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Coachella, Firefly, Music Midtown, Austin City Limits, all of these are popular music festivals of our day. But one festival that you might have missed the memo on was the Sixth International Youth festival that took place in Moscow in 1957 (Geldern). The scene is not one which you would normally associate with Soviet Russia, the streets were lined with colorful flags adorned with Pablo Picasso’s Doves of Peace (Geldern). There were over 30,000 attendees to the festival (Peacock 515). The festival included music (like jazz which had Stalin had previously condemned), art, and film that, “showed Soviet viewers how outdated socialist realism had become” (Geldern).
The “Soviet leadership endeavored to use the festival as a vehicle for the projection of a revised, free, and peaceful Soviet populace” (Peacock 515). However, “like many carnivals before it, eroding divisions between performers and spectators allowed for freer contact between the estimated thirty thousand delegates than was normally possible within the confines of the Soviet performative universe” (Peacock 516). American delegates and Russian attendees were able to talk in ways that had previously not existed. The site of Maiakovskii Square, part of the festival in 1957, “became a gathering point for young poets and other discontents, eventually catalyzing the birth of the dissident movement” (Geldern).
Both Soviet and American press and leadership tried to use the event to bolster their Cold War ideology, even though interactions between attendees may have defeated this hope. But the festival still fulfilled purpose in that it, “was devoted to the young, which became the Soviet Union’s most pervasive icon for a new kind of Cold War culture” (Peacock 519). The festival did encourage Soviet’s youth population, giving them hope for the future, and, “the giddy sense of freedom unleashed by the week-long festival was not forgotten, and became a beacon for youth around the country” (Geldern).
Geldern, James von. “International Youth Festival” Soviethistory.MSU.edu http://soviethistory.msu.edu/1956-2/international-youth-festival/
Peacock, M. (2012). The perils of building cold war consensus at the 1957 moscow world festival of youth and students. Cold War History, 12(3), 515-535. 10.1080/14682745.2011.645809
Photo: Robert Carl Cohen. “Opening Day- Sixth World Youth Festival” Soviethistory.MSU.eduhttp://soviethistory.msu.edu/1956-2/international-youth-festival/international-youth-festival-images/#bwg146/803
5 Comments Add yours
The title states this festival as being the sixth, was this festival held every year? Also, did each festival base its audience on the younger generation? Also, who organized this event; was it the government or some smaller organizational group promoting peace? Sorry I have so many questions, it seems that I’ll have to do some research on my own!
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Hey Rachel! From the research I did I think I have some answers so here’s my best shot: So it had been held the previous five years, however this was the first year it was held in Russia so it was a very big year! Yes the festival was made to attract a young audience, this was part of the purpose the Soviet Government (the organizers of the event). They had hoped to boost morale and support in the young people, while also promoting their worldview/lifestyle to the international community!
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Wow this is really neat! I’m surprised that Americans were allowed to address such a large soviet population. I’d like to hear more of what the Americans were allowed to say considering the disparate ideologies between the two great powers at the time.
This seems to be a very unique disjunction from the normal hostilities we attribute with American-Soviet relations. Even though the two powers used it as a competition of sorts, it showed a more peaceful interaction between them then I would have thought possible, and it provided a great opportunity to share culture from across the pond. I really liked that you focused on something a bit more uplifting like this, and I feel that it better helps us make a more accurate picture of what relations between the Soviets and US were instead of pure aggression.
What could be more indicative of a change in the Soviet Union than acceptance of an international arts festival? This reminds me a lot of the Moscow Music Peace Festival and how it shows a new openness of society. Do you know if the Soviet Union ever held the International Youth Festival again? If so, when?