Lora Wheeler, University of California, Irvine

The contribution of the film viewer to the final impression that a film leaves in history has become an increasing popular subject of critical enquiry. The aim of my paper is to present children's reception of early Russian and Soviet cinema as reflected both in popular children's magazines and in educational journals. In so doing I will also consider how adults, the authors of these works, approached the subject of children and the cinema both before and after the revolution.

Popular children's magazines contribute to the way in which children viewed film. Viktor Shlovskij's children's story "Puteshestvie v stranu kino," appearing in Vorobej in 1925, tells the story of a little Russian boy, Kolja, who goes to America and ends up in the movies. In addition, I will consider stories that appeared in Zadushevnoe slovo in 1913 and Ogon'ki in 1929. How is the cinema portrayed to children? What is the child's reception to film as presented in these stories? How does Shklovskij's children's story reflect his own theories about the cinema?

Another source that captures the way children viewed film is Russkaja shkola, which published several articles in 1916 regarding children and their viewing experiences. Educators in 1916 were already concerned with the influence films had on a child's development. Children from several different schools in St. Petersburg were questioned about their viewing experiences, including how often they went to the movies, what type of movies they favored, and what effect the movies had on their moral decisions. Such articles facilitate in understanding how children's views of film can help shape the overall reception of early film in Russia, as children may not have had the life experiences of adults or the way of perceiving prevalent in Russian society.