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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included music (like jazz which had Stalin had previously condemned), art, and film that, “showed Soviet viewers how outdated socialist realism had become” (Geldern).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