In the Name of Lenin is a 14 minute single subject ‘short’ (rather than a newsreel) produced by Soyuzkinozhurnal in 1932. It was directed by Mikhail Slutskii, a member of the new ‘Stalinist’ generation of film-makers, who had only recently graduated from film school in Moscow.
Holding a place in history as (probably) the third sound documentary completed in the Soviet Union – after the much more readily available Enthusiasm (Vertov, 1931) and KSHE (Shub, 1932) – this short has rarely been seen (either within the ‘soviet bloc’ or outside) until now.
The film is centred on the opening of the Dnieper Hydroelectric Station. Construction had begun in 1927, and the plant started to produce electricity in October 1932. Situated on the river at Zaporizhia, Ukraine, the area was identified as a key site for the Soviet electrification plan as early as 1920. It became (and remains) a symbol of Soviet power; in recent times the Dnieper River has become the limit of aspiration for the pro-Russian rebels of Eastern Ukraine. In 14 minutes Slutskii unequivocally celebrates the triumph of the revolution and the 15 years of progress that have followed. The film glories in the slogan of Lenin, the founder and architect of the Soviet state – “Communism is Soviet power plus the electrification of the whole country”.
In the Name of Lenin is packed with iconography of the Five Year Plans: trains, tractors, happy peasants embracing the modern, and most of all, dams and electricity pylons. The links between these symbols of modernity and power are made by repetitious editing. The links to the revolution and the leadership of the Communist Party (and in particularly Lenin) are constantly stressed visually (via captions, badges, flags and banners: ‘‘Such a fortress … we would not be able to build without the Bolsheviks”) and through the soundtrack (largely folk tunes, bands playing ‘the Internationale’ and a short speech which begins: “Comrades … in the name of Lenin!”).