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Alexander Dovzhenko

Alexander Dovzhenko

Soviet screenwriter, film producer and director of ukrainian origin

Olexandr Dovzhenko was born in the district of Viunyshche in Sosnytsia, a townlet in the Chernihiv oblast of present-day Ukraine (at the time a part of Imperial Russia), to Petro Semenovych Dovzhenko and Odarka Ermolaivna Dovzhenko. (His ancestors were Cossacks who settled in Sosnytsia in the eighteenth century, coming from the neighboring province of Poltava.) Olexandr 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.

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 even served as an assistant to the Ambassador in Warsaw as well as Berlin. Upon his return to the Ukraine in 1923, he began illustrating books and drawing cartoons in Kiev.

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 Zvenigora in 1928 which established him as a major filmmaker of his era. His "Ukraine Trilogy," which included Arsenal and Earth, went under-appreciated by contemporary Soviet critics (who found some of its realism counter-revolutionary), but remains his most well-known work in the West.

Although he served as a wartime journalist for the Red Army during World War II, Dovzhenko began to feel ever more oppressed by the bureaucracy of Stalin's Soviet Union. 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.

Dovzhenko died of a heart attack on November 25, 1956 in Moscow.

Timeline

August 29, 1894
Alexander Dovzhenko was born in Sosnytsya.

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