The World Youth Festival as a Soviet Cultural Product during the Cold War
This article discusses Soviet cultural diplomacy from the perspective of cultural production. It analyses a Soviet-sponsored international event, the World Festival of Youth and Students, as a cultural product created within the socialist system. The first festival was held in Prague in 1947, and the tradition continued throughout the Cold War period until today. Earlier scholarship has examined the festival as a propaganda tool, a forum for cross-cultural encounters, and a battlefield of the cultural Cold War between the capitalist West and the socialist East. Much has been written about individual world youth festivals and national delegations, while the design, cultural background and fundamental ideas behind the event have been much less acknowledged. By employing the concept of mega-event and comparing the festival with iconic international events, such as World’s Fairs and the Olympic Games, it discusses the festival’s composition and evolution, its reception, and how the event found its place in a world shaped by the tensions between the two social systems. It employs materials from the main organiser of the event, the World Federation of Democratic Youth, documents from the Communist Youth League (Komsomol) and the Communist Party of the USSR, and contemporary newspapers and magazines. The author argues that the USSR developed an attractive global cultural institution, which well suited the Cold War environment but was too dependent on financial support from the socialist bloc and too tied to the political agenda of the Soviet Union to become a universally accepted institution.
Applebaum, R. (2015). The Friendship Project: Socialist Internationalism in the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia in the 1950s and 1960s. In Slavic Rev. Vol. 74. No. 3, pp. 484–507. DOI 10.5612/slavicreview.74.3.484.
Babiracki, P. (2015). Soviet Soft Power in Poland. Culture and the Making of Stalin’s New Empire, 1943–1957. Chapel Hill, Univ. of North Carolina Press. 344 p.
Barghoorn, F C. (1964). Soviet Foreign Propaganda. Princeton, Princeton Univ. Press. 329 p.
Clarke, D. (2016). Theorising the Role of Cultural Products in Cultural Diplomacy from a Cultural Studies Perspective. In Intern. J. of Cultural Policy. Vol. 22. No. 2, pp. 147–163. DOI 10.1080/10286632.2014.958481.
Cornell, R. (1965). Youth and Communism. An Historical Analysis of International Communist Youth Movements. N. Y., Walker and Company. 239 p.
David-Fox, M. (2012). Showcasing the Great Experiment. Cultural Diplomacy and Western Visitors to the Soviet Union, 1921–1941. N. Y., Oxford Univ. Press. 448 p.
Deery, P. (2002). The Dove Flies East: Whitehall, Warsaw and the 1950 World Peace Congress. In Australian J. of Politics and History. Vol. 48. No. 4, pp. 449–468. DOI 10.1111/1467-8497.00270.
Geldern, J. von. (1993). Bolshevik Festivals, 1917–1920. Berkeley, Univ. of California Press. 316 p.
Gold, J. R., Gold, M. M. (2007). Athens to Athens: The Summer Olympics, 1896–2004. In Gold, J. R., Gold, M. M. (Eds.). Olympic Cities. City Agendas, Planning, and the World’s Games, 1896–2012. L., Routledge, pp. 15–47.
Gold, M. M., Revill, G. (2007). The Cultural Olympiads: Reviving the Panegyric. In Gold, J. R., Gold, M. M. (Eds.). Olympic Cities. City Agendas, Planning, and the World’s Games, 1896–2012. L., Routledge, pp. 59–83.
Gould-Davies, N. (2003). The Logic of Soviet Cultural Diplomacy. In Diplomatic History. Vol. 27. No. 2, pp. 193–214. DOI 10.1111/1467-7709.00347.
Griswold, W. (2004). Cultures and Societies in a Changing World. Thousand Oaks, Pine Forge Press. 193 p.
Hoberman, J. (1986). The Olympic Crisis. Sport, Politics and the Moral Order. New Rochelle, Aristide D. Caratzaz. 167 p.
Kaiser, W. (2003). The Great Derby Race: Strategies of Cultural Representation at Nineteenth-Century World Exhibitions. In Gienow-Hecht, J. C. E., Schumacher, F. (Eds.). Culture and International History. N. Y., Berghahn Books, pp. 45–59.
Kansan Arkisto (People’s Archive). Reijo Viitanen’s Collection. Box WFDY 1947; Box WFDY 1945.
Keys, B. (2006). Globalizing Sport: National Rivalry and International Community in the 1930s. Cambridge, Harvard Univ. Press. 274 p.
Koivunen, P. (2013). Performing Peace and Friendship. The World Youth Festival as a Tool of Soviet Cultural Diplomacy, 1947–1957. PhD Diss. Tampere, S. n. 372 p.
Kotek, J. (1996). Students and the Cold War. L., Macmillan. 279 p.
Krekola, J., Mikkonen, S. (2011). Backlash of the Free World. The US Presence at the World Youth Festival in Helsinki, 1962. In Scandinavian J. of History. Vol. 36. No. 2, pp. 231–256. DOI 10.1080/03468755.2011.565566.
Luza, R. (1970). History of the International Socialist Youth Movement. Leyden, A. W. Sijthoff. 336 p.
Molodye bortsy za mir [Young Peace Activists]. (1952). In Pravda. 21 May, p. 1.
Moshnyaga, V. P. (1976). Vsemirnaya federatsiya demokraticheskoi molodezhi [World Federation of Democratic Youth]. Moscow, Molodaya gvardiya. 144 p.
Müller, M. (2015). What Makes an Event a Mega-Event? Definitions and Sizes. In Leisure Studies. Vol. 34. No. 6, pp. 627–642. DOI 10.1080/02614367.2014.993333.
Munro, L. (2010). Investigating World’s Fairs: An Historiography. In Studies in Latin Am. Popular Culture. Vol. 28, pp. 80–94. DOI 10.1353/sla.0.0001.
Naimark, N. M. (1995). The Russians in Germany. A History of the Soviet Zone of Occupation, 1945–1949. Cambridge, Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press. 586 p.
Popov, A. (2018). Uchastie SSSR v organizatsii i provedenii Vsemirnykh festivalei molodezhi i studentov [The Participation of the USSR in the Organisation and Hosting of World Festivals of Youth and Students]. In Sovetskaya kul’turnaya diplomatiya v usloviyakh kholodnoi voiny. 1945–1989. Moscow, ROSSPEN, pp. 121–169.
Prozumenshchikov, M. Yu. (2004). Bol’shoi sport i bol’shaya politika [Big Sport and Big Politics]. Moscow, ROSSPEN. 462 p.
RGANI [Russian State Archive of Contemporary History]. Stock 5. List 28. Dos. 363; List 33. Dos. 38.
RGASPI [Russian State Archive of Social-Political History]. Stock M-3. List 15. Dos. 36; Stock M-1c. List 1c. Dos. 1113c.
Riordan, J. (1986). Elite Sport Policy in East and West. In Allison, L. (Ed.). The Politics of Sport. Manchester, Manchester Univ. Press, pp. 66–89.
Roche, M. (2000). Mega-Events and Modernity: Olympics, Expos and the Growth of Global Culture. L., Routledge. 281 p.
Roth-Ey, K. (2004). “Loose Girls” on the Loose? Sex, Propaganda and the 1957 Youth Festival. In Ilic, M., Reid, S. E., Attwood, L. (Eds.). Women in the Khrushchev Era. Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 75–95.
Rutter, N. (2013). Look Left, Drive Right: Internationalism at the 1968 World Youth Festival. In Gorsuch, A. E., Koenker, D. (Eds.). Socialist Sixties. Crossing Borders in the Second World. Indiana, Indiana Univ. Press, pp. 193–212.
Rydell, R. (1993). World of Fairs: The Century-of-Progress Expositions. Chicago, Univ. of Chicago Press. 269 p.
Schiller, K. (2011). Communism, Youth and Sport. The 1973 World Youth Festival in East Berlin. In Tomlinson, A. et al. (Ed.). Sport and the Transformation of Modern Europe. L., N. Y., Routledge, pp. 50–66.
Taylor, K. (2006). Let’s Twist Again: Youth and Leisure in Socialist Bulgaria. Wien, Lit Verlag. 248 p.
Tri festivalya [Three Festivals]. (2017). In Muzei Moskvy [official website]. URL: https://mosmuseum.ru/exhibitions/p/tri-festivalya/ (accessed: 06.07.2020).
World Federation of Democratic Youth Bulletin (1946). No. 2, 4.
World Student News (1947). No. 2. (1954). No. 12.