Bolshevik bulldogs

Ferris history professor hosts film on Russian Revolution

As Ferris professors darkened the lights in the IRC auditorium, a grainy black-and-white film from 1927 flickered to life dramatizing the exploits of the Bolsheviks in the 1917 October Revolution.

Professor Tracey Busch and associate professor Victor Piercey presented the Soviet propaganda film “October: 10 Days That Shook the World,” written and directed by Soviet filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein.

Part of the motivation to show the film was because this year is the centennial of the Russian Revolution, but also as a way to show an artistic piece for the Festival of the Arts currently happening in Big Rapids.

“Sergei Eisenstein was probably the Soviet Union’s most renowned revolutionary filmmaker,” said Piercey. “He started out in theater in what was known as agit-prop, which was the Soviet propaganda machine. He found his way into film, which he believed was a synthesis of all of the arts.”

The film dramatized the revolutions of 1917 in Eisenstein’s style Eisenstein was famous for montage. Setting the stage with the February Bourgeois Democratic Revolution and moving on to the Great October Socialist Revolution.

“What Eisenstein wanted to do was to make cuts that would deliberately have an effect on the audience and it didn’t matter whether or not it was realistic or authentic,” said Piercey.

After the film, Busch and Piercey answered some questions relating to the film, the revolution and even a Michigan connection to the revolution.

One major motif that made its way into the film was to depict the different peoples of Russia who participated in the revolution.

Religion in the Soviet Union was suppressed officially by the state, but the film still paid homage to some of the non-traditional religions of some revolutionaries.

“Part of the Russian Empire was Buddhist because the empire extended all the way out to Siberia, they were a small percentage of people who were practicing Buddhists,” said Busch. “Did you notice the tribal masks, too? Those masks represented the tribal religions of Siberia as well.”

After the revolution and during the resulting civil war, Busch and Piercey made mention of a group of Michigan soldiers who participated in the attempt to undermine the Soviet government.

The soldiers were known as Polar Bears from Camp Custer, and were part of the US Army’s 85th Division.