mikkonen, simo

Transnational Turn in the Soviet Society during the Late Socialism

This presentation deals with Soviet transnational networks with the West, emergence of these networks, as well as their dynamics and significance. I examine how the flow of ideas, people and processes between the Soviet Union and the West after the death of Stalin constituted an important element of the Soviet society during the late socialist period as described by Alexey Yurchak (2006). Major expansion in exchanges of people and culture were part of the Soviet international strategy after Stalin’s death. Through bilateral agreements on cultural exchange with Western countries Soviet presence in the West expanded significantly. Simultaneously, however, unofficial people-to-people relations started to grow in a scale unprecedented in the Soviet Union as increasing amounts of people got access to foreign currents. Thus, for individuals meaning of these exchanges was often less ideological than professional and individual. This shifts the focus from international relations towards transnational, from state-to-state towards people-to-people level.

This presentation discusses a possible paradigm change: International dimensions of Soviet history are often tightly connected to traditional Cold War narrative, giving little room for social and cultural dimensions. Refocusing of Soviet history towards transnational, comparative and international is highly important in regards with the post-Stalin years when foreign connections were re-established. This allowed Soviet citizens in grand scale to get a chance for a glimpse of the world outside the Soviet Union in the form of movies and exhibitions, foreign visitors, and even Soviet tourism abroad. It can be argued that transnational approach better reveals the significance played by western connections and culture in the Soviet society during the late socialist period. This, however, calls for paradigm change.

Wednesday 24 October 16:45-18:45 Panels II, Panel 4 Between East and West during the Cold War (Auditorium II)