Ukraine: Dziga (Vertov) Means Top in Ukrainian

Cinema pioneer Denis Kaufman’s family was Jewish and hailed from Bialystok in what was once Russia, but is today a part of Poland. Kaufman is known to us by his pseudonym, Dziga Vertov, which he seems to have started using as early as the year 1915. According to an entry in momoscope, “Vertov” is a neologism extrapolated from the Russian verb vertit’sia, to spin, and Dziga is the Ukrainian word for a top, This new name carried connotations of the dynamism of the age. Another aspect of this name change is that it was typical of Russophilic Jewish youth of the revolutionary period.

In the light of today’s crisis and conflict on Ukraine, it is significant that being Russophile does not preclude the pairing of Russian and Ukrainian words in the coining of a pseudonym. In fact, much of Vertov’s seminal ‘Man with a Movie.’ Camera was shot in Ukraine. Here is how this seminal work of modernist filmmaking is described in the Telescope International film database, “A man wanders around Moscow, Kharkov, Kiev, and Odessa with a camera slung over his shoulder, documenting urban life with dazzling invention. There are few films that better enable the viewer to feel and understand the power of editing than this towering achievement in cinema.”