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Festival On the Streets

Moscow Youth Festival


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.

Festival on the Streets (1957) Clip
Theme Song of the International Youth Festival (If the Guys of all the World)

Opening Day – Sixth World Youth Festival



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.


  1. seeingred

    I enjoyed reading your post because I had never learned about this event but it definitely seems to be such a great example of the process of de-Stalinization and of a cultural mixing. Abstractionist work and jazz music are two forms of art that are very centered around personal expression and different interpretations, which was something that had not previously been promoted. This post made me think about several other posts about youth cultural movements or youth protests and made me realize that a new era of youth expression had formed and proved to be a much more powerful influence than I think many people could have anticipated.

  2. I agree. Looking at the 1957 World Youth Festival shows how important generational differences and cross-cultural communication would be to post-war societies everywhere, even (or maybe especially) in a context like the Soviet Union, where official cultural norms worked in concert with significant political restraints.

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