The World Youth Festival as a Soviet Cultural Product during the Cold War




World Youth Festival, mega-event, cultural production, cultural Cold War, WFDY, IUS, Komsomol


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.

Author Biography

Pia Koivunen

PhD, Senior Lecturer, University of Turku.

FI-20014, Finland.

ORCID 0000-0001-6142-1595


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How to Cite

Koivunen, P. (2020). The World Youth Festival as a Soviet Cultural Product during the Cold War. Quaestio Rossica, 8(5), 1612–1628.



Problema voluminis