During the 1920s and 1930s thousands of European and American writers, professionals, scientists, and artists came to record their impressions of the "Soviet experiment." The interwar pilgrimage of these Western intellectuals and fellow-travelers remains one of the most notorious episodes in the political and intellectual history of the twentieth century. This talk presents findings from Michael David-Fox’s latest book, based on extensive research in formerly secret Soviet archives. While many visitors were profoundly affected by their Soviet tours, so too was the Soviet system itself: the early experiences of building showcases and teaching outsiders to perceive the future-in-the-making constitute a neglected international dimension to the emergence of Stalinism at home. As a case study, this talk takes perhaps the single most famous model institution visited by the most celebrated visitors: the secret police (NKVD) commune for reforming juvenile delinquents and homeless waifs in the village of Bolshevo, near Moscow. In the end, David-Fox argues, the interwar Soviet preoccupation with molding Western public opinion resulted in an influential contribution to the history of modern cultural diplomacy, as new Soviet methods of mobilizing the intelligentsia for the international ideological contest directly paved the way for the cultural Cold War.
Please note that seating for this event is available on a first come, first served basis-no reservations required. Please call on the day of the event to confirm. Please bring an identification card with a photograph (e.g. driver's license, work ID, or university ID) as part of the building's security procedures.
The Kennan Institute speaker series is made possible through the generous support of the Title VIII Program of the U.S. Department of State.