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Alexander Dovzhenko

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Subject: Earth (1930 film), Michurin (film), Cinema of the Soviet Union, Borotbists, Vsesvit
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Alexander Dovzhenko

Alexander Dovzhenko
Born Alexander Petrovich Dovzhenko
(1894-09-10)September 10, 1894
Sosnytsia, Russian Empire (now Ukraine)
Died November 25, 1956(1956-11-25) (aged 62)
Peredelkino, Soviet Union (now Russia)
Occupation Film director, screenwriter
Years active 1926–1956
Spouse(s) Yuliya Solntseva

Alexander Petrovich Dovzhenko (Ukrainian: Олександр Петрович Довженко, Oleksandr Petrovych Dovzhenko; Russian: Алекса́ндр Петро́вич Довже́нко, Aleksandr Petrovich Dovzhenko; September 10 [O.S. August 29] 1894 – November 25, 1956), was a Soviet screenwriter, film producer and director of Ukrainian origin. He is often cited as one of the most important early Soviet filmmakers, alongside Sergei Eisenstein and Vsevolod Pudovkin, as well as being a pioneer of Soviet montage theory.


Alexander Dovzhenko was born in the district of Viunyshche in Sosnytsia, a townlet located in the Russian Empire (now in the Chernihiv Oblast in Ukraine), to Petro Semenovych Dovzhenko and Odarka Ermolaivna Dovzhenko. His paternal ancestors were Cossacks who settled in Sosnytsia in the eighteenth century, coming from the neighbouring province of Poltava. Alexander was the seventh of fourteen children, but due to the horrific rate of child loss he became the oldest child by the time he turned eleven (only Alexander and his sister Polina survived).

Although his parents were uneducated, Dovzhenko's semi-literate grandfather encouraged him to study, leading him to become a teacher at the age of 19. He escaped military service during both World War I and the Russian Revolution because of a heart condition, but did join the Communist Party in the early 1920s. He served as an assistant to the Ambassador in Warsaw as well as Berlin. Upon his return to USSR in 1923, he began illustrating books and drawing cartoons in Kharkiv.

Dovzhenko turned to film in 1926 when he landed in Odessa. His ambitious drive led to the production of his second-ever screenplay, Vasya the Reformer (which he also co-directed). He gained greater success with Zvenyhora in 1928 which established him as a major filmmaker of his era. His following "Ukraine Trilogy" (Zvenigora, Arsenal, and Earth), although underappreciated by some contemporary Soviet critics (who found some of its realism counter-revolutionary), is his most well-known work in the West. For his film Shchors, Dovzhenko was awarded the Stalin Prize (1941); eight years later, in 1949, he was awarded another Stalin Prize for his film Michurin.

Dovzhenko served as a wartime journalist for the Red Army during World War II. After spending several years writing, co-writing and producing films at Mosfilm Studios in Moscow, he turned to writing novels. Over a 20 year career, Dovzhenko personally directed only 7 films.

He was a mentor to the young Soviet filmmakers Larisa Shepitko and Serhiy Paradzhanov. Dovzhenko died of a heart attack on November 25, 1956 in his dacha in Peredelkino. His wife, Yulia Solntseva continued his legacy by producing films of her own and completing projects Dovzhenko was not able to create.

The Dovzhenko Film Studios in Kiev were named after him in his honour following his death.

Dovzhenko's grave in Novodevichy Cemetery


*codirected by Yuliya Solntseva


  • Dovzhenko, Alexandr (ed. Marco Carynnyk) (1973). Alexandr Dovzhenko: The Poet as Filmmaker, MIT Press. ISBN 0-262-04037-9
  • Kepley, Jr., Vance (1986). In the Service of the State: The Cinema of Alexandr Dovzhenko, University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 0-299-10680-2
  • Liber, George O. (2002). Alexander Dovzhenko: A Life in Soviet Film, British Film Institute. ISBN 0-85170-927-3
  • Nebesio, Bohdan. "Preface" to Special Issue: The Cinema of Alexander Dovzhenko. Journal of Ukrainian Studies. 19.1 (Summer, 1994): pp. 2–3.
  • Perez, Gilberto (2000) Material Ghost: Films and Their Medium, Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0-8018-6523-9
  • Abramiuk, Larissa (1998) The Ukrainian Baroque in Oleksandr Dovzhenko's Cinematic Art, The Ohio State University (UMI).

External links

  • Alexandr Dovzhenko at the Internet Movie Database
  • Chris Fujiwara's review Neglected Giant: Alexander Dovzhenko at the MFA
  • Ray Uzwyshyn Alexandr Dovzhenko's Silent Trilogy: A Visual Exploration
  • John Riley "Alexandr DovzhenkoA (Ukrainian) Life in Soviet Film: Liber's ", Film-Philosophy, vol. 7 no. 31, October 2003 – a review of George O. Liber (2002), Alexandr Dovzhenko: A Life in Soviet Film
  • Landscapes of the Soul: The Cinema of Alexandr Dovzhenko,
  • "Screenplays About the Earth" by Aleksandr Dovzhenko from
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