Cinema had long been hailed by Bolshevik party leaders as a crucial ally of the Soviet mass enlightenment project. By the mid-1920s, however, Soviet psychologists, educators and practitioners of ‘child science’ (pedology) were pointing to the grave effects that the consumption of commercial cinema was exerting on the physical, mental and moral health of Soviet young people. Diagnosing an epidemic of ‘film mania’, specialists battled to curtail the NEP-era practices of film production and demonstration that had rendered cinema ‘toxic’ to children. Campaigns to ‘healthify’ Soviet cinema, first manifesting in the organization of child-friendly screenings and forms of ‘cultural enlightenment work’, soon extended to attempts to develop a new children’s film repertoire based on the results of psycho-physiological viewer studies. A vast variety of pedological research institutions established during the late 1920s and early 1930s began to experimentally test cinema’s effects on children with the view of assisting the production of films that could cultivate a sound mind and body. Tracing a link between the findings of pedological viewer studies and the ‘healthy’ cinema championed in the 1930s, this article sheds light on the vital role played by medical and scientific expertise in shaping Stalinist culture.
© The Author(s) 2019.
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