After Stalin’s death, the new regime worked hard to dismantle his infamous system of secrecy, suppression, and the like. This greatly affected the political system, but it certainly extended into the cultural realm as well. Known as the Thaw, this time period saw much change in the Soviet Union and the life of its citizens (Freeze 412).
One product of the Thaw was the International Youth Festival, which was held in the summer of 1957 in Moscow. Over 30000 people attended the event. At the festival, the normal hammer and sickle symbol was not displayed – instead, Pablo Picasso’s doves of peace were used (Seventeen Moments). Art exhibits included abstractionist work, which was in violation of the state-approved socialist realism. Jazz music was performed, even though Stalin had officially determined this genre of music to be “decadent.” Lastly, Soviet citizens were allowed to mingle with foreigners from outside the Soviet Union. Clearly, Soviets in attendance experienced much more cultural freedom (and exposure to outside culture) than they had ever been given during the Stalin years (Seventeen Moments).
A couple months before the festival, an article was published that discussed a Yugoslav article about the youth movement. In the Soviet article, the author wrote, “the coming World Youth Festival will unquestionably play a great role in further uniting the youth in the struggle for peace and for the happiness of the younger generation” (“YOUTH UNITY? YES!“). It seems that the festival did just that. It united youth in the Soviet bloc and around the globe, demonstrating that big changes were taking place and would continue to take place in the post-Stalin years.
Alexandrov, L. and V. Petrov. “YOUTH UNITY? YES! -About a Yugopress Article.” Current Digest of the Russian Press. 1957. http://dlib.eastview.com/browse/doc/13971526.
Freeze, Gregory L. Russia, A History. 2009.
Images retrieved from: http://www.soviethistory.org/index.php?page=subject&show=images&SubjectID=1956festival&Year=1956&navi=byYear
Von Geldern, James. “International Youth Fesitval.” Seventeen Moments in Soviet History.