Showcasing the Great Experiment: Cultural Diplomacy and Western Visitors to the Soviet Union, 1921-1941

Showcasing the Great Experiment: Cultural Diplomacy and Western Visitors to the Soviet Union, 1921-1941

by Michael David-Fox
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

During the 1920s and 1930s thousands of European and American writers, professionals, scientists, artists, and intellectuals made a pilgrimage to experience the "Soviet experiment" for themselves. Showcasing the Great Experiment explores the reception of these intellectuals and fellow-travelers and their cross-cultural and trans-ideological encounters in

See more details below

Overview

During the 1920s and 1930s thousands of European and American writers, professionals, scientists, artists, and intellectuals made a pilgrimage to experience the "Soviet experiment" for themselves. Showcasing the Great Experiment explores the reception of these intellectuals and fellow-travelers and their cross-cultural and trans-ideological encounters in order to analyze Soviet attitudes towards the West.

Many of the twentieth century's greatest writers and thinkers, including Theodore Dreiser, André Gide, Paul Robeson, and George Bernard Shaw, notoriously defended Stalin's USSR despite the unprecedented violence of its prewar decade. While many visitors were profoundly affected by their Soviet tours, so too was the Soviet system. The early experiences of building showcases and teaching outsiders to perceive the future-in-the-making constitute a neglected international part of the emergence of Stalinism at home. Michael David-Fox contends that each side critically examined the other, negotiating feelings of inferiority and superiority, admiration and enmity, emulation and rejection. By the time of the Great Purges, these tensions gave way to the dramatic triumph of xenophobia and isolationism; whereas in the twenties the new regime assumed it had much to learn from Western modernity, by the Stalinist thirties the Soviet order was declared superior in all respects.

Drawing on the declassified archival records of the agencies charged with crafting the international image of communism, David-Fox shows how Soviet efforts to sell the Bolshevik experiment abroad through cultural diplomacy shaped and were, in turn, shaped by the ongoing project of defining the Soviet Union from within. These interwar Soviet methods of mobilizing the intelligentsia for the international ideological contest, he argues, directly paved the way for the cultural Cold War.

Read More

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"[T]he fullest and most colorful account in print...of fellow travelers who toured
Stalin's Russia.... [I]mpressive, scholarly, well written...." —Journal of Modern History

"Michael David-Fox's new book stands tradition on its head.... David-Fox provides illuminating and often gripping historical details that ask readers to rethink many important aspects of Soviety history. ... David-Fox adds to our understanding of the Stalin cult's genesis, the Soviet engagement with the radical Right in Europe, the Great Terror in 1937, and the rise of the Stalinist 'superiority complex,' the xenophobic culture that dominated the late 1930s and that put an end to the twenty-year efforts of cultural diplomacy." —The Historian

"[Showcasing the Great Experiment] is a major contribution to reinvigorating the study of how foreign and domestic concerns were constantly interacting, especially in the form of the seemingly inescapable "painful question" of Russia and the west." —Slavic Review

"This is a well-documented, informative, original study." —The Russian Review

"[A] superb book...While earlier studies have focused on the writings and responses of the foreign travelers after they returned to their home countries, this study uses newly opened archives to prove the details of the visits themselves...This important book will be of interest to a wide audience... Essential." —CHOICE

"A splendidly researched analysis...Showcasing the Great Experiment fully succeeds in 're-internationalizing' Soviet history, and establishing crucial connections between the inner dynamics of the regime and its efforts to globalize its appeal." —Times Literary Supplement

"Ambitious... Profoundly innovative and marks a real breakthrough in the field." —Journal of Cold War Studies

"[A] fine book...There is hardly any other book providing such a complete portrait of Soviet cultural diplomacy...Vividly and evocatively, David-Fox describes the paragons of the endeavor" —H-Net

"A nuanced and informed account of a fascinating and contradictory era in Soviet cultural relations with the West. The book shows how Soviet suspicion of the West in Stalin's time coexisted with an almost obsessive attention to Western opinions of the Soviet Union and a deep desire to win the admiration of Western intellectuals." —Sheila Fitzpatrick, University of Chicago

"Michael David-Fox has brought valuable new light to the USSR's campaign to gain the esteem of distinguished foreign visitors between the two world wars. Using recently opened Soviet archives, he explores the inner debates of the Communist bureaucracy about the uses of 'showcasing' and of modern 'Potemkin villages.' David-Fox also lucidly demonstrates how this propaganda drive affected Soviet domestic policy." —David Caute, author of The Dancer Defects: The Struggle for Cultural Supremacy during the Cold War

"A fascinating work of real historical imagination and enormous erudition. Using the visits of high-profile foreigners to Russia from 1921 to 1941 as a lens, David-Fox explores Russia's attitude toward the 'West' on the ground and in the mind. He tells his story from the perspective of Russia, of 'the West,' and of the space between." —Susan Gross Solomon, Munk School for Global Affairs, University of Toronto

"A nexus of domestic and international histories, this remarkable book treats the relationships between Western left intellectuals and Stalin's elites as a defining episode of the twentieth century. David-Fox leaves no doubt that the Soviet Union—even at the height of Stalinist madness—can be understood only as a part of European, Western history." —Vladislav Zubok, Temple University

Read More

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780199376421
Publisher:
Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date:
02/12/2014
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
416
Product dimensions:
8.20(w) x 12.20(h) x 1.50(d)

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >