The Dancer Defects: The Struggle for Cultural Supremacy during the Cold War

By David Caute | Go to book overview

1
Propaganda Wars and
Cultural Treaties

In June 1945, one month after the defeat of Nazi Germany, Moscow laid on a lavish celebration to mark the 220th anniversary of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Among those invited to the grandiose gathering were eminent scientists and scholars from the United States and many European countries. Formal conferences and visits to laboratories during the day were followed by grand nights at the opera, the ballet, concerts, plays—the full panoply and embrace of Soviet state culture.1 The Scientific Correspondent of the London Times (7 July) described in awed tones a banquet in ‘the great white and gold hall of St George in the Kremlin, glittering with the lights of thousands of electric candles’. Alongside Stalin, the Soviet leaders and Academicians sat at the high table, with an abundance of music, singing, and dancing between the speeches and toasts.

A further token of Soviet-American friendship was the telegraphic chess match between the two countries which began on 1 September, when Mayor Fiorello La Guardia of New York sent greetings—and the first move—to Russia. A telegram sped from the Moscow Central Art Workers Club to the grand ballroom of the Henry Hudson Hotel, New York, bearing a mysterious message: second gego, fourth fefo, sixth kahi. A few minutes later the reply came: second gego seso, fourth fefo rero, sixth kahi vafi.2 In Moscow most of the enthralled audience watched the match from the Railway Workers Club, where US Ambassador Averell Harriman paid a visit. The Soviet team won an impressive overall victory by [ineq] (1542–442 by the Russian system of scoring), a margin of victory which evidently surprised the Russians themselves; in keeping with the still extant spirit of friendship, their comments were modest and magnanimous.3VOKS Bulletin emphasized the scale on which chess was played in the USSR: ‘Soviet grandmasters are selected from an army of players numbering millions’. The newspaper Krasny sport (Red

-19-

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