Find more information about

at the Center for Jewish History:

NOTE: you will be redirected
to the Web site for the

Trauberg, Leonid Zakharovich

(1902–1990), film director, scriptwriter, and educator. In 1920 Trauberg moved from Odessa to Petrograd, where he worked as a journalist and participated in amateur plays. He also attended the Comic Opera Theater School and studied directing. In 1921 Trauberg became acquainted with the directors Grigorii Kozintsev, Sergei Iutkevich, and Georgii Kryzhitskii, with whom he organized Fabrika Ekstsentricheskogo Aktera (Factory of the Eccentric Actor; FEKS); their collaboration continued until 1926, first as a theater and then as a cinema collective that exerted great influence over the aesthetics of Soviet cinematography throughout the 1930s.

In 1924 Trauberg became a director at the Lenfilm Cinema Studio, and from 1941 to 1943 he held the post of artistic director of Tsentral’naia Ob”edinennaia Kinostudiia (Central Consolidated Film Studio; TsOKS) in Alma-Ata. In 1949, he took on the directorship of the Mosfilm Cinema Studio. Simultaneously, from 1926 to 1949 he was affiliated with theatrical institutes in Leningrad as well as Leningrad State University. From 1961 to 1965 he taught at the Graduate School of Scriptwriters and Film Directors in Moscow, becoming its artistic director in 1963.

Trauberg collaborated on many films with Kozintsev; indeed, his only independent film was Aktrisa (Actress; 1943). The pair made their debut as directors with the eccentric comedy Pokhozhdeniia Oktiabriny (The Adventures of Oktiabrina; 1924), followed by Mishki protiv Iudenicha (Mishki against Iudenich; 1925), Chertovo koleso (Ferris Wheel, or The Devil’s Wheel; 1926), Bratishka (Little Brother; 1927), and Shinel’ (The Overcoat; 1927). These films adopted a style similar to the popular German expressionism. Later, their work, along with that of the entire Soviet avant-garde, began to evolve in the direction of classical literary and cinematographic traditions. This is evident in such films as Soiuz Velikogo Dela (The Union of the Great Deed [SVD]; 1927) and Novyi Vavilon (The New Babylon; 1929).

When sound techniques made the silent screen obsolete in the early 1930s, Trauberg and Kozintsev’s film Odna (One; 1931) represented part of the triumph of socialist realist poetics. Their Maksim trilogy—Iunost’ Maksima (Maksim’s Youth; 1935), which won first prize at the First Moscow International Film Festival; Vozvrashchenie Maksima (Maksim’s Return; 1937); and Vyborgskaia storona (The Vyborg Side; 1939)—is considered their greatest joint project. It tells the story of Maksim, an enthusiastic young worker, passionate in his fight against the enemies of the state, who eventually becomes commissar of the state bank and an important party leader. During World War II, they filmed several short propaganda pieces, and after the war, they produced Prostye liudi (Plain People; 1945), a film that was banned by the censors in 1946 for “slandering the lives of simple Soviet people” and was not shown until 1956, after their partnership had dissolved.

During the antisemitic campaign of the late 1940s and early 1950s, Trauberg was accused of “cosmopolitanism,” and when he did not recant, he was expelled from the cinema industry. Throughout the years of his disfavor, Trauberg wrote scripts for other directors, and returned to directing in 1958. His version of Gogol’s Mertvye dushi (Dead Souls; 1960) won the Critic’s Prize at the Monaco International Film Festival of Television Movies in 1961. In the last years of his life, Trauberg published a number of popular books and pamphlets on cinema. He was awarded the Stalin Prize in 1941, and was named Honored Worker in the Arts of the Russian Republic in 1967 and People’s Artist of the Russian Republic in 1987.

Suggested Reading

Jay Leyda, Kino: A History of the Russian and Soviet Film (Princeton, 1960); Lev A. Parfenov, Zhivye golosa Kino: Iz neopublikovannogo (Moscow, 1999).



Translated from Russian by I. Michael Aronson