Alexander Dovzhenko

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Alexander Dovzhenko
Alexander Dovzhenko.jpg
Alexander Petrovich Dovzhenko

(1894-09-10)September 10, 1894
DiedNovember 25, 1956(1956-11-25) (aged 62)
Resting placeNovodevichy Cemetery, Moscow
OccupationFilm director, screenwriter
Years active1926–1956
Spouse(s)Yuliya Solntseva

Alexander Petrovich Dovzhenko or Oleksander Petrovych Dovzhenko[1] (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. He is often cited as one of the most important early Soviet filmmakers, alongside Sergei Eisenstein, Dziga Vertov, and Vsevolod Pudovkin, as well as being a pioneer of Soviet montage theory.


Alexander Dovzhenko was born in the hamlet of Viunyshche located in Chernigov Governorate, Russian Empire (now part of Sosnytsia town in Chernihiv Oblast, Ukraine), to Petro Semenovych Dovzhenko and Odarka Yermolayivna Dovzhenko. His paternal ancestors were Ukrainian Cossacks (Chumaks) 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 avoided military service during World War I because of a heart condition, but during the Soviet-Ukrainian War he served a year in the Red Army.[2][3] In 1919 in Zhytomyr he was taken prisoner and sent to a concentration camp. In 1920 Dovzhenko joined the Borotbist party. 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), are his most well-known works in the West. Earth portrayed collectivization in a positive light, but Soviet authorities evidently didn't consider it positive enough and the film was subjected to criticism. Dovzhenk's next film, Ivan, portrayed a Dneprostroi construction worker and his reactions to industrialization, which was then summarily denounced for promoting fascism and pantheism. Fearing arrest, Dovzhenko personally appealed to Stalin, but the Soviet dictator had been a fan of Arsenal and gave his blessing to the director's next project, Aerograd, about the defense of a newly constructed city from Japanese infiltrators. 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.

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 seven films.

He was a mentor to the young Soviet filmmakers Larisa Shepitko and Sergei Parajanov. 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.


*codirected by Yuliya Solntseva


  1. ^ Oleksander Dovzhenko at the Encyclopedia of Ukraine
  2. ^ Borwell, David (1994). Film History: An Introduction. New York.
  3. ^ Retrieved 2017-02-22. Missing or empty |title= (help)

Further reading[edit]

  • 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[edit]