Where Communist World Events Went in Practice and Memory, 1945-1989
Soviet socialism stood in close contact with the West via Central European allies in 1945, a distance narrowed further by the extended reach of transnational media like radio and television. In my talk I draw attention to one channel for transnational communication and influence that the Eastern bloc relied on more than the Western one: the world event. World conferences and festivals served the Soviet state and its allies as inspirations and reference points for other export-oriented media (e.g. documentary films, books, etc). They also served as lures for the foreign press. On the one hand, the events affirmed the core principles of the world communist movement, and thus offered a window onto the world as it should and one day would be. On the other hand, the events’ orientation toward Western popular audiences obliged communist host states to abide by Western, liberal norms and ethics. The results were sites of precisely the “convergence” between communist and Western cultures that Eastern bloc leaders struggled to direct and contain as the Cold War wore on.
Nick Rutter received his PhD in History from Yale University in 2013 for a dissertation titled, “Enacting Communism: The World Youth Festival, 1945-1975.” He taught as a Visiting Assistant Professor at Colgate University in 2013-2014. He is currently a Junior Fellow at the IAS at CEU. Nick has published two peer-reviewed chapters, one of which won the 2011 Smith-Webb Award for Historical Essays on the topic of “transnational historiography.” He will submit his book manuscript, tentatively titled Forgotten Futures: The World Youth Festival, 1945-1975, later this summer.