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date: 01 October 2022

Cinema, Ethnicity, and Nation-Building in the Sakha Republic (Russia) and Kazakhstanlocked

Cinema, Ethnicity, and Nation-Building in the Sakha Republic (Russia) and Kazakhstanlocked

  • Adelaide McGinity-PeeblesAdelaide McGinity-PeeblesSchool of Cultures, Languages and Area Studies, University of Nottingham

Summary

In the post-Soviet era, ethnocultural identity and nationhood have been dominant themes in the cinemas of Kazakhstan and the Sakha Republic (officially known as the Republic of Sakha, or Yakutia). Despite their different sociopolitical contexts (unlike the Sakha Republic, which remains a federal republic within the Russian Federation, Kazakhstan has been an independent nation for 30 years), both were colonies within the Russian Empire and were later subjected to Soviet rule. Furthermore, both cinemas are keen to project their visions of collective identity to local, national, and global audiences. Sakha cinema seeks to consolidate and promote an ethnocultural Sakha identity against the encroaching presence of Russian culture in the republic, resulting in the manifest absence of Russian culture within its films. The growth, promotion, and success of Sakha art house cinema (which focuses on Sakha history, customs, and folklore) in recent years is a central part of its strategy to appeal to global audiences, allowing it to bypass the national (i.e., Russia), both offscreen and onscreen. Debates around post-Soviet nationhood remain an important aspect of the political discourse in Kazakhstan, which is reflected in the country’s cinema. Despite operating within an authoritarian regime, cinema remains one of the few areas in which sociopolitical discord can be articulated in Kazakhstan. Nation-building narratives have centered around Kazakhstan’s pre-imperial history and the Kazakh steppe, and these have likewise been a preoccupation of state-sponsored cinema and its alternative since the 2000s. While Russia is not such an overt “other” in Kazakh cinema as it is in Sakha film, the fact that debates around post-Soviet Kazakh nationhood and society continue to dominate Kazakh cinema three decades since the collapse of the Soviet Union suggests that its colonial past nonetheless remains a significant context against which the Kazakh nation is imagined.

Subjects

  • Communication and Culture
  • International/Global Communication
  • Mass Communication

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