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Cultural Exchange and the Cold War

Raising the Iron Curtain

Yale Richmond

Publication Year: 2004

Yale Richmond records a highly significant chapter in Soviet-American relations during the final decades of Communism. He provides us with a deftly written, accurate, and thoughtful account of the cultural exchanges that were such important channels of influence and persuasion during those years. His book covers the whole spectrum-from scholars and scientific collaboration to fairs and exhibits. We should be grateful that he has undertaken this task before memories fade.-Allen H. Kassof, former Executive Director, International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX), 1968-1992Some fifty thousand Soviets visited the United States under various exchange programs between 1958 and 1988. They came as scholars and students, scientists and engineers, writers and journalists, government and party officials, musicians, dancers, and athletes-and among them were more than a few KGB officers. They came, they saw, they were conquered, and the Soviet Union would never again be the same. Cultural Exchange and the Cold War describes how these exchange programs (which brought an even larger number of Americans to the Soviet Union) raised the Iron Curtain and fostered changes that prepared the way for Gorbachev's glasnost, perestroika, and the end of the Cold War.This study is based upon interviews with Russian and American participants as well as the personal experiences of the author and others who were involved in or administered such exchanges. Cultural Exchange and the Cold War demonstrates that the best policy to pursue with countries we disagree with is not isolation but engagement.

Published by: Penn State University Press

Front Cover

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Copyright Page

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pp. vii

Abbreviations and Acronyms

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pp. viii

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pp. ix-x

Recent research on the collapse of communism and the end of the Cold War has focused, not on the U.S.-Soviet power relationship, but rather on the emergence of ideas that led to Mikhail Gorbachev’s “new thinking.” Jeffrey Checkel has shown how international political change is driven by ideas.1 Thomas Risse- Kappen...

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pp. xiii-xiv

What caused communism to collapse and the Cold War to come to a close? Some say it was Ronald Reagan who sullied the Soviet Union with his “evil empire” speech. Others point to Pope John Paul II and his visits to Catholic Poland, which challenged Soviet rule in Eastern Europe and ultimately the entire...

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1 Russia and the West

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pp. 1-10

For most of its history Russia has been isolated from other major centers of world civilization.Vast distances separated it from Western Europe, the Middle East, and China. In an age when transportation was primitive and hazardous, a trip by horse-drawn coach from Moscow to Western Europe could take three months or...

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2 The Moscow Youth Festival

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pp. 11-13

When the Soviet Union made plans to host the Sixth World Youth Festival in Moscow, its intent was to demonstrate to the world the changes that had taken place since the death of Stalin four years earlier. Previous such festivals had been held in other countries, where they had been well managed by local communist...

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3 The Cultural Agreement

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pp. 14-20

President Dwight D. Eisenhower envisioned a people-to-people exchange, with people indeed bypassing their governments to learn more about each other. But that was not to be for many years, and in the interim, exchanges had to be negotiated and carried out by governments with their cumbersome bureaucracies and...

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4 Scholarly Exchanges

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pp. 21-64

One chapter alone, as Allen Kassof rightly regrets, will not suffice to credit the role of scholarly exchanges in bringing about change in the Soviet Union, but I will attempt it here. As Kassof explains:...

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5 Science and Technology

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pp. 65-76

“The scientific and academic communities traditionally have been the most pro- Western segments of Russian society,” writes Loren Graham, professor emeritus of the history of science from MIT, who studied at Moscow State University in 1960-61 under the Graduate Student/Young Faculty Exchange program....

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6 Humanities and Social Sciences

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pp. 77-80

Another important but less well known element of U.S.-Soviet exchanges was the work of the U.S.-USSR Commissions of ACLS. Established in the mid-1970ss, the commissions facilitated direct contact in the humanities and social sciences between scholars of the two countries through joint conferences and cooperative research.1...

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7 Moscow Think Tanks

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pp. 81-94

Until the mid-1950s the Soviet Union had no official body devoted to the study of foreign policy or international economic and political affairs. During the Stalin years, such issues were decided by the Vozhd’, the “Great Leader” himself, without the advice of experts, and at a time when there were few such experts in the Soviet...

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8 Forums Across Oceans

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pp. 95-112

Soviet think-tank staffers and scientists participated in several forums that provided an opportunity to meet and exchange views with American scholars, scientists, and public figures. There were a number of these, which have come to be called “transnational forums,” four of which will be discussed here—Pugwash, the...

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9 Other NGO Exchanges

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pp. 113-122

The U.S. government was the major sponsor of exchanges with the Soviet Union, but scores of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) also participated, some with and others without financial support from the U.S. government. Among them were the Alley Theater (Houston), American Bar Association, American...

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10 Performing Arts

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pp. 123-127

The importance of cultural exchanges in international relations was recognized by George Kennan, dean of American diplomats, but Sol Hurok, the legendary American impresario, knew what the public would come to see in both the United States and the Soviet Union, and he became one of the important middlemen who...

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11 Moved by the Movies

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pp. 128-132

Lenin was correct in predicting that the cinema would be an important medium for indoctrinating people, but the father of the Soviet state could not have foreseen the influence that foreign films would have on the Soviet public. From foreign films Soviet audiences learned that people in the West did not have to stand...

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12 Exhibitions—Seeing is Believing

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pp. 133-135

“Better to see once than hear a hundred times,” advises an old Russian proverb, and Russians heeded that advice in thronging to see the twenty-three major exhibitions brought to the Soviet Union by USIA under the cultural agreement from 1959 to 1991. What they had heard a hundred times about the United States from...

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13 Hot Books in the Cold War

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pp. 136-152

The knigonoshi were the book bearers of the tsarist era, Russians who traveled to the West on business or pleasure and returned home with forbidden books, often by bribing border guards to avoid government controls on the import of foreign literature. This chapter, however, is about modern knigonoshi who brought Western...

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14 The Pen Is Mightier . . .

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pp. 153-161

Writers are respected, honored, and widely read in Russia, where they have long been regarded as the conscience of the nation. Because of the strict controls on what could be published, under tsars as well as commissars, Russian writers attempted to treat in their works subjects of political and social import that could...

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15 Journalists and Diplomats

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pp. 162-171

Among the Russians accustomed to thinking one way but writing another were journalists and diplomats stationed outside the Soviet Union. During the Cold War, thousands of them worked in the United States and other countries around the world, and it is fair to ask if they too were influenced by their years abroad...

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16 Fathers and Sons

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pp. 172-178

Conflict between fathers and sons is a well-known theme in the literature of many nations. Russians know it from Ivan Turgenev’s masterful novel, Fathers and Sons (titled in Russian as the more politically correct Fathers and Children). Stalin himself would have experienced such a conflict had he been alive when his daughter...

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17 The Search for a Normal Society

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pp. 179-183

“Why do we live as we do?” was a question asked by many Soviets, all of them presumably cleared by the KGB and who visited the United States on exchanges, reports a veteran State Department interpreter who escorted many of them around the country...

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18 “Western Voices”

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pp. 184-185

Zapadniye golosa (Western voices), as they were called, were the forbidden foreign broadcasts that Soviet citizens listened to clandestinely on their shortwave radios, straining, above the din of Soviet jammers, to hear the news and commentary from Radio Liberty, BBC, the Voice of America (VOA), the Deutsche Welle, Kol...

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19 To Helsinki and Beyond

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pp. 186-190

When Premier Leonid Brezhnev traveled to Helsinki in the summer of 1975 to sign the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), it is not clear that he understood what he was committing the Soviet Union to do.1 The Final Act, as the conference’s concluding document is known, recognized, for the...

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20 Mikhail Gorbachev, International Traveler

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pp. 191-196

Another young and upwardly mobile Russian for whom foreign travel was an eyeopener was Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev, future member of the Politburo, General Secretary of the Communist Party, and president of the Soviet Union. A man with an inquisitive mind and a high respect for learning, Gorbachev came to...

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21 And Those Who Could Not Travel

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pp. 197-199

Many outstanding Soviet scholars, scientists, and writers traveled to the West, but many others, equally or even more outstanding, were not permitted to travel beyond the Soviet bloc, having failed to receive the approval of the Foreign Travel Commission, a body that decided which citizens were sufficiently reliable...

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22 The Polish Connection

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pp. 200-204

In 1968, I made a get-acquainted call on Moscow’s newly established Institute of Applied Sociological Research. Sociology had been banned in communist countries during the Stalin years, but the Soviet Union’s new leaders soon learned that sociological research, if closely controlled, could be useful in revealing the failures as well as the achievements of Soviet society...

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23 The Beatles Did It

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pp. 205-209

The influence of the Beatles on the youth of the West is well known. Less well known is their following among the youth of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, and the changes they brought about in those societies during the 1960s and 1970s in another form of cultural exchange...

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24 Obmen or Obman?

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pp. 210-225

What a difference an “a” makes! Obmen is the Russian word for “exchange,” obman the Russian word for “deception,” and some Americans saw exchanges with the Soviet Union as deceptions... Supporters of exchanges...

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25 The Future

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pp. 226-228

In the early years of the twenty-first century, Russia is in a new time of troubles— demographic, public health, environmental, crime and corruption, economic, and social—and there are some in the United States who believe that Russia no longer matters in world affairs. True, Russia has lost an...

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pp. 229-230

One day, history may tell us who really won. If a democratic Russia emerges—why then,...

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 231-236


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pp. 237-249

E-ISBN-13: 9780271052809
E-ISBN-10: 0271052805
Print-ISBN-13: 9780271025322
Print-ISBN-10: 0271025328

Page Count: 264
Publication Year: 2004