Soviet union, eastern europe, communism, cold war, cultural exchange, cultural exchange exhibitions, cultural exchange agreement


After the signing of the Cultural Exchange Agreement in 1958, exhibitions of culture and technology were exchanged between the Soviet Union and the United States. These exhibitions continued to be exchanged well into the 1980s. This paper focuses on comment books from seven of these cultural exchange exhibitions, five in the Soviet Union and two in Eastern Europe, in the years between 1961 and 1976. The public nature of the comment books and the way they were treated by visitors made them a space for expressions of popular opinions over the issues of public policy and ideology. As such, they provide contemporary historians with a unique glimpse into the mindset of ordinary Soviet and Eastern European citizens during the Cold War. Based on the evidence from the comment books, and using methods elaborated by cultural anthropologists, this study shows that challenged by the display of apparent American superiority, most Soviet visitors preferred to fall back on the official ideology which claimed the moral superiority of their system. In the 1960s and early 1970s, the Soviet citizens experienced an upswing in communist morale, expressed a desire to compete with America and a conviction that their system will ultimately prevail over capitalism. However, to what extent such declarations should be accepted at their face value as sincere expressions of Soviet citizens‟ deep-seated convictions and to what extent they should be seen as situational responses to the perceived humiliation at the hands of foreigners remains unclear. While most Soviet visitors were defensive, invested in their ideology, and competitive with America, their reactions were not monolithic. Some of them were clearly fascinated by American consumer products and expressed an envious yearning to get possession of them, iv others stressed their openness to cultural exchange. There were apparently sincere expressions of support to the policy of détente, and of outrage over the Vietnam War. The Soviet visitors were aware of the unrest in American society caused by the civil rights movement, but were uninformed of the profound changes effected by this movement. Members of non-Russian minorities were interested in American ethnic diversity and sometimes implied their dislike of Moscow treatment of non-Russian nationalities. Eastern Europeans were less defensive and more open to American society and culture than the Soviets. Still, some of them also expressed procommunist sentiments and national pride. There was one issue, however, on which the Soviets and Eastern were clearly more in tune with American popular culture than with their own governments: consumerism and the sentiment of entitlement to the high quality goods that Americans had access to while they did not. It was on this issue that the eastern bloc regimes were facing the greatest threat.


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Graduation Date





Solonari, Vladimir


Master of Arts (M.A.)


College of Arts and Humanities



Degree Program









Release Date

August 2012

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Masters Thesis (Open Access)


Arts and Humanities -- Dissertations, Academic, Dissertations, Academic -- Arts and Humanities

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