Educational Films

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Educational Films


science films used as an aid in the educational process, usually in cases where the subject material does not lend itself to treatment in normal classroom conditions. Cinematography makes it possible to slow down rapid processes and make them visible, photograph phenomena invisible to the naked eye, enlarge the tiniest object, transport the viewer to other countries, and make generalizations and abstractions understandable by means of film animation.

Educational films are classified according to the academic discipline involved and its particular methodology, the age of the students viewing the film, the degree of scientific training required of viewers (if the viewers are adults), and the educational goal. The last factor provides a basis for the following further classifications: films used as short reference aids; individual films that explain a specific topic within an academic program; films that help the viewer master production skills (shown on special training stands); instructional films that explain the purpose and significance of production rules; introductory films that familiarize the viewer with fundamental problems, goals, and tasks in an academic discipline; and review films that cover an entire discipline or one subject area within a discipline, used to review material already covered and to single out the most difficult problems to master. A cycle of educational films may be used to cover all the fundamental questions in an academic discipline.

Every type of film aid can be used to give a complete exposition of a topic in the minimum amount of time. Educational films are produced in a variety of genres, classified according to the cinematic method chosen. The makers of Soviet educational films are guided by Communist ideology; they strive to make films that are scientifically accurate, that reflect the current level of research, and that meet the requirements of the curriculum.

Educational cinematography began developing immediately after the invention of the motion-picture camera by the brothers L. J. Lumière and A. Lumière in 1895. The first educational film was made in France in 1898. In the beginning the makers of educational films were not systematic in their choice of topic or scientific endeavor. The production of educational films began in the USA in 1908 with T. A. Edison’s film Flypaper. The invention of a projector for narrow-gauge film marked a new stage in the history of educational films. In the 1920’s and 1930’s experimental research was conducted and special centers were organized, such as the Central Bureau of Educational Films in Great Britain and Luce in Italy. Research on the patterns of perception and the structure of films was conducted in the early 1920’s in Norway, France, and Hungary. A successful large-scale experiment in the USA at Yale University in 1922 studied the effects of a series of films on pupils’ knowledge. Since the late 1940’s, educational films have been produced for all courses in secondary schools and institutions of higher education, and 8-mm film cassettes have been produced in many thousands of copies in the USA, the Federal Republic of Germany, Czechoslovakia, the German Democratic Republic, and elsewhere.

In Russia, the first educational films were shown in St. Petersburg in 1897. Films made in Russian studios, such as The Electric Telegraph, The Circulation of the Blood, and The Eye, were first shown in 1907. Microcinematography was used for the first time in the film Infusoria, and macrophotography was used in a scientific laboratory for the first time in Experiments With Liquid Air. After the October Revolution of 1917, Soviet educational films developed under the influence of N. K. Krupskaia and A. V. Lunacharskii. The mass production of educational pictures was organized in the 1930’s, and the publication Uchebnoe kino (Educational Films) appeared regularly between 1933 and 1936, with articles by A. M. Gel’mont, M. M. Polonskii, Ts. Kiselev, B. Kh. Toll’ and others on the methodology for the use of educational films. Several articles by N. I. Zhinkin dealt with research on the perception of educational films. The film laboratories Shkolfil’m and Vuzfil’m were established in Moscow in the late 1930’s for the production of edited films.

Since the mid-1930’s, educational films have been produced in Moscow, Leningrad, Sverdlovsk and Kiev. They are also made at Union-republic documentary and popular science film studios. The USSR Ministry of Education has established a network of more than 1,500 film libraries, through which schools can obtain films. The All-Union Festival of Educational Films has been held since 1967, and seminars for creative workers and educators are conducted regularly. The Academy of Pedagogical Sciences of the USSR and higher educational research institutes operate research laboratories for educational films and for television programming.


Koretskii, K. “Zarubezhnaia uchebnaia kinematografiia.” In the collection Uchebnoe kino, fasc. 5. Moscow, 1936.
Uchebnyi fil’m: Sb. st. Moscow, 1961.
Shakhmaev, N. M. Didakticheskie problemy primeneniia tekhnicheskikh sredtsv obucheniia v srednei shkole. Moscow, 1973.
Wittich, W., and C. Schuller. Audio-Visual Materials. New York, 1957.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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