Skip to main content
Support
Event

KGB Photography and Films: The Image of the Enemy

Drawing upon visual materials recently discovered in the SBU archives in Ukraine, George F. Kennan Fellow Tatiana Vagramenko will discuss how specific visual technologies developed by the KGB created a powerful image of the “people’s enemy” and broadly shaped socialist imaginations.

Date & Time

Feb. 19, 2020
2:00pm – 3:30pm

Location

5th Floor, Woodrow Wilson Center
Get Directions

KGB Photography and Films: The Image of the Enemy

Along with other advanced surveillance and espionage technologies, photography was a common method of “agent-operational measures” of the Soviet security services. KGB officers photographed crime scenes and criminal evidence, used concealed cameras for surveillance, and photographed intercepted materials. Additionally, a rich collection of confiscated images, subject to alteration and doctoring, was used as evidence against repressed individuals and groups. Drawing upon visual materials recently discovered in the SBU archives in Ukraine, George F. Kennan Fellow Tatiana Vagramenko discussed how specific visual technologies developed by the KGB created a powerful image of the “people’s enemy” and broadly shaped socialist imaginations.

A film screening of a KGB-produced propaganda film “The End of Spider” (1959, Ukraine, 18 min), followed the opening remarks.

Selected Quotes

Tatiana Vagramenko

“The image of an enemy was so powerful during the entire Soviet period. And in this frame, KGB photography was an element of technology of power. But who was the enemy? There were actually many enemies. Today’s enemy would be religion. Religion is something very dangerous on its own.”

“When you have this and many other signs of fake/real…that becomes reality because all reality is constructed. It’s hard to be sure who among those who were sitting there believed that was the truth, who knew that it was all scripted. I think it was a mixture of everything. Many of them knew that it was a kind of game that everyone has to play. They playing witnesses; them playing defendants…in many ways, it all was about knowing the rules of the game if you want to survive.”

“During the Stalin regime, everything was quite straightforward. There was violence and the people were just…broken and they were speaking against themselves. After Stalin died…that’s the beginning of the Golden Age of the KGB because the straightforward violence…was not allowed anymore officially. So, that was the moment of surveillance, blackmail, more sophisticated methods of surveillance, control, and pressure.”

 

Speaker

Tatiana Vagramenko

Tatiana Vagramenko

George F. Kennan Fellow;
Post-Doctoral Researcher, University College Cork.
Read More

Hosted By

Kennan Institute

The Kennan Institute is the premier U.S. center for advanced research on Russia and Eurasia and the oldest and largest regional program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. The Kennan Institute is committed to improving American expertise and knowledge of Russia, Ukraine, and the region. Through its residential fellowship programs, public lectures, workshops, and publications, the Institute strives to attract, publicize, and integrate new research into the policy community.  Read more

Event Feedback