koivunen, pia

The World Youth Festival as a Forum for Demonstrating the Soviet Cultural Supremacy

The paper discusses the link between competition and culture in the case of the World Youth Festival, a multinational Soviet sponsored gathering. Competing and competition were omnipresent features in the youth festival despite the official festival rhetoric of fostering peace and friendship among world nations. In effect, many parts of the festival programme, not only the actual contests, encouraged representatives of the participating nations to compete with each other in the field of culture.

As the Western countries were not as enthusiastically involved in the festival, the most vigorous ’battles’ took place between the socialist states, rather than between East and West, which is perhaps the most studied aspect of the Cold War competition. The focus of the article is on the Soviet thinking and aims with regard to cultural competition and its significance. How did the Soviet cultural authorities articulate the cultural competition and why, in the end, was it so important to compete in culture?

The examination is based on the archival documents of the Ministry of Culture of the Soviet Union as well as the communist youth league and the communist party reports on the cultural competitions held at the festivals. These materials intriguingly reveal how the party and the Soviet cultural authorities viewed culture and its importance in the cultural Cold War, which in effect, took place not only against the West but also among the other socialist countries.

Thursday 25 October 10:15-12:15 Panels IV, Panel 9 Cold War Competition in the Sphere of Culture (Hall 14)