Alexandr Medvedkin: AgitProp Train 1923


Alexandr Medvedkin: Agit-prop Train scans from a German history of Russian Cinema, published c1935

“Medvedkin was head of the Russian propaganda train that travelled around the Soviet Union making Social realist documentaries, as the narrator ironically comments; “films made at the top to instruct the grass roots, footage gathered at the grass roots, to be edited at the top.” (from:

The Agit Trains were highly decorated railway carriages/goods wagons, each carriage a different form of agitprop (agitation+propaganda) – a theatre wagon, a cinema wagon, film-studio and film-processing, etc. There’s a wonderful recreation of an Agit-Train in Warren Beatty’s feature Reds (1981), which maps the life and work of the American communist and journalist John Reed.


Warren Beatty: Reds 1981 This brilliant feature is a biopic of John Reed, the American journalist and communist who covered the Russian revolution and civil war – 1919-1923

Medvedkin and Dziga Vertov were two of the film-makers actively involved in the Bolshevik AGITPROP trains during the Russian Civil War. These trains toured the Russian countryside distributing leaflets, staging plays, showing films, illustrating the benefits of the Revolution for an illiterate peasantry. The AGITPROP trains are wonderful examples of how multimedia – and film and electronic media, were  creatively developed as ‘education, agitation and propaganda’ media.


Medvedkin’s Agit-train logotype from c1933


“…one of the primary aims of the agitprop trains was health education. Vertov and Medvedkin filmed people during the day, edited all night, then played the film back to their audience/participators next day. When they played another village the film, they found that these agitprop media had the power to unify…”(Henny 1983) at:,M1


Alexandr Medvedkin: Happiness 1935 Medvedkins most successful film, a slapstick social comedy set in Russia before the revolution, and in the USSR before Stalin’s Collectivisation (mass-redistribution and state-ownership of land) in the early 1930s. “The original print featured an experimental color sequence illustrating a poor peasant’s dreams of becoming a king.[1] It was the first color production of the Mosfilm studio. According to Medvedkin, “At that time the peasant could not dream of anything multicoloured of beautiful. His dream was limited, and in that the technology helped”. The sequence was discarded on account of its poor technical quality and is apparently lost.” (wikipedia)


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