The Thaw

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


8 thoughts on “The Thaw

  1. Ah! We wrote about the same thing! I would give anything to have witnessed this festival in Moscow because I feel like it meant so much on so many levels to the Soviet people. I thought your post was super educational and I really like your cover photo. Do you think this was a deliberate political move by Khrushchev? Hosting the festival?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah twins! I know, right? Yes, it think it was definitely political because I think he wanted to showcase a positive side of the USSR, especially during the Cold War and depictions the US/ West spread about the Soviet Union.


  2. Very cool how you connected the 1957 youth festival to the most recent one AND to your previous post on the historical antecedents of the kind of anti-semitic violence so recently inflicted on Jews at Tree of Life in Pittsburgh. I was really inspired by the emphasis in 2018 on “brave” and “safe” spaces. I know this is a bit anachronistic (because those concepts hadn’t been invented yet), but I’m wondering if the 1957 participants in the Moscow youth festival felt a similar kind of challenge to connect across difference and experience in order to lead the world forward on a more peaceful and compassionate footing?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! They probably did, I feel like it’s an intrinsic want in younger generations to want to change the world for the better and experience new things. I don’t think fear / ignorance of the unknown comes until you are older, and perhaps a bit more jaded. Obviously, that trend is easily reversed though.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This is a great post and is really inspiring. I love how you connected the festival you described to later iterations of it and showed that it is still something that is put on today to connect with people from different cultures.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you!! I was surprised to learn that it still existed in multiple different cities today.


  4. This was really interesting to read! I also wrote about this so it is really cool to see how you interpreted it. I really liked how you brought in some of the modern day youth festival things and tied it together with the one in Russia in the 1950s.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you!! It was so interesting to learn about 🙂


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