Cover image: Youths dancing in Moscow during the Festival.
Following Stalin’s death in 1953, there was a “thawing out” of the typically strict, uptight Soviet culture. Creativity began to flourish with the end of the gulags, the Space Race, and the new generation rising up. In 1957, that new generation hosted the International Youth Festival in Moscow. The city was ablaze with color and Pablo Picasso’s doves of peaces (Geldern). The festival encompassed many of the joys that people could not partake in during Stalin’s reign. Jazz, artwork, and a general sense of freedom flowed throughout the entire week long festival. Check out this video to see some new coverage from that time!
The interactions between Soviets and foreigners from the West helped to emphasize the changes necessary for the USSR to remain a world power, and the outdatedness of socialist realism (Geldern). The exchange of culture and a sense of community helped to implant revolutionary notions in the youth. There was a “giddy sense of freedom” which “became a beacon for the youth around the country” (Geldern). This outpouring of artistry inspired young Soviets and caused them to look outside of the USSR towards possible alternatives for ways of governing. Furthermore, it showed them the diversity of the world and the endless potential they carried.
The International Youth Festival remains a festival today with locations as far apart as Aberdeen, Scotland to Beijing, China. Those same ideas of change, openness, and creativity are active nearly 60 years after the festival in Moscow. It remains a space for frank dialogue between different youths across the world. This exchange helps to progress countries further, while providing an outlet for artistic expression and a venue to talk to people who have incredibly different backgrounds.
In 2018, the United Nations hosted an International Youth Day in Nairobi, Kenya where they discussed pressing topics for leaders and youth in the present day. Here is a video where various youths touch on the topic of ‘safe spaces’ versus ‘brave spaces’ and what they believe youths can do to take action on bias and xenophobic conversations.
Cover Image: 6th-world-festival-of-youth-in-ussr