Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

First Advisor

Mark N. Leiderman

Second Advisor

Laura O. Osterman

Third Advisor

Tatiana A. Mikhailova


This paper examines Russia’s contemporary sociopolitical environment through the lens of Russian director Kirill Serebrennikov’s 2017 arrest and his work The Student (2016)– a film exploring the effect of religious radicalization on a high school student and those around him, adapted from Marius von Mayenburg’s original play Martyr. By tracing religious and political undercurrents in Russia following Vladimir Putin’s rise to power, it becomes evident that Russian cultural producers are facing increasing levels of illegal censorship whilst being targeted for opposition to the Church and government. This thesis demonstrates that Serebrennikov has created a political manifesto against the contemporary political and cultural agenda of Russia’s ruling elites by arguing that all monotheistic religion is incompatible with modernity and that the imposition of its norms is nothing less than fascism. This thesis further maintains that it is precisely this act of dissent that was the true reason behind Serebrennikov’s arrest, exposing the disturbing and illegal censorship activities currently being carried out by the Russian state. Following the introduction, Part II: Russia’s Right Turn, will investigate Putin’s current sociopolitical agenda and the increasing role of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) in Russian state and society. This will segue into a section on the existing culture war being waged against dissident cultural producers by the Russian government, in tandem with the ROC. Part III: Kirill Serebrennikov– Reactions to The Martyr/ The Student [(M)uchenik] will present a brief biography of the director, followed by a summary of Marius von Mayenburg’s original play Martyr. Critical reactions to both Serebrennikov’s theatrical and film productions of the work will follow. Part IV will include an analysis of von Mayenburg’s original script, while Part V will analyze Serebrennikov’s film adaptation of the work, focusing on some key discrepancies between von Mayenburg’s play and Serebrennikov’s version. Part V will discuss Serebrennikov’s directorial choices, revealing Serebrennikov’s critique against Russia’s resurgence of religion and his warning of the inherent connection between monotheistic religion and fascism. Part VI will conclude the paper, with a section detailing the tactics of authoritarianism evident in the Russian government’s persecution of Kirill Serebrennikov.