Visiting Socialism: Scandinavian Tourists as Addressees of German-Soviet Public Diplomacy




public diplomacy, tourism, German Democratic Republic, friendship among peoples, Baltic Sea Week


This article considers the concerted attempt of the German Democratic Republic and the Soviet Union to influence Scandinavian tourists during Baltic Sea Week in pursuit of their foreign policy goals. The author begins by discussing the implications of ‘public diplomacy’ within the context of East European socialism. Before examining how German and Soviet public diplomacy strategies intertwined, the paper outlines the methods of socialist public diplomacy and the reactions of the target audience, as well as certain aspects of Eigen-Sinn brought by the western guests. To explore these connections, the paper draws primarily on the records of the Danish working-class movement, the organizing committees and intelligence reports by the East German Ministry for State Security. While foreign tourism in the Soviet Union typically entailed both economic and political interests, the GDR even subsidised foreign tourists and designed package tours to serve almost exclusively political purposes. Focusing on Scandinavian guests, the paper discusses their reaction to the politically loaded tourism experience. Whereas some tourists readily spread the message that the organizers wanted to send, others did not hesitate to criticise what they saw or insisted on their own apolitical agendas. In addition, differing concepts of international understanding reflected the growing distance between Western leftist visitors and Eastern European communist parties. While there were hardly any measurable effects in the political realm, Baltic Sea Week seems to have produced unintended cultural effects resulting from its omnipresent friendship rhetoric and peace message.

Author Biography

Jan-Hinnerk Antons

PhD, Senior Lecturer, Helmut-Schmidt-University. 

85, Holstenhofweg, 22043, Hamburg, Germany.

ORCID 0000-0002-9888-0645


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How to Cite

Antons, J.-H. (2020). Visiting Socialism: Scandinavian Tourists as Addressees of German-Soviet Public Diplomacy. Quaestio Rossica, 8(5), 1629–1644.



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