‘Like another planet to the darker Americans’: Black cultural work in 1930s Moscow

S. Ani Mukherji

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

2 Citations (Scopus)


By the late 1920s, the Soviet Union and the Communist International had identified culture as a major battleground in the struggle for Bolshevik dominance at home and proletarian revolution abroad. One facet of this effort was the development of anti-colonial cultural work that spoke to audiences around the globe. Soviet playwright Sergei Tretiakov's indictment of Western indifference to colonial suffering, Roar, China! (1926), was staged to great acclaim in Moscow, Berlin and New York. The classic dramatisation of anti-imperial revolt in Central Asia, Storm over Asia (1928), was an international sensation; among its many screenings across the globe, Indian students at Oxford University showed the film as a prelude to a debate on the importance of the Soviet experiment for colonial revolutionaries. When the anti-fascist Soviet documentary Abyssinia (1936) – a protest film that took aim at Mussolini's 1935 invasion of Ethiopia – came to play in Shanghai, Italian seamen rioted in the theatre to object to the criticism of their homeland, much to the amusement of colonial comrades. These works, along with dozens of similar productions, linked the problems of capitalism, colonialism and racism, positing Communist revolution as their solution. Soviet screenwriter G. E. Grebner contributed to this international cultural front in 1930, when he drafted Black and White (Chernyi i belyi), an ‘anti-Ku-Klux-Klan’ story based on the author's autodidactic study of American race relations. According to the script's preface, Grebner hoped not only to produce a broadside against racial terror in the United States, but also to counter anti-black stereotypes rampant in American and European film, presenting, he said, ‘Negroes on screen as humans, for the first time’.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAfrica in Europe: Studies in Transnational Practice in the Long Twentieth Century
PublisherLiverpool University Press
Number of pages22
ISBN (Electronic)9781846317842
ISBN (Print)9781846318474
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2004
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)

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