"Архіви України"
№ 1 (289) / 2014

N. B. LOBANOVA*

CARRYING OUT ADAPTATION FOR THE CINEMA
IN THE EARLY 30-IES OF XX CENTURY IN CHERNIHIV REGION
(BASED ON THE DOCUMENTS OF THE STATE ARCHIVES OF CHERNIHIV OBLAST)

The article analyzed the documents Chernigov regional department of the state of the trust motion picture industry “Ukrainfilm.” Particular attention is paid to host Cinema in the countryside in the early 30-ies of XX century.

Keywords: Chernihiv Regional State Department trust motion picture industry “Ukrainfilm”; cinema network; a movie; the viewer; video equipment.


Leadership and management of cinematography in Ukraine had been executed by the All-Ukrainian Cinema Committee since 1919, which in 1922 was reorganized as the All-Ukrainian Photo-Cinema Administration (VUFKU). It carried out the leadership and management of cinema and film industry enterprises of Ukraine. Already in the mid 20-ies of XX century, much attention was paid to the film industry "as a factor in the mass agitation and propaganda of communist education of the working people, and as a mean of healthy recreation and cultural entertainment". It should be noted that the movie distribution, especially in rural areas, was necessary to attract the peasants for joining the Communist Party. Employees of the film industry, that had been actively developing, took into account the interests of the rural audience by showcasing films "to show in rural districts". At that time all existing film production was divided into two groups. To the first group belonged the movies for demonstration in the town, to the second one – the movies for demonstration in the countryside. Movies for Ukrainian peasantry had to be short, with simple plot, which would be understandable for not well-educated rural population, and had to be established in Ukrainian. It was planned to make a number of Soviet films for Ukraine, which content would be reduced solely to the promotion and celebration through art the political tasks of the Soviet government. Artistic simplification was not allowed. Films should be of high artistic quality. All the films were carefully reviewed by responsible staff to identify "low-quality film". In order to improve the effective use of cinematography for political propaganda and cultural development of rural areas "Ukrainfilm" obliged to submit for approval by the USSR People's Commissariat all thematic plans and scenarios before the shooting. However, an important obstacle to the growing influence of Soviet propaganda films for the rural population was poor movie facility1.

Transfer of distribution network under the jurisdiction of "Ukrainfilm" according to the decree of Council of People's Commissars of 10 October 1932 was intended to strengthen adaptation for the cinema of the Ukrainian SSR and achieve the best service for the general population – workers, employees, farmers and self-employed farmers. However, on October 1932 "Ukrainfilm" failed its tasks. In particular, films had been recognized as those that had poor quality, both artistic and technical. Film projection units in rural areas were largely inactive. Adaptation for the cinema of rural school network was substandard, staff was selected awkwardly. RNA mentioned underestimation of adaptation for the cinema by local authorities2.

To resolve outstanding issues the Council of People's Commissars of the Ukrainian SSR organized recovery of film archives to improve the quality of films for the village, to repair the broken film projectors, to give reviews of films on time, to raise ticket prices in urban areas, to provide the production of positive film stock3.

In the Chernihiv region organizing, directing and controlling of the activities of regional film offices had the Chernihiv Regional Department of State Trust of film industry "Ukrainfilm", created in October 1932. It also provided offices with motion-picture equipment, motion pictures and single pictures.

Documents illustrate a condition of the cinema circuit of a region in 1933: at the beginning of the year there were 187 organizations of cinema branch, 27 of them were languid4. By January 1, 1933 in the Chernigiv oblast there were only 5 city movie theaters, among them there were 2 sound ones, and 11 district movie theatres, there were no sound among them. It should be noted that their quantity practically didn't change in a year. So, on January 1, 1934 5 city movie theaters continued to work, among them 4 sound cinemas and 9 district, 1 of them was a sound one. Other organizations worked in rural area5.

At the beginning of 1933, on the territory of the oblast there were 41 their own stationary cinema units, 33 of them worked, 8 were languid, and 45 were stationary borrowed film projectors, 38 of them were languid; 121 mobile and 5 other mobile film projectors, of which 22 and 1 were inactive. These film projectors worked in cities and regional centers. Unattended installations needed repair, but there were not enough funds for repairs or niceties for repairs6. In rural areas, at the beginning of 1933, there were 147 units: 28 fixed, 119 movable. Note that this number had decreased during the year. Thus, at the beginning of 1934 there were 100 rural settings: 13 fixed, 87 mobile7.

State trust of film industry "Ukrainfilm" recommended in 1933 to strengthen the position of the state exploitation of rural distribution network, to engage for this purpose new film projectors, fixed funds, local organizations for repairing of inactive cinema units8. According to the plans of policy makers and guidance of "Ukrainfilm" in 1933 adaptation for the cinema was planned for all state farms of the Ukrainian SSR.

By operating plan of actions of the Chernigiv regional department of trust "Ukrainfilm" while servicing a spring sowing campaign of 1933, it was supposed to complete states of sector of rural network of regional department, to develop work of the contractual company, to organize courses of motion picture operators, completely to provide living conditions for foremen and motion picture operators, to send to the regional centers employees of regional department for check and rendering the practical help in implementation of the operating plan of actions9. The recently bought cinematographic equipment first of all was put into operation in state farms, but its quantity was not enough10. For repairing the equipment which was used in previous years, for successful service of a spring sowing campaign of 1933, Chernigiv oblast needed a large number of details for devices of "GOZ" system, dynamo-drives of "GOZ", devices "Ukrainian" and "Pate", but they were not obtained on time11.

During weeding and harvesting campaign of 1933, there were created teams for repairing cinematographic equipment, the best motion picture operators were involved to work in cinema teams, places which showed the campaign swing were created12. In files of the regional department there is stored a list of films, that were shown in this period: "Adventures of the Foundling" "Lu-Lu", "Crime of Shyrvanska", "Punished", "Tower of Silence", "Petro Korsar" "Master of Lightning" "Stepsons of Berlin", "Cute Vagabond"13.

With the purpose of further development of cinema in the village, there were concluded agreements between the representatives of film industry and collective farms, in which the obligations of "Ukrainfilm" representatives, heads of village councils and collective farms to conduct qualitative adaptation for the cinema on the corresponding territory were discussed14.

For example, under the agreement of July 5, 1933 between the regional department of Trust "Ukrainfilm" and Oblzahotzerno, the first one pledged to hold cinema servicing points during grain quota in 1933 starting on August 5. Within two months there were shown 2 films at the stations of grain delivery but not more than 1 evening performance. The cost of the session was 31 rubles and 50 kopecks. Pictures had political and agitational content. Oblzahotzerno in its turn undertook to provide premises and draft power for transportation of equipment and mechanic15.

Autumn sowing in 1933 had to take place with wide deployment of socialist competition between regions to achieve a better harvest in 1934. To convert farms to "Bolshevik" and farmers to the "wealthy", movies and photos had to play a big role. To achieve the goal, movies "State Farm "Giant"", "Quackery and Veterinarian Help","Conquered lands" etc. had to be demonstrated during the autumn sowing campaign16.

One can find quite interesting the file, which states that the slogans were shown before the movie. They were divided into 5 groups: the first group dedicated to weeder campaign, the second – preparation for the harvest picking, the third – harvest picking, the fourth – harvest picking and grain delivery, the fifth was used on all screens during all the preparatory period and harvesting campaign.

Text of slogans was the following:

- in the first group: workers and farmers. Let’s organize teams of protection of socialist property. Socialist property is the foundation of our system;

- in the second group: Let’s go to the fields in Komsomolsk teams. Let’s grind the farm harvest in time.

Prior to harvest, check if the labor power is correctly arranged;

- in the third group: place the safe guard in the field, to protect the farm bread from money grubber.

Lazy, goof-balls, grabbers have no place on the farm. Collective farmer, shock-worker, take care they do not eat your workday.

Komsomol! Take care of the tractor and the horse, as their work solves the success of the Bolshevik harvest.

- in the fourth group: Bread loves records. Not measure by eye, weigh grain around threshing grain in the barn.

Fold the cops immediately, but not later than the second day after mowing and knitting.

-in the fifth group: The Bolshevik Party organized the farmers’ win in the spring sowing. Under its leadership, carrying out the instructions of the leader of the proletariat comrade Stalin, we will during harvesting as well.

We must not ignore those individual farmers today who will become tomorrow collective farmers and conduct active political work among them17.

The analysis of its own work, done by regional department of state trust of film industry "Ukrainfilm" in 1933 showed, that the annual work plan was not fulfilled. Profitable part of the plan was executed by only 79.4 %, and therefore, the state did not receive 1 million rubles. Plan of screen days and sessions was completed at 82.4%. Plan of viewer service was executed at 96.4 %, and that was done by increasing the price of the ticket. But if we do not take this fact into consideration, the plan of viewer service was executed only at 40.9 %. Analysis of the expenditure of the plan pointed out that advertising costs were unacceptably increased, as well as business-trips and maintenance costs. Despite overspending on advertising, promotion of films remained unsatisfactory. Work of rural network was extremely poor. The number of inactive film projectors was constantly increasing. The reason for their inactivity was the lack of motion picture operators, fuel, costs for major repairs.

One of the reasons for the poor adaptation for the cinema of the village was the lack of communications with political departments of MTS and regional organizations of cinemas, inability to manage cinema teams. There were insufficient cinema facilities of students. In 1933 socialist competition for the best service for the viewer was not started, awareness about the concrete films was not raised18. Working conditions of motion picture operators were not improved, as a result there was a big employee turnover and absenteeism of motion picture operators. For example in 1933 there were 153 motion picture operators in the rural area, at the beginning of 1934 only 100 of them remained19.

Work on adaptation for the cinema remained complicated in cities and regional centers, primarily because of understaffing. For example, in the Pryluky State Cinema on January 1, 1933 18 people worked20, on November 1933 – only 15 people worked. Interestingly, in the list of positions other than purely specialized professions appear: pianist, violinist, and poster-maker21. In the Hlukhiv State Cinema on September 1933 12 people worked, although in November of that year, the number of people increased by 4 people, but there were not enough people for execution of performance targets22.

The question about equipment and repair of premises remained unsolved. According to the list of investments for capital repairs and reconstruction of buildings in II quarter of 1933 state trust "Ukrainfilm" in Chernihiv oblast allocated money in the amount of 5000 rubles to repair premises of cinemas in cities of Pryluky and Hluhov23. The same year it was planned to carry out repair works in cinemas of Chernihiv, Romny, Nizhyn, Putyvl, and Novgorod-Siversky. The results of this work are not fixed in the documents24.

The results of work in the next year were not better. State of cinema circuit in 1934 was worse than in the previous period: in the beginning of the year, there were 153 organizations of cinema circuit, 67 of them were languid ones (compared to 1933 – there were 187 organizations, 27 of them were languid). However, the regional department of trust "Ukrainfilm" never lost hope for improvements in the film industry in the oblast. Predicted data for 1935-1936 were the following: in 1935, there were provided at least 157 active organizations, the number of inactive had to be reduced to 25, in 1936 – 172 active organizations (number of inactive organizations was not discussed)25.

A training combine acted in trust "Ukrainfilm", it prepared and carried out advanced training for motion picture operators, movers, school teachers, sound makers26. The combine prepared and published "Manual for regional departments and agencies on the introduction of live organic communication links"27.

Personnel sector of trust "Ukrainfilm" approved the program of technical minimum for rural motion picture operators, they had to learn the basics of electrical engineering, optics, cinema technique and movie cameras, to be able to care of video equipment, to know the primary accounting documentation of work of mobile film projectors, bases of policy knowledge, to have knowledge of fire safety. The program included topics, test questions, list of literature28.

By order of trust "Ukrainfilm" on February 2, 1934 № 4/ 60 in February and March of 1934, Chernihiv regional department of trust of film industry conducted knowledge tests (technical test) with all motion picture operators who worked in "Ukrainfilm". For this purpose in regional department and cinema teams there were established the groups for studying technical minimum. Guidance materials were lectures of special subjects, methodically designed instructions on study of cinema technique, tests and exams29. The results of knowledge tests and list of all checked employees were sent to the trust "Ukrainfilm" in April 193430.

One of the important ways of adaptation for the cinema was demonstration of films for school children. By order of Chernigiv regional department of trust "Ukrainfilm" of 20 December 1933, during holidays in January 1934 daily film shows were held in the schools, for this purpose mobile cinema units were allocated. With a view to proper schoolchildren rest, the regional department concluded agreements with schools, which firmly established the number of film shows, programs of films, forms and content of media work, order of monetary transactions31.

In connection with the adoption of the provision of the All-Ukrainian Central Executive Committee and Council of People's Commissars of the Ukrainian SSR "On the construction of cinemas in large villages of USSR", the Regional Committee for Construction of collective-farms cinemas was formed in the Chernihiv Oblast.

The Chernihiv Regional Committee for construction of collective farms cinemas developed a standard form of agreement between the farm, village council and authorized officer of the cinema building in the village. By order of the Secretary of the committee, the agreement was to be implemented in the near future. Under the agreement for the construction of the cinema, the collective farm had to provide labor, transportation, materials (sand, wood, lime, brick, etc.). Food (hot food), dining room, dormitory and costs for operating personnel were allocated for workers32.

Despite the formation of the committee, responsibility for organizing the construction of rural cinemas was not waived from the regional department of trust "Ukrainfilm". The regional department made a draft on building of rural cinemas in the Chernihiv Oblast in 1934. When sketching these points, particular attention was paid to building cinemas primarily in major leading 18 regions (excluding those which population does not exceed 400-500 people). The definition of points of construction was the economic importance of the area and its adaptation for the cinema, percentage of collectivization, economic power of the village and prospects of its development. The biggest villages in the district were selected in terms of population volume. Thus, on 1934 the situation in the region was the following: on the territory of 755 village councils that operated in the oblast, there were 57 fixed film projection units, 78 mobile, 37 points of construction were identified33.

According to the plan of financing the construction of cinemas in the village in 1934, annexed to the decree of RNA USSR № 187 of March 16, 1934, it was planned to build nine theaters in the Chernigiv oblast (in the settlements: Kozatske, Sorokoshychi, Verkiyivka, Nedrygailiv, Beriukhy, Karkhivka, Bili Vezhi, Andriyashivka, Hremyach) costing 300 thousand rubles each, total cost of 2 million and 700 thousand rubles34. 945 people had to take part in the construction of such a large number of cinemas35. However, the memorandum of head of regional bank to the head of executive committee and head of the regional financial department on May 22, 1934, it is said that there was no money planned for the construction of 9 rural cinemas in 1934. This situation is connected with the lack of funds in local budgets, additional costs on adaptation for the cinema in 1933, and the cost of materials procured outside the city of Chernihiv. At the suggestion of the bank, the regional financial department was additionally to provide funds in the amount of 100 thousand rubles, excluded from the reserve in 1933, orthewise the construction of facilities would not start at all36. The mentioned amount of money was allocated from the state budget. The letter of the USSR People's Commissar of Finance on July 19, 1934 states that the source of financing the construction of cinemas in the above mentioned localities of the Chernihiv oblast is not only funds from local budgets, but also centralized source from the state budget in the amount of 100 thousand rubles37.

According to available documentary information of regional bank of 26 September 1934, all 9 cinemas, built in the oblast, had the detailed project reports, but during their development topography and soil in some localities were not taken into account, so it was necessary to adjust these projects. In addition, not all construction grounds were equipped with working drawings. In general, in September 1934 funds in the amount of 1 million 280 thousand rubles were spent on the construction of 9 cinemas of Chernihiv oblast38 Though financing of the construction was uninterrupted, but areas of concern remained. It concerns incompleteness of materials: some types were imported either in the total amount, or – partly. Social operation of workers was not properly organized – in some localities a dormitory for workers was not provided39. Thus, Committee on Construction concluded that the construction of cinemas in Verkiyivka, Beryukhy, Hremyachi should be preserved because of the inability to complete it by the end of 1934, the construction of facilities in Nedrygailov, Sorokoshychy should be suspended because the cost sheets were not composed, construction of other cinemas could be completed only if certain measures were performed (strict deadline, complete providing of building materials, improved social services of workers)40. Parallel the regional committee took measures on supply of cinematographic equipment to regional executive committees, localities where construction of cinemas was planned belonged to them41.

Regional committee on construction did correspondence with the management-staff of the south-western railways on the need for the supply of cargo by railway42, with sugar refineries on delivery of limestone43, executive committees on the need of exercising personal control over the construction44.

Let us return to the general state of the cinema circuit. By July 1, 1934 regional department of trust "Ukrayinfilm" administered state cinemas, cinemas for children, regional cinemas, rural fixed and mobile networks, which were led directly by Konotop and Nizhyn inter-regional agencies, Konotop rolled centre, Chernihiv Regional workshop for repair of cinematographic equipment and photo studio.

State cinemas were in Chernihiv Nizhyn, Glukhiv, Pryluky and Romny. In the first half of 1934 all theaters were operating, but with little downtime due to lack of electricity. The premises of state cinema did not satisfy the requirements. The repertoire of silent films was outdated. There was a lack of new pictures. Demonstrating the old movies led to a decrease in visits. The technical condition of the films did not satisfy the needs of the movies watching. There were not enough sound pictures. Staff of state cinemas needed improvement.

During this period 2 cinemas for children worked - in Chernihiv and Pryluky. Before the demonstration of movies tanks, games, conversations with kids were arranged in the lobby. Children's homes every 5 days were served for free. Partly cooperation with kindergartens was established. There was a lack of pictures of child subjects.

By July 1, 1934 on the territory of the region there were 6 regional cinemas. Their work was not the best for several reasons: the premises did not belong to "Ukrainfilm", but to other organizations that did not repair them, bad power supply had been established, the same film was shown in a short period of time that led to low cinema attendance. Some cinemas needed replacing of management-staff. None of regional theatres covered their expenses.

The worst was the service of the village. Cinema circuit did not meet the cultural demand of the rural population. Movie cameras of old constructions were often out of order. Because of a lack of spare parts, repairs were performed poorly. Repertoire of pictures was old and uninteresting. New pictures reached the village very late, there was a lack of motion picture operators. The above mentioned Nizhyn and Konotop regional agencies proved unequal to their tasks. The rural network worked with a huge loss of nearly 15 thousand rubles, and if to add the cost of maintaining the circuit, the total losses amounted to more than 53 thousand rubles45.

These effects of work needed fundamental changes.

According to the Council of People's Commissars Decree No. 733, which emphasized a maximum approximation of management to filmmaking, increase of interest of local authorities in improving the quality of work, ensuring the reduction of administrative costs, all existing chains of cinemas, mobile cinemas, photo enterprises were transferred to the jurisdiction of regional executive commitees46

Thereby, regional department of public trust "Ukrainfilm" was eliminated on October 1, 1934 by order of the Council of People's Commissars of the Ukrainian SSR No. 733 of 22 July 1934 "On reorganization of the Trust Ukrainfilm" in connection with the transfer of its authority to the management of film and photo trust of the Chernihiv regional executive commetee47.

The new institution had the status of a legal person, it acted on the basis of producing for profit according to the plan, reviewed by the regional executive committee and approved by the trust "Ukrainfilm". The institution was in the economic and administrative subordination of the executive committee, managed the activities of all urban and rural cinemas, mobile cinemas, photo enterprises and auxiliary enterprises, carried out political and ideological management of the viewer, construction of new cinemas and film distribution across the oblast, managed the fund of adaptation for the cinema based on the statutory enactments48.

By January 1, 1935 in the Chernihiv regional cinema and photo trust 42,5 positions were employed, the highest salary was 500 rubles, the lowest 75 rubles. The structure consisted of senior positions of Director and his deputy, sectors of urban and rural cinema circuits, photo sector, special sector, planning department, bookkeeping, general department49. However, the cinema and photo trust of the Chernihiv Oblast Executive Committee began to work only after the allocation of appropriations to eliminate problematic issues on the basis of inventory of regional department of trust "Ukrainfilm", providing the field wiith the necessary number of cinematographic equipment and investments50.


* Lobanova Nataliia Mykhailivna – deputy director of the State Archives of Chernihiv Oblast

1 Мотуз В. Український кінематограф в умовах наступу тоталітаризму. – archive.nbuv.gov.ua/portal/soc­_gum/nztnpu_­ist/2009_­2/materialy/2009­_2/Motuz.

2 Державний архів Чернігівської області, ф. Р-771, оп. 1, спр. 1, арк. 1–2.

3 Там само, спр. 1, арк. 3.

4 Там само, спр. 19, арк. 160–161.

5 Там само, спр. 167, арк. 163.

6 Там само, спр. 1, арк. 66–67.

7 Там само, спр. 167, арк. 164.

8 Там само, спр. 2, арк. 56.

9 Там само, спр. 20, арк. 13–15.

10 Там само, спр. 1, арк. 142.

11 Там само, спр. 1, арк. 133–134.

12 Там само, спр. 7, арк. 108.

13 Там само, спр. 6, арк. 18, 20.

14 Там само, спр. 13, арк. 5–8.

15 Там само, спр. 6, арк. 115.

16 Там само, спр. 21, арк. 24–25.

17 Там само, спр. 6, арк. 11–14.

18 Там само, спр. 20, арк. 98–102.

19 Там само, спр. 167, арк. 166.

20 Там само, спр. 15, арк. 38.

21 Там само, спр. 14, арк. 77.

22 Там само, спр. 14, арк. 92, спр. 19, арк. 65.

23 Там само, спр. 2, арк. 5.

24 Там само, спр. 2, арк. 57.

25 Там само, спр. 19, арк. 160–161.

26 Там само, спр. 24, арк. 2.

27 Там само, спр. 24, арк. 21.

28 Там само, спр. 24, арк. 150–153.

29 Там само, спр. 19, арк. 121.

30 Там само, спр. 19, арк. 130.

31 Там само, спр. 22. арк. 5.

32 Там само, оп. 2, спр. 2, арк. 2–3.

33 Там само, оп. 1, спр. 6, арк. 219–220.

34 Там само, оп. 3, спр. 3, арк. 34.

35 Там само, спр. 3, арк. 1.

36 Там само, спр. 3, арк. 13.

37 Там само, спр. 3, арк. 21.

38 Там само, спр. 4, арк. 90.

39 Там само, спр. 4, арк. 91.

40 Там само, спр. 4, арк. 92–92 зв.

41 Там само, спр. 3, арк. 25, 26.

42 Там само, спр. 4, арк. 25.

43 Там само, спр. 4, арк. 29.

44 Там само, спр. 4, арк. 50.

45 Там само, оп. 1, спр. 260, арк. 1–9.

46 Там само, спр. 243, арк. 2–3.

47 Там само, спр. 289, арк. 3–11.

48 Там само, спр. 243 арк. 24–28.

49 Там само, спр. 139, арк. 99–99 зв.

50 Там само, спр. 289, арк. 10 зв.

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