Splitting the Worlds, Bridging the Gaps: The Soviet (Russian) Cultural Diplomacy in Cold War and today. V International Summer School

German Academic Exchange Service; Department of Russian and International History and Center for Cultural History, Studies of the South Ural State University; South Ural Institute of Management and Economics; State Archive of Chelyabinsk Province
13.08.2018 - 26.08.2018
Robert Kindler

V International Summer School

Splitting the Worlds, Bridging the Gaps: the Soviet (Russian) Cultural Diplomacy in Cold War and today
Summer school location:Chelyabinsk, Russia

Duration: Without arrival and departure days 2 weeks, August 13-26, 2018
Target group:Students studying history, social sciences, political science, cultural studies, international relations

Application deadline for German students: 30th Mai 2018

Application: Detailed CV, a completed application form (see below), copy of passport, (if any) abstract of a research project on the subject of the school

Costs: The cost of attending the summer school is 650 Euros and covers the transfer from the airport, language courses, lectures, seminars and workshops as well as a comprehensive excursion program (city tours, museums and art gallery, thematic excursions). This sum excludes the costs of travel, insurance, visa and food. The 10 participants will receive the scholarship from DAAD.

Visa: The participants, who successfully completed the selection process, receive an official invitation to apply for a visa at the Russian representations in Germany.

Accommodation and catering:The participants of the summer school will stay in the dorm (in the center, next to the main building). The catering can be organized according to your own taste. The university has numerous cafes and canteens. Vegetarian food is provided in each menu. The daily expenses will be a maximum of 10-15 euros.

Languages: German, English, Russian

Language course: The focus of the language course is on language practice and subject-specific dictionaries. The language lessons take 1.5 hours a day.

Concept and subject course

Last October the Olympic city of Sochi hosted the XIX World festival of young people and students that was held under government supervision under the motto “Standing for peace, solidarity and social justice, we fight against imperialism!”. Leaving apart the expectations of the organizers and the public response to this get-together, the very program of the event and its symbolic design has demonstrated Russia’s commitment to the rhetoric and representational practices of the bipolar world so much nourished in the Cold War. The very process of selecting the delegates and countries to participate, the overall friendship rhetoric, the visual patterns and slogans – all this served to make an intentional parallel to the events of the Moscow Youth Festival of 1957, a clear reference to the era of Soviet “cultural expansion” being aimed to re-enactment of imagined\staged breakthrough of the international isolation. It is hardly surprising that the current reconfiguring the international relations which is often perceived as the “the new Cold War” has relaunched the new wave of interest to various dimensions of global rivalry of the second half of the ХХ century, including the communicational and symbolical levels. It appears that sixty years ago in terms of intense ideological confrontation, the “iron curtain” was much more permeable for the institutes and actors of cultural diplomacy than for strictly political bodies which made the overall system more flexible, letting it to avoid direct conflicts and to function relatively smoothly. In many respects the current revival of the representational practices of the Cold War may be accounted for the challenges faced by contemporary Russia (the economic sanctions, isolation from/by the West and so on). Their seeming similarity to the situation dating back to the USSR has made possible appeals to multiply checked representational practices of the soviet time with only slight adaptation to the new technological and informational realities.

The main objective of the fifth international summer school is to provide its participants with better understanding of the role of the soviet cultural diplomacy's and to explore its function as a space of transnational communication in the time of global political and ideological stand-off. What discoursive strategies were used to shape the cultural politics if the USSR, were there any specificities and compromises? What tools and strategies proved more efficient in the shaping of symbolical communication and cultural diplomacy practices? Are they still working? What were the advantages and shortcomings of the soviet cultural politics?

It is our belief that the debates on current state of art of the Russian self-image making in the international arena will help to refresh and expand the knowledge on the problems of continuity and discreetness of the cultural-diplomatic practices of the past and present.

Audience level: graduate (4-8 terms) and post-graduate

The course design includes three thematic modules featuring various techniques of learning, knowledge control and intellectual exchange.

Module I: Cultural diplomacy: methodological approaches and historical retrospect

The lectures and seminars of this module the participants will be an introduction to the most update scholarly and theoretical work in the field aimed at exploring the formal and informal intercultural communication the transnational communication, the production of cultural meanings and symbols and the way they were broadcasted to the outer international audiences, the shaping trans-border biographies and identities. On of the most recent achievements of the theoretical framework on the subject is a paradigm of “multiple modernity” which marks the departure from the habitual conceptualizations of Cold War as exclusively bipolar system to a more flexible one, emphasizing not only antagonisms but similarities, flexibilities and multi-dimentionalities (the varieties of socialist cultures “wrapped” in national peculiarities from country to country, the ideologies speaking on the language of enlightenment and education, hybrid cultures and patchwork identities.

In its turn, the awareness of the most long-term trends of conceptualizing the cultural diplomacy provides tools for better locating the most problematic fields of its contemporary applicability as well as its fails and successes in terms of media revolution and change of generations.

Module II: Soviet cultural diplomacy in the Cold War: the institutes and instruments

The complexity of the Soviet system of cultural diplomacy is reflected in a wide range of government and (quasi)public organizations where the functions of representing the USSR and the socialist society to the outside world were unevenly spread between a number of state authorities and political bodies (the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the USSR, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and many others). From one hand, these functional inextensibilities and duplications of competences in the bodies of various levels and types impeded the elaboration of the mutually linked exercises of cultural diplomacy. However, from the other one, the improvised character of these practices and the shortcomings of control policies allowed a sort of a freedom of space where both official and non-official envoys and agents of soviet cultural diplomacy could act more or less arbitrary.

On this stage the young researchers are expected to explore the tools of the soviet cultural diplomacy and to assess the extent of their efficiency – the organization and participants experiences in celebrations of jubilees and anniversaries, sports and festive mega-events; the politics of exhibitions and exchange activities; the competition for aerospace superiority and the ways it was presented to impress the developing countries and to motivate them to join to a certain bloc; the techniques of treating the memories of the Second World war and using them as a mean of symbolic consolidation of the socialist camp.

Module III: “Internationalism with a human face”: actors, contact groups and target audience of the Soviet cultural diplomacy

From 1981, when Paul Hollander published his book on political pilgrimage, the problem of the cultural diplomacy’s agency in the world communicative space, both transnational and divided, has been one of the hottest spots of historiography of the field. The studies of this problem embrace the relations of the cultural diplomacy actors with the power institutions; the extent of agencies and agent’s freedom; the level of party control and influence of security offices to the activities of the public organizations and friendship societies; the roles of artists, musicians, sports people and tourists as “Kulturtraegers” and “plenipotentiaries without a mandates” in the international and country-to-country relations.

In this module the participants are invited to approach cultural diplomacy through the lens of agencies and the partnerships, being focused on two prospects - on the one hand, the “envoys” themselves (their biographies of the most typical and influential transnational actors, the key figures, points and limits of national and transnational networking). On the other hand, the research interest will be focused of the target groups of Soviet(Russian) cultural diplomacy – their bloc, regional and overall country specificities, the continuities and novelties of methods chosen for the work with the target groups and institutions; the show-casing, organizational and protocol adjustment practices during the visits of international state leaders, persons of culture and religion, tourist groups and public exchange delegations.

Taking into consideration the previous experience, the school course design is organized as a discussion platform and will emphasize interactive form of learning and project-making. To improve the skills of archive research the participants will be offered to work in the State Archive of Chelyabinsk with the personal papers of the local people who were an “ordinary” envoys of soviet cultural diplomacy, to analyze the personal questionnaries and CVs of those involved in the events and activities of the soviet cultural diplomatic activities and, above all, to conduct live interviews with some of them (soviet-time tourists, workers of foreign contracts, “pen-friends”, ex-members of public organizations and so on).

Since one of the main purposes of the school is to encourage scholarly communication of German and Russian students, the project-making activity will be conducted in a small groups consisting of both parties who will be offered a tentative list of topics in the lines of general theme of the school. At the end of the school all the group and individual (if there is any) projects are to be presented at the final seminar.

Above all, course design includes classes of Russian and a cultural program featuring natural and historical landmarks of the South Ural Region.


Dr. Olga Nikonova

Splitting the Worlds, Bridging the Gaps: The Soviet (Russian) Cultural Diplomacy in Cold War and today. V International Summer School, 13.08.2018 – 26.08.2018 Tscheljabinsk, in: H-Soz-Kult, 13.03.2018, <www.hsozkult.de/event/id/termine-36667>.
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