Haunted by Empire

Decentring ‘Early Russian Cinema’


  • Oksana Chefranova Yale University
  • Natascha Drubek Apparatus. Film, Media and Digital Cultures in Central and Eastern Europe
  • Rachel Morley UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies
  • Denise J. Youngblood University of Vermont




Russian Empire, Ukraine, Georgia, Poland, Congress Poland, Bukovina, early cinema, cinema business, movie theatres, Russophone diaspora, screenwriting, Digital Humanities, New Cinema History, media hauntology, media archaeology, gender, decolonisation, women filmmakers, Christmas cinema, pre-cinema, panoptic gaze, panoramic view, military filmmaking, cross-dressed performances, theatrical travesty, dance films, Khlysts, sects, educational cinema, early animation


This editorial introduces the double issue The Haunted Medium I and II: Moving Images in the Russian Empire (Apparatus 15 and 16), which began in 2021. Opening with a general overview of existing scholarship in the field of ‘early Russian cinema’, it outlines the issue’s decentring approach to the study of cinema in the late Russian Empire and the intent to shed light on under-recognised contributors and overlooked aspects of the imperial film industry. The editorial critically reevaluates the term ‘Russian’ in the context of the Empire’s film production, fostering discussions on national identity and categorisation, including a shift in our spelling and naming habits, both scholarly and beyond academia. The editorial encapsulates the issue’s goal to inspire new cross-disciplinary and cross-national research, thereby enriching perspectives on the cinematic legacy of the Russian Empire. It offers a survey of the themes explored in the issue’s twelve articles and outlines how they collectively represent a starting point in the process of decentring our view of imperial film culture and contribute to expanding our understanding of it temporally, geographically, culturally, and – albeit to a lesser extent – methodologically and theoretically. The editorial concludes with summaries of each article.

Image generated by DALL·E, provided by OpenAI.




How to Cite

Chefranova, Oksana, Natascha Drubek, Rachel Morley, and Denise J. Youngblood. 2023. “Haunted by Empire: Decentring ‘Early Russian Cinema’”. Apparatus. Film, Media and Digital Cultures of Central and Eastern Europe, no. 16 (December). https://doi.org/10.17892/app.2023.00016.363.

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